Ayrton’s Ghibli LED spot luminaire made its opera debut at the Garsington Opera Festival.
Founded in 1989, the annual Garsington Opera Festival takes place over seven weeks in June and July at the Wormsley Estate, home of the Getty family, amid the beautiful natural setting of the Buckinghamshire countryside.
Garsington Opera is renowned for the quality of its productions, and engages the very best performers and musicians from around the world. It is important, therefore, to match this quality of performance with the quality of the production and equipment.
The aim therefore was to replace some lighting fixtures with those which made less noise during the finely tuned performances, something they were particularly keen to achieve given the peaceful surroundings. Technical manager, Stephen Hawkins and his production electrician, Sam Floyd, began actively looking for quieter models and joined forces with lighting designers Malcolm Rippeth and Mark Jonathan to find a solution. “It was essential we had a quiet moving light as the acoustic at Garsington is vibrant and we needed to reduce fan noise,” says Jonathan.
“We talked to several major manufacturers before settling on a few close contenders,” says Rippeth. “White Light organised shoot-outs at their premises and again at the Royal Opera House for us to make detailed comparisons. Our main criteria were that the replacement not only had to be quieter than the existing fixtures, but must be equally as bright without losing any of the features.”
The result of shoot-outs showed Ayrton’s Ghibli to be the best in several categories: brightness, quality of the beam and of course, noise reduction, and succeeded in winning over Jonathan and Rippeth who were lighting this year’s productions.
Rippeth designed for three of the four operas in this year’s programme: Strauss’s Capriccio, Verdi’s Falstaff, which earned him a nomination for a Knight of Illumination Award, and Garsington’s first ever world-premiere, The Skating Rink, a new work by leading British composer David Sawer and award-winning librettist Rory Mullarkey.
“Garsington Opera performs in a 600-seat pavilion lined with large glass windows on both sides, so any lighting design contends with huge amounts of daylight before the long dinner interval, and then moves into darkening and fully-dark conditions as the performance progresses,” he explains. “Any lighting fixture therefore has to be bright enough to register in full daylight, but versatile enough to cope with the changing conditions throughout.
“Our tests showed Ghibli to be a really impressive fixture – brighter than anything else on the market, really very quiet, and with the best zoom range. The shuttering is beautiful with a range that takes it right to the very edge. It gives a good soft beam, the colour mix is smooth right across the beam and, considering its lightsource, produces a pretty good tungsten. It was just the right fixture.”
White Light supplied 24 Ghibli fixtures for the season where they became the workhorse of the rig, hung from proscenium to the back of the stage from where they were used mainly as back light and three-quarter back light. “The four operas play in rep so the Ghibli had to be adaptable to fit all our purposes,” confirms Rippeth. “They fitted in well with the other fixtures and were completely reliable throughout.”