Allen & Heath Have a Night at the Opera

Alan Chang with the SQ-5 for Opera NEO’s performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo

Taking place with a live orchestra in a unique open-air amphitheatre in the hills of San Diego, California, Opera NEO hosts 30-35 aspiring young performers each summer. The 2018 season marked the first year the festival utilized Coral Canopy for sound design and audio production services, which centred around an Allen & Heath SQ-5 digital mixer at front of house.

“The SQ is a beast and I continue to be amazed at the capabilities of the console,” said Alan Chang, Principal of Coral Canopy. He added: “With mics across the orchestra and a large chorus of performers on stage, I relied heavily on the Chromatic channel metering. It is one of the coolest and most unique aspects of the console, making it easy for engineers to quickly glance and get a read on signal level and where to focus next. I think it is an awesome and helpful feature.”

Chang mixed FOH and managed stage and orchestra monitor levels for the run of the summer festival all from the SQ-5. “Even on the smallest SQ with only 17 faders, I was able to design the console layout just how I needed it and I could navigate quickly and confidently—riding faders to make adjustments on the fly,” noted Chang.

Numerous wireless vocal mics, stage boundary mics and orchestra overhead microphones were patched to an Allen & Heath AR2412 AudioRack near the stage, which also provided monitor outputs to the orchestra and small side-fill speakers on the stage. Audio was passed from the stage AudioRack to the Allen & Heath SQ-5 at FOH via Allen & Heath’s dSnake protocol over a single Cat5 cable.

Peter Kozma, Opera NEO Artistic Director, noted: “Opera NEO presents a very complex and unique set of sonic challenges. The sound design includes a full symphony orchestra in an outdoor space with sloped audience seating. Our performances feature 33 singers who frequently alternate between solo and ensemble roles. And we need to switch quickly between changes in orchestra instrumentation with different back-to-back shows. On top of all of this, we only had a total of two or three full rehearsals per show. Yet I feel that for the first time ever this year we achieved the natural and balanced sound we’ve been searching for. We were very, very happy about this.”