When is an opera house not a house at all? Well, a visit to the centre of Malta’s capital city Valletta will soon answer the question. In the very centre is the site of the Royal Opera House, in its heyday a landmark building designed by British architect Edward Middleton Barry who is best known for designing Covent Garden Theatre. From its opening in 1866 it remained the cultural centre of Malta until 1942 when it suffered extensive damage during a bombing raid. Since then there have been several attempts to reconstruct the site, all of which came to nothing.
Finally, in 2008, renowned architect Renzo Piano submitted plans for an open air venue, built sympathetically among the ruins of the original Opera House. Despite much debate and criticism about the design, the venue was officially inaugurated in August 2013 and named Pjazza Teatru Rjal (Royal Theatre Square) and has successfully transformed the ruins into a venue of appropriate stature, whilst simultaneously preserving the remains of the elegant neoclassical original. With such a delicate reconstruction it was essential that the installation of any sound reinforcement system be discreet, yet still be able to deliver a high quality audio experience to an outdoor audience.
Greek based audio-visual company, Telmaco SA were awarded the contract to supply and install the pro audio system in the new venue. “We had already been involved in what is referred to as the City Gate Project, which is a long term strategy to redevelop key parts of the city,” explains Project Manager, George Regginiotis. “But there was an international tendering process for this particular installation and I’m proud that it was our design of a d&b audiotechnik loudspeaker system that won the day. Telmaco enjoys a well earned reputation for quality of service and consistency, especially when delivering international projects and together with the security of excellent sound reinforcement that comes with the d&b audiotechnik brand, we successfully secured the contract.”
“Although our first involvement was back in the summer of 2012,” continues Regginiotis, “due to the vagaries of the project, our most challenging issue was the very tight timeframe for installing the system for the inaugural performance of the European Union Youth Orchestra. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from twenty eight different countries and this was their first ever public performance: a complex audio event by anyone’s standards.”
“The final design had to negotiate the fact that this is an outdoor venue that is in a very built up and densely populated area. Not only that but a good deal of the ruins that the venue sits within are reinforced with a curtain of steel masts and screens which throw up all sort of acoustic challenges not usually associated with an outdoor installation. The final design comprised of two line arrays, stage left and right made up of a combination of V8 and V12 loudspeakers, supported by V-SUBS and driven by D12 amplifiers. In the centre we hung a further array of V-Series loudspeakers but without the V-SUBS. The extraordinary versatility of the V-Series is able to cope with the very different types of performance that will take place here: speech, live music of all sorts and playback, the V-Series simply does it all. We utilised some of those brilliant little E8 boxes as a front fill and some Q7 boxes for different purposes such as image shift, side fill and some mobile applications.”
In August, over one hundred and thirty young musicians aged between 14 and 24 took to the stage and, under the baton of conductor Krzysztof Urbanski and Alexander Romanovsky on the piano performed Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition to great acclaim. After over seventy years as a bombed-out ruin that symbolised European division and war at its most destructive, the site of the Royal Opera House became host to a musical representation of international cooperation and cohesiveness in its most pure form, surely a triumph for all concerned.