Lighting Designer, Fredrik Jonsson harnessed Robe LEDBeam 150 luminaires to provide an ingenious solution to a complex staging requirement for a performance of Funny Girl to 50 socially distanced audience members at the Malmö Opera, Sweden.
Jonsson was initially approached in 2018 by Director, Ronny Danielsson having worked with him before on Kinky Boots also at Malmo Opera and Shakespeare In Love at the Stockholm’s Stadsteater. The LD combined his vast experiences as both a television and theatrical LD to sculpt spectacular results.
However, he faced two fundamental lighting challenges. The first was the curved shape of the orchestra pit which reached out into the auditorium with seats tightly packed all around it making getting any side light onto it near impossible without blinding the audience.
The Opera’s main stage also has a large revolve which is used extensively during Funny Girl, and a key part to the show’s scenography is a mobile sub-stage complete with pros arch, side walls, multiple backdrops, and masking drapes plus detachable sides so the whole shape can be changed.
This presented Fredrik’s second and more major lighting challenge. This sub-stage is moved on two motorised wagons underneath which truck upstage / downstage, all built and constructed in house at the Opera together with a bespoke remote controller. The stage is also rotated on the revolving stage at certain moments, all these various moves presenting a set of completely different views and angles, so it needed lighting just like any properly independent stage area with multiple positions, looks and scenes. For lighting this sub-stage, the LD opted for a “small and very versatile lighting fixture that could do multiple tricks” – step forward, Robe LEDBeam 150.
A total of 16 fixtures were equally spaced on two parallel rigged pipes in the roof section of the sub-stage, a pole position from which they are utilised for key lighting and back light specials as well as to illuminate the different backdrops, side walls and props and to enhance details of the assorted scenes.
Additional beam-work was required as the sub-stage has no roof apart from the lighting pipes, and as it fortuitously turned out, depending on which part of the sub-stage was pointing downstage, the LD could tilt the back row of Robe LEDBeam 150s up to the maximum and zoom them right in to produce beams from the roof of the substage. “The LEDBeam 150s solved the entire sub-stage scenario,” enthused Jonsson. “Regardless of how many people were in the audience, we were all united and determined to make this a fantastically memorable show.”
Distance was maintained among the performing artists, crew, and audience – all close contact kit like mics were rigorously cleaned and sanitised. The canteen was divided into two sections and each department took meal breaks in shifts to ensure enough space for everyone to eat and distance. There were limitations on how many people could be in the lighting booth at any one time.
More dressing rooms were added, and the quick costume change areas were expanded so distance could be maintained, with crew wearing masks and PPE in abundance. “They have a fantastic lighting department,” Jonsson commented on the facility, citing his two “brilliant” lighting operators, Katarina Hansson, and Anna Björklund, controlling an MA Lighting grandMA control system. “It was an absolute joy to be working there again!”