Right from the beginning, Leandro points out that he started walking stages from a young age. Following the work of his father, first in Rosario, Argentina, and then in cities in Spain, he had access to artistic productions and therefore developed what would later become his passion: lighting.
After working in European countries he returned to Argentina where he began a career that has led him to become lighting designer of the most important works of Ballet, an area where he can find everything he needs to express himself with absolute freedom.
After the premiere of Cinderella at the Teatro Argentino de La Plata, Leandro tells us a little about his career and some technical aspects of his work on Cinderella.
ZioGiorgio.es: How did you get started with lighting?
Leandro Calonge: I started from a very young age: My first job was as an operator at 14. Back then, I worked for a company in my hometown, Rosario, Argentina. My father is a sound engineer and since I can remember I’ve followed him in all his productions.
While I didn’t really understand much about it, I began to learn about the tools and styles for illuminating. This work helped me gain experience in entertainment, and handle the problems that may arise.
At that time we had only conventional analog consoles and artifacts, mostly PAR64.
ZioGiorgio.es: How did you come to Europe and what kind of work did you carry out there?
Leandro Calonge: The first trip to Europe was also thanks to my father. He was contacted by a Spanish company and stayed several years in that country. At that time I was still in high school, and he called me and told me there was a place in the company if I wanted to travel. I was enthusiastic about the idea and accepted.
When I arrived I started working as a lighting and sound assistant. I was fortunate to work with very talented and generous people who taught me many things, not just about art but craft as well. Over the years I realized what I liked to do and decided to prepare and study too.
I worked in countless festivals and tours, both in Spain, France and Germany. My most picturesque memories are from the days when we performed shows in small towns and huge stadiums; a unique experience with invaluable professional teams.
ZioGiorgio.es: Why did you specialize in lighting for Ballet?
Leandro Calonge: Ballet goes hand in hand with design. While I already programmed and even designed some shows briefly, I had never done it formally. So I began to study lighting design; in this I discovered a world I never wanted to leave. Ballet has a type of expression in which I can work clearly, I feel comfortable with the language, and I feel free to experiment and innovate.
Over the years and the different productions I discovered some works from the classical repertoire, discovering not only choreography but musicals, set design and other disciplines which amazed me. This makes me really happy and Ballet surprises me every day.
ZioGiorgio.es: What are the differences with other musical genres?
Leandro Calonge: Well, there are many differences. Specifically, the first thing I think is in technics. In Classical, we use specific ways of focus and devices.
While new technologies are used today, the way it works always responds to a thought and sought after aesthetics ofthe designer.
When it comes to Ballet in general we try to recreate similar environments to those depicted in the work; which usually occur in palaces and forests. This provides a basis for lighting ideas. Then, there is an orthodox look that certain classical repertoires have, and even though it is not a major creative challenge, it regards technical issues and that is what keeps it fun, at least for me.
Alternatively, there are works that completely change the aesthetics and you have a lot to play with at the moment of the design to create these new aesthetics.
ZioGiorgio.es: How do you start each new project for a classic representation?
Leandro Calonge: Almost as an exercise. I like to go through the concept and study the story carefully; which leads to my first draft. After that I start working with the team to develop the entire project. I like to see everything, and if the representation has already been performed, I want to see everything about it, films, photography, literature, which can stimulate my creativity, even works of the same period and with the same overall aesthetics. I think with all these tools, screening and choosing, I can create my own aesthetics.
ZioGiorgio.es: Recently, a new version of Cinderella made its debut at the Teatro Argentino de La Plata. How did you prepare it? Did you take any elements used in previous representations?
Leandro Calonge: The way of working was very curious and amusing at the same time. We started working with the designer, Gaston Joubert, and costume designer, Nicolas Biolatto. In principle each of them presented his idea about the work (which we didn’t know anything about). After this, we started working with a video containing a representation from the late 1980s. In this video we saw only dancers: the rest was completely black. This helped us to work with the choreography and gave us absolute freedom to avoid representing something presented before, and therefore creating a completely original production.
At subsequent meetings, we defined a color palette dominated by raw and lavender colors, and we decided to work with visual and transparencies in the scenery. It was very hard work, and a great experience.
