In the August issue of Lighting and Sound America Louise Strickland wrote a great article on a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Nabucco, put on at the foot of Masada Mountain in Israel by the Israeli State Opera. After reading it, I couldn’t resist writing an article about what I thought were its most exciting parts. The whole production was truly amazing and was a definite challenge, but the lighting, in particular, was ground breaking for outdoor theatre lighting. The Israeli Opera’s production of Nabucco was staged on the edge of the Dead Sea, at the lowest point in the world. This remote desert location provided lighting designers with the initial problem of transporting equipment there. Once camels had been deemed the partial solution, design of the show commenced. Lighting designers turned to a whole gamut lighting fixtures. Nabucco was illuminated by 84 moving head spots, 24 moving head washes, 300 PAR cans, and more than 200 ellipsoidals. All of the fixtures that directly illuminated the stage from the trussing had to be particularly powerful and able to throw light a considerable distance because of the height of the trusses from the stage.
The show was dramatically backgrounded by 60 5,000w and 7,000w xenon lamp search lights, to add to the desert ambiance. These search lights were connected to the controllers by either wireless DMX relays or extremely long cables. The show was brought together by a complicated controlling system that involved writing the show on two controllers but only using one to actually perform the cues, etc. This created a safety net in case one of the controllers broke down during the show, there would be another to take its place. This is just a synopsis of the show’s setup, so if you want a more complete breakdown of the show see Strickland’s article.
Though most lighting designer will never put up a light system on the scale that this performance of Nabucco was, on and most certainly not in the Israeli desert, there are some lessons to be learned, especially for the amateur lighting designer. The first is that always remember truss height when choosing fixtures. Secondly, the only way to get a really balanced lighting effect that has excellent coverage is with a mix of different types of fixtures. So, always remain open minded and don’t get too loyal to one technology over another.
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