To light an artist like Joan Manuel Serrat for 16 years is, without a doubt, an excellent status for a lighting professional. The last tour of the Catalan singer celebrated 50 years with music and the new edition of “El gusto es nuestro” tour, where Óscar Gallardo illuminates the outstanding Spanish artists Miguel Ríos, Ana Belén, Victor Manuel and Joan Manuel Serrat. In this chat, Óscar tells us about his early days, his work on the road; ongoing learning; his task in so-called “Encuentros de la luz”, and also tells us about a new project which he holds high hopes on.
ZioGiorgio.es: Can you tell us how you came to be the professional that you are now?
Óscar Gallardo: The truth is that, like all illuminators, I did not imagine that I would dedicate my life to the wonderful world of light. It all started in the year 84/85. My family environment was very involved with the fine arts, theatre, dance and music; and this is how I decided to dedicate my life to lightning instead of classical dance. I started with “Cambaleo de Teatro y La Tartana”. At that time, I knew nothing about light, however, I was the kid who took care of the lights, and was noting everything they were teaching me with a notebook. Here I tool note of everything, even the script of the show. What is striking is that I still have that first script. After that wonderful experience, I attended a course on lighting called “The Light, the new Magic”, which came to be followed by many many more. It was this first one, however, which opened my eyes to the world of light, optics and a taste for doing things right. This was thanks to the two great masters, Tano Astiaso and Juan Gomez Cornejo. Since then, I did nothing but learn to improve my experience and my knowledge.
ZioGiorgio.es: Could you tell us about your work on the tour “El gusto es nuestro” (Ana Belén, Joan Manuel Serrat, Miguel Ríos y Víctor Manuel)?
Óscar Gallardo:The development of this new design has been a difficult job. It is never easy; if it were easy it would be boring. This is a concert with 4 artists of the highest level, with a band of 14 musicians, a repertoire of 46 songs and, what is worse, a back screen 20 meters wide and 6 meters high, full of ego and without one second of visual rest. Accommodating the light and the effect desired is really hard. But in short, it is a great team with a different assembly that makes the stage looks great, dynamic and impressive. I got what I wanted, create a stylish set with an elegant and delicate lighting design. Despite having many devices, there are only four types of moving lights: Mac Aura, Robe Pointe, Wally for streets and BMFL from Robe (which gave me an incredible result). Apart from this, we have 14 ETC 10º, and The Hog 4 console accompanies the show. I very much appreciate the efforts of my riggers, Fernando Hands for building the team and Francis for continuing with it.
ZioGiorgio.es: What challenges do you have when designing lights for different artists who are sharing a tour?
Óscar Gallardo: Everyone must have a different light, and you have to put a great deal of thought into this. But the truth is that all the songs are hits, and deserve an appropriate quality of lighting. To date, the artists are very disciplined in the use of the marked positions, especially Ana Belen who has a golden voice and the discipline of a theatre actress.
ZioGiorgio.es: Recently, you’ve worked with Joan Manuel Serrat in his 50 years with music tour. Have you taken elements of that tour forward?
Óscar Gallardo: Every job is different. I don’t know how others do it, but it’s very difficult for me to make a design. I can’t do it in a morning or in a short while. Each of Serrat’s tours is a challenge. It is very demanding, but I’ve been working with this wonderful singer for 16 years as lighting designer, and that’s because I always, anywhere in the world, want to do quality lighting, always thinking about the whole show. The public doesn’t come to see the lighting of Oscar Gallardo, they come to see Joan Manuel Serrat. I merely accompany and create the show for this artist, so that people can rejoice in their memories and emotions.
ZioGiorgio.es: During a live performance, the musicians feed from the public response to the show, and that affects their interpretation. What happens to the lighting designer during the live performance? Do you feel the same intensity; feeding from the public?
Óscar Gallardo: Of course, but rather than the designer, it is the operator who has that feeling. Sometimes the designer does nothing but design and then the operator does his/her work. But in my case, I design, program and operate my shows. I love to work, and have a lot of experience of that connection with the public. You make them sing softly or strong depending on the need; play with their emotions, and it is great to see that what you’ve practiced with hope in rehearsals, has the desired effect on the night.
ZioGiorgio.es: You’re an experienced lighting designer who has gone through different stages. Do you miss anything from the old-school style of working?
Óscar Gallardo: I miss old friends, but I don’t miss the equipment if that’s what you mean. I am a man who lives in constant evolution. I’m 50 years old and still I’m at the head of the lighting business. I do courses constantly and promote many others. I am part of the board of studies and professor at TRADE, one of the best schools, not to say the only one that teaches advanced technology to its students. I handle all lighting systems and know the most modern pieces on the market. I think, from my experience, that I have much to say and do yet.
