The Poznań Opera House introduces Ambiance Active Acoustics Technology by L-Acoustics to Poland’s cultural landscape

The 900 capacity Teatr Wielki w Poznaniu, also known as the Poznań Opera House, is a significant cultural institution in Poznań, Poland’s fifth largest city and the historical capital of the Greater Poland region. The theatre’s architecture is a testament to Poznań’s history, making it more than an entertainment venue: the space is a monument of cultural significance. Today, following extensive technological updates, including installing the world’s first L-Acoustics Ambiance Active Acoustics system in an opera, the Poznań Opera House has evolved into a multipurpose venue, ready to welcome a diverse array of events, from educational activities and classic opera performances to contemporary stage productions.

The Opera House symbolises over a hundred years of presence of the opera scene in Poznań. The Poznań Opera House prides itself on an attractive and diverse repertoire, from opera and ballet classics to contemporary compositions, productions prepared in accordance with current theatre trends and cooperation with the most renowned directors, conductors, set designers, choreographers etc. and soloists. The venue has mounted bold stagings of Moniuszko’s operas that have been awarded the prestigious International Opera Awards in 2021 and 2023. In cooperation with OperaVision, productions of the Poznań Opera House are streamed to viewers around the world. The Poznań Opera House is one of the leading artistic institutions in Poland, working on social integration, intercultural dialogue and the promotion of innovative solutions on and off stage. This year, the Opera was awarded the FEDORA Audience Prize for “Swans,” created in cooperation with dancers who are blind, visually impaired and using alternative motor skills.

Renovations to improve the experience for both the audience and the performers began in 2021. The upgrades include a new hydraulic stage, lighting updates, acoustics refinement, and the installation of L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal technology and Ambiance Active Acoustics system by L-Acoustics.

Warsaw-based L-Acoustics Certified Provider Audio Plus were entrusted to design a sound system that prioritised maximum audience coverage and the ability to reinforce a diverse offering of content, while preserving the architectural integrity of this beloved venue.

Audio Plus have a solid foundation of successful past collaborations with L-Acoustics, including an L-ISA installation in the award-winning Cavatina Hall, which was the venue that caught the ear of the Grand Theater team.

The Poznań Opera House is a historically classified building, making any acoustical treatment that modifies the architecture forbidden. Working to overcome this challenge, Audio Plus collaborated with L-Acoustics to propose a solution based on Ambiance Active Acoustics, which would give the theatre both an immersive sound reinforcement solution, and the ability to adapt room acoustics at the press of a button to match the performance on stage, whether classical opera or modern music.

Audio Plus began by designing a 360° L-ISA audio configuration to provide the audience with a natural, immersive audio experience. This configuration begins with a 5.1 system spread across the proscenium. An additional 62 loudspeakers are dotted around the side and back walls, as well as under the balcony to envelope the audience in sound. Speakers that were destined to be hung on-wall were custom coloured in burgundy while those that were mounted on or under the pristine white balconies were provided in a matching white. Twelve speakers are hidden behind acoustically transparent white grills unobtrusively set into the ceiling, and two further speakers are even tucked away inside the theatre’s iconic, massive, ceiling-mounted chandelier.

Adding Ambiance Active Acoustics to the immersive sound set-up allows the theatre to cater to different shows, adapting to the venue’s unique acoustics. To accomplish this, eleven small microphones are hidden in the ceiling – three of them in the chandelier. These capture the atmosphere of the venue, allowing the Ambiance Active Acoustics system to transform that information and feed it back through a further 20 speakers hidden in the theatre. Delay and reverberation over the spectrum of early to late reflections are added to the natural room response as needed to create the Ambiance – a cathedral, an intimate music venue, or even just the natural, clear sound of an opera house – that the venue requires.

Five additional microphones are placed on the stage to collect sound from the artists and feed it back to them through stage monitors, ensuring they have clear sound that gives them the comfort and confidence to perform at their best.

“The challenge was to install the sound system in such a way that it provided exceptional sound coverage, while ensuring minimal visual and spatial impact. This was achieved by hiding the elevation speakers through holes in the ceiling, while ordering the front and side speakers in a custom burgundy to blend seamlessly with the interior decor,” explains Piotr Kozłowski, Acoustician and owner of Pracownia Akustyczna Kozłowski, who was responsible for the stage and audience acoustic design at Poznań Opera House.

The acoustics in the venue were already outstanding but now, with Ambiance, the Poznań Opera House is an even better opera theatre, with audio technology that makes it sound more natural, clearer, and more comfortable than before. But it has also gained the ability to be a multifunctional auditorium with versatile acoustics and cutting-edge technology that can adapt to speech, chamber orchestra, philharmonic music or amplified pop music at a moment’s notice. And this was achieved without resorting to physically altering the space’s audio characteristics using heavy curtains or acoustic panels, which can be costly and challenging to install, while also lacking in flexibility. And of course, in the case of Poznań Opera House, is forbidden due to the building’s conservation status.

“This venue was built 110 years ago, when there were no sound reinforcement systems, and many of the productions that we mount are also from that era and don’t require sound reinforcement. Our goal is to preserve the traditional sound of the facility, which is very good. Yet developments in technology allow us to adopt tools like Ambiance that expand our creative capacities, and that’s a good thing,” says Krystian Kołakowski, Head of Sound and Projection Team at Poznań Opera House

“At the Poznań Opera House, we cherish the traditional sound of the venue. We’ve chosen to adopt modern technology that allows the theatre’s audio engineers to ‘sculpt’ the orchestra’s sound to ensure a consistent and immersive audio experience for the entire audience. Thanks to L-ISA technology and the Ambiance acoustic system, we can easily deliver an immersive sound experience that is tailored to each performance, placing the audience at the heart of each event,” comments Sylwester Wojcieszek, Director of the Audio Plus design department.

Ambiance has given the Poznań Opera House a competitive edge thanks to a technology that allows it to host various artists and performances. “We are very happy that there is now a new home for music lovers here in Poland. It’s a place where one can indulge in rich audio and experience extraordinarily authentic surround sound. It’s a venue where artists deliver their finest performances. In the Poznań Opera House, musicians beam with joy, the conductor expresses satisfaction, and all elements harmoniously align. This transformation was certainly worth the wait,” said Piotr Kozłowski.

“At the Poznań Opera House we like to say that opera has meaning. And opera is a theatre. In order for it to continue to have meaning, it must respond to the needs of future generations. This can’t be done without thinking about new technologies. At the Poznań Opera House, we’re constantly asking how we can lead, and with which partners, in order to maintain the status of art today. This is one of our main goals.” says Renata Borowska-Juszczyńska, General Director of the Poznań Opera House.

info: www.l-acoustics.com

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