The 100-year-old Wasa Teater, which is coming out of renovation, is the first in the Nordic countries to acquire the state-of-the-art L-Acoustics L-ISA sound system. Audico was responsible for the major overhaul of Wasa Teater's sound and lighting technology.
Wasa Teater, one of Finland's oldest theatres, has been given a magnificent setting for its centenary celebrations - the complete renovation of the theatre was completed in time for the premiere of the musical Spelman på taket.
"We had been living in the middle of the renovation for a long time, so it's a real relief to finally just be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour," says Mats Antell, Wasa Teater's technical director.
The renovation of the theatre involved renovating everything from floor to walls and ceiling, from technology to the auditorium and air conditioning. At the same time, the lighting and sound systems were replaced, with Audico Systems Oy being chosen as the overall contractor.
According to Antell, the GrandMA-based lighting control system chosen by Wasa Teater can be called "the standard for Finnish theatres", so the choice was a safe one. Technical support is readily available, as is spare equipment, and visiting lighting designers are more likely to feel at home with GrandMA.
In addition to the MA Lighting GrandMA3 light table, Audico's supply package included a lighting control network and a large amount of fixed and mobile LED fixtures.
"We also provided a dual-function dimming system (dimmer/relay) that can be conveniently controlled by the lighting crew via QR codes on the power points, even from their smartphones," reveals Antell.
The entire sound system of the theatre was renovated, from speakers to amplifiers and from mixing desks to microphones. Vaasa is particularly proud of the state-of-the-art L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound system from French company L-Acoustics, the likes of which have only been seen in metropolises such as Paris, London and Sydney.
"We are particularly pleased to be the first in Northern Europe to bring L-ISA to Wasa Theatre," Antell smiles.
L-ISA is able to offer a multi-dimensional listening experience, where, for example, the precision of the spatial experience exceeds anything that has gone before many times over.
"It is not without reason that 'immersive' audio has become the hottest topic in the industry, both on the theatre and concert fronts," summarises Audico's Sales Manager Pauli "Pave" Molnár, adding that L-ISA makes speech, vocals and instruments stand out much more clearly than the average theatre.
"The Vaasa musical would be challenging for anyone with familiar tools - let alone completely new ones, which we certainly didn't have too much time to get to know. I have to take my hat off to sound engineer Dennis Lindén, who has mastered everything so well and so quickly," says Molnár.
Wasa Teater's Lindén is excited about L-ISA, and with good reason. "L-ISA is a different tool from previous sound systems. I have a new drive, because the system makes possible ideas that have been running around in my head for a long time, and by its very existence it also generates new ones!"
Lindén considers his new tool, with all its versatility, to be very easy to use, and says that the upgrade has even speeded up the workflow.
"It's great that we were able to invest in a sound system like this now - and not in ten or twenty years' time, during the next renovation," Lindén says.
Audico implemented the Wasa Theatre's sound and light project from design to installation, commissioning to testing and programming to training.
"After winning the contract, we first visited the site in autumn 2018, when the demolition work was complete and the stage was effectively a black hole. We were able to start the installation work in spring 2019 and the renovation was originally supposed to be completed before the midsummer, but renovations of old buildings can be full of surprises," recalls Mikko Tenhunen, Project Sales Manager at Audico.
That's what happened this time. And even though the project was delayed as a result, the Audico team managed to finish the project before the autumn premiere, despite the summer holiday period.
Jonas Björkgren, who is responsible for the maintenance of the theatre building, praises Audico's performance after the renovation was severely delayed from the original schedule. Audico's theatre installations often had to wait for other phases to be completed. And there were changes needed right up to the chalk line.
"It was great how the Audico team patiently pushed with us to the finish line, and we were able to get everything done before the premiere," Björkgren says.
Audico's technician Pekka Patrikainen assembled the L-ISA system at the Espoo site, after which the equipment was moved to Vaasa. Patrikainen says the project has been challenging but also particularly interesting, as this was the first time the L-ISA system had been set up in Finland.
As a spectator of Wasa Teater's festive musical, Patrikainen describes the listening experience provided by the completed system as intense.
"The amplified sound is positioned in the performers, so that the gaze and the direction of the sound meet, and there is none of the conflict that sometimes arises with a conventional theatre sound system. With L-ISA, the theatre is able to create believable spatial effects, and to influence the characteristics of the space, for example by echoing and moving the sound in front of, behind and even above the audience," says Patrikainen.
Mats Antell sums up that Wasa Teater's starting point was to get the best possible sound system for the building. And the goal was achieved.
"The dialogue with Audico was excellent, and they have a competent, hard-working staff. All in all, Audico has been a good partner in this unique and challenging project," says Antell.
Wasa Teater, Vaasa's Swedish-language theatre company celebrating its centenary, is this season presenting the musical Spelman på taket (Fiddler on the Roof). Finnish subtitles are available.
The musical Spelman på taket.
Photo by Wasa Teater / Frank A. Unger
Jonas Björkgren (left) and Mats Antell
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