I’ve been writing a book for 3 years. At the start, it was about modern techniques of the show, and now I think I should start over because it is already obsolete. Anchoring oneself in the past is never good in this profession.
ZioGiorgio.es: Have you ever designed a device that allowed you to work better?
Óscar Gallardo: Once I designed a sort of luminaire made with 20 dichroic lamps of 50W, because there was nothing similar on the market. I designed mounting elements etc., but not gear. I would love to design a machine and have the technical ability to do so, but this duty now carries an impressive requirement for R&D, and takes serious dedication.
ZioGiorgio.es: Has your way of working gradually updated with the incorporation of technology, or there was a certain time where a desk or other piece of equipment forced you to take a real leap?
Óscar Gallardo: I started off using manual consoles and the Stonex matrix programming, as well as Celco, Avolites Diamond and Rollacue, Leprecom, Avab, Compulite, etc. I started using moving lights even when I was still using Celco in a analog fashion, but this was because we always we found the best tricks for lighting operation came from consistency. One day, however, the Hog 2 appeared, and from there on the world of consoles changed. Then, the Grand MA, and Hog 3, but this was released without being fully developed. Brands should not launch products to the market that are still in the process of being created (which should be called betas). In the world of entertainment there’s far too much money involved to let the whole show depend on a cable or software with failures. So, it came to be that the MA passed over all consoles on the market, because they didn’t fail and had impressive performance. Still, I remain faithful to Hog, partly because I understand it is the best when changing devices from one model to another, whilst maintaining programming without changing too much of the show. I work on international tours, and my contact with countries where I travel is direct. This often means I use the equipment available in each country, and sometimes there is no other possibility than to use old devices that I had removed from my catalog.
ZioGiorgio.es: Is it possible to say that a professional who started working at another time without equipment available today and now employs them, will be a better lighting designer than someone who developed his/her work based on the resources offered by new consoles, lights and other equipment?
Óscar Gallardo: Neither one is better than the other. A painter paints pictures them from his/her perspective and using his/her technique. I was educated to design and generate light environments to manipulate the emotions of the public. I should say that the current lighting techniques tires me a little, but I respect them. For me, this changed happened when the Sharpy appeared, and I get the feeling that the imagination of many designers ended with that. I love my experiences, and I love being a pioneer in the lighting of this country (Spain) and still being active. Trying to avoid becoming obsolete, I now have a new project that will change my life in the coming years. COLORCODE is the union of three designers, Miguel Gonzalez, Ivan Espada and myself; and is the union of experience with new talents from this new generation of which I am so proud.
ZioGiorgio.es: Do you like working with artists who are totally involved in the staging, perhaps at the cost of negotiating some elements, or prefer those that give you absolute freedom to design?
Óscar Gallardo: Personally, I like the artists that get involved a little more in the shows. I am a creator who listens to everyone who has something to say. A show is much better if all parties involved have more communication. We must take advice from all those who collaborate in the creation of the show. There is no artist who knows enough about technology, or that has knowledge of the latest techniques on the innovative scenography scene, but they have the last word. At the end of day, they are the directors of the show. Miguel Bose is an excellent artist who is involved in what happens on his stages, and searches for the best professionals. He allows them to work and create, whilst also having involvement.
ZioGiorgio.es: Can you provide any advice or suggestions to colleagues who will work with theatre directors?
Óscar Gallardo: Theatre directors are the creators of the work and hold maximum responsibility. We must respect them, and it is imperative that we understand one another. Sometimes, we are not able to understand what they want to communicate, and this makes communication more difficult. The bad thing is a lack of communication or when communication becomes a cut to your creativity. Screams and bad manners tend to make the creative process more difficult. Sometimes, when you think everything is Ok, an ill wind moves the structure, but you must keep believing in what you do, even though sometimes it will make you want to jump ship.
ZioGiorgio.es: As a member of ADADI* and illuminator, what do you think about the “Encuentros de la luz” cycle?
Óscar Gallardo: I am one of the creators, along with the rest of the board of the AAI** (especially Angel Palomino and Ezequiel Nobili), of the “Encuentros de la luz” meetings. The 9th edition is mine. These meetings are a unique opportunity for young students of lighting, lovers of light and lighting designers, to see how a certain piece of work or show was developed, and the processes behind it. This didn’t happen back in my day, and it is the envy of all associations of lighting designers. In 4 years, we have held 25 meetings, and with an incredible number of designers. We talk about Jeff Ravick, Jeniffer Tipton, many important LDs. It is important that we get press for these meetings and to speak about light. It is essential for critics to speak, whether they are saying good or bad, because light is not an ephemeral art, but an art that moves emotions. If Leonardo da Vinci were alive now, surely it would have been illuminator, among other things.
* Lighting Authors Association (Asociación De Autores De Iluminación)
More info: adadi.org
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