Published Thursday, March 8, 2012
by Philips Vari-Lite

Multi award-winning lighting designer Andrew Bridge used the Royal Albert Hall’s (RAH) arsenal of automated luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite to deliver the stunning lighting on Raymond Gubbay’s production of Verdi’s classic opera ‘Aida’.

Bridge’s dramatic design emphasizes the grand scale of the Royal Albert Hall, without losing that all-important intimacy of a scene when required. Staged in the round, the workhorses of Bridge’s design are the VARI*LITE VL3000 and VL3500 Spot and Wash luminaires, provided by PRG and Account Director Peter Marshall.

Bridge’s sculptural design bought life, dimension, time and atmosphere to distinguished director Stephen Medcalf’s staging and Isabella Bywater’s striking set design. No stranger to large scale production, Bridge is all too aware that lighting a show on such a grand scale, in the round, can present its own set of challenges as he discusses: “Because the set design was effectively an enormous sandpit and the costume color was primarily white, my chosen color palette was a mix of tungsten, discharge white, CTO and CTB. The big challenge on this production was to clear all sightlines to the projection screen, which covered the organ and choir areas to the gallery. This meant that the lighting rig had to be hung at 22m so any directional work was difficult - it was top light and top light! All the main coverage and key light had to come from the circle rail. For this I used VL3000 Spots and the trusted VL5 Wash tungsten units. Both were ideal; great color, smooth dimming and crucially, very quiet. At such a height overhead the VL3500 Spot and Wash fixtures were extremely accurate and soft enough to paint the arena floor evenly. Another huge benefit for me is that the VARI*LITE luminaires never overheat, essential for the very long days and nights during rehearsals when they’re on constantly."

This new, much anticipated production of Aida follows a number of already critically acclaimed Gubbay opera spectaculars including: Madam Butterfly, Carmen, Tosca and La Bohème so expectation and production values were high. “For this production of Aida the Grand March was also broadcast on all the projection screens using live cameras. The VARI*LITE color mixing and dimming were superb and looked fantastic on the screens blending well with what was onstage. The Nile River scene was also covered very effectively using a subtle mix of moving ripple gobos from the VL3000 Spot.”

Bridge has had a long and successful career working on many West End and Broadway productions. He has won the three Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design including: in 1988 for The Phantom of the Opera, 1995 for Sunset Boulevard, and in 1999 for Fosse and has been a longstanding user of Vari-Lite luminaires: “I have a great love for VARI*LITE luminaires and have used them as part of my palette for many years. From the heart lifting moment watching them on Genesis for the first time to using the VL1 on the Torvill and Dean ice show, with extra fitted frost discs, to having the largest rig ever in Las Vegas on Siegfried and Roy and them begging us for a tungsten unit for theatre. For me they are trusted (obedient rather than intelligent) friends.”

David March, Director, European Sales for Philips Vari-Lite comments: “We’re delighted to see our luminaires working so hard in a great venue like the Royal Albert Hall on such a well received production, and in particular continuing the long relationship that Philips Vari-Lite has with Andy. Over the years the VL3000 range of luminaires have bought new opportunities to lighting designers who require 1200W fixtures with automated shutter capabilities and the "Q" version has a 50-percent less audible fan noise for situations where silence is critical. Since the series launch, the VL3000 range has garnered huge respect amongst theatre and opera lighting designers for its quiet operation, excellent efficiency, sharp focusing, super bright beam and consistent color.”

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