ZioGiorgio.es: What lights did you use for the presentation of Cinderella?
Leandro Calonge: I worked with devices from Teatro Argentino de la Plata; luckily the theater is very well equipped.
Speaking more technically, I worked with ellipsoidal of variable degree, mostly 1200 W and 2000 W. This is important because the illuminated surface is very large. The stage has unique characteristics in terms of size in Latin America. I also used Fresnels 1k, 2k and 4k, PAR and 24 1200 W moving head.
We put about 400 artifacts and the largest number of artifacts found in the streets, which I supported to create scenes.
We also added 4 follow spots RJ, 2 at the bridge and at the end of the room.
The lighting plant is known for its versatile use. You can make many and different effects just programming. Moreover, it is specific for Ballet.
ZioGiorgio.es: How many scenes does the presentation have?
Leandro Calonge: The presentation is divided into 3 well marked scenes: The House, The Forest and The Palace, and within these scenes different situations take place: abrupt changes that lead from the warm and cozy home to a cool place flooded with mystery. We use also effects – taken from Musicals – with mobile spots pointing positions and doing some sweeps to highlight some sectors.
ZioGiorgio.es: How do you work with lighting when the representation includes LED screens? Does that take away freedom of expression?
Leandro Calonge: The visuals we used were retro projected on a gray screen using a 16000 ANSI lumens projector. In front of the screen we always put a veil where we play with light, revealing or hiding projections.
With regards to expression, I had no problems as we used the resource soberly without many interventions and being very careful when interacting with the aesthetic environment.
ZioGiorgio.es: What are the differences when lighting is designed for adult audiences and for young audiences?
Leandro Calonge: The difference is conceptual, in this case we created children’s aesthetics for adults. It’s a little strange but it defined the concept perfectly.
When it comes to young audiences, eveything is aimed at stimulating and abstract effects that clean the mind from social conventions and aesthetics acquired. The ideas tend to be more sensationalist and explosive. There’s more freedom to leave the discourse and work with the feelings of the people.
In contrast, adult audiences often look for more neat and sober aesthetics.
In the case of Cinderella we were able to achieve an impressive and sober presentation at the same time, in which the two audiences were identified. It is a 2 and a half hour representation. It was quite a challenge to maintain the attention of young audiences for such a long time while the adult audience can also be attracted and enjoy a unique story.
ZioGiorgio.es: Do you use LED lights?
Leandro Calonge: Yes, very slowly I’m changing some of the resources from filament to LED. At the moment only for backlights and some streets.
ZioGiorgio.es: What are the problems of the current LED technology?
Leandro Calonge: I believe the problem is not the technology but the available economic resources. Like any new luminaire, it takes time to test and develop, not only in manufacturing but in its use.
At least in Argentina, LED luminaires available in productions are low quality, this means that when it comes to choosing a device, designers choose quality conventional technologies. Moreover, I consider myself Pro-LED. I would like the whole plant to be LED … well, I don’t know if in front places; that’s negotiable (laughing).
ZioGiorgio.es: What tools do you use for design and programming? Do you prefer any particular console?
Leandro Calonge: Regarding the design, I use freeware 3D. For plants, I use Illustrator and Autocad.
Regarding the console, actually I use a particular brand, but any console can do what I need. Usually, I’ve been recording a cuelist and then I work with submasters for fronts and streets.
ZioGiorgio.es: What is the Centro Argentino de la Luz?
Leandro Calonge: It is a training center for stage lighting.
From personal experience, we noticed that there was a gap in the education sector; many people around the country and from neighboring countries did not receive educational proposals so we decided to offer different basic stage lighting seminars in different parts of the country. People were enthusiastic about the idea and in this way it was transformed from a small project into a regular event. In late 2013 we held the 1st Congress of Stage lighting it in the city of Rosario, and were surprised how many people like us were excited by the profession.
We spent two very intense days full of talks and open discussions. Featured lighting Professionals from Argentina gave all their knowledge and offered interesting talks. We also had classes on the use of consoles and product presentations.
This year we will deliver on the promise of holding the 2nd Congress of Stage Lighting, this time in Buenos Aires so everyone can take part.
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