La Scala Paris, an art-house theatre in the French capital, reopened in 2018 after a complete renovation and remodel, including the addition of an immersive speaker setup. Jo Ruddock catches up with Frederic Biessy, owner and CEO, and Olivier Even, technical manager, to find out more.
You’ve recently invested in an immersive speaker setup, what was the thinking behind that?
Frederic Biessy (FB): We wanted to build a system that would be able to adapt to any live show and any concert – even the most acoustically and sonically challenging. Our meetings and exchanges with IRCAM were also a key factor in transforming La Scala into a facility with unique acoustical specifications. The hall’s acoustics and sound reinforcement system are at the core of our project, and it makes La Scala even more than a concert hall. To bet on the success of a multidisciplinary performance space implies that, in every domain, the tools are the most demanding and the most adapted to the quality and the demands by the artists invited to perform there. All the artists who have performed at La Scala in the past four months have confirmed that their needs were met.
What factors do you have to consider when investing in new technology?
FB: Our purpose was to invest in new technology that matches the current research of the artists who will use it. We did not want to create a technological place to be at the forefront of technology itself, but to be at the service of creators. It requires an investment that can and must evolve when needed. It must be transformable and modifiable over the years
What other changes did you make during the recent remodeling?
FB: It is the artists who are the origin of the needs of the performance space. Each modification of the system must be put at the service of an artistic work or a research work. This is how we changed our system during our last festival with IRCAM: Intégrales.
What other key AV technology do you use for your job?
Olivier Even (OE): The demands in terms of video are also growing significantly. We frequently welcome creations needing temporary video installations within the Scala’ entrance hall.
We are also working with software dedicated to sound synthesis and real time spatialization, for special projects, including sound generators and sound spatialization software developed under Max/MSP programming environment, using technologies designed at IRCAM Institute for the spatialization side.
How big is your technical team?
OE: There are three permanent members in the technical staff. Myself as technical director, a general director and a lighting director. We mainly work with temporary show business workers (intermittent du spectacle in French) who all know the venue very well.
What functionality is it crucial for you and your team to provide?
OE: High technical skills in terms of audio network, speaker system tuning and new spatialization techniques are needed in order to make such a system work in an optimal way. Good human skills are also very important. We always have to be close to the artists, to listen to them in order to meet their desires.
What’s a typical day for you?
OE: “It is very difficult for me to answer such a question… as each interaction with the performers for a specific production is different.
We welcome a lot of different shows including theatre, dance, circus arts, music, and visual arts. Some companies or troupes come with a very dense scenography, including a lot of sets, accessories and highly technical requests.
What are some of the most common challenges you face?
OE: Offering the best sonic installation (setup) to each type of project or creation, is a challenging aspect of our work. We can offer tens of configurations thanks to the quantity of speakers that we have, paired with the quasi-infinite way of using HOLOPHONIX. Finding the most appropriate, matching the user demands is a great challenge.
Do you typically go via an integrator/distributor for AV installs or are they handled in house?
FB: Wealth arises from exchange. We need outside help but we also have to regularly work internally to improve the system. For me, both are necessary.
What’s your favourite piece of AV kit – past or present?
OE: We feel all excited by the newest HOLOPHONIX system installed by Amadeus. It is something new, distinguishing and exciting. We figure among the three first main theatres in Paris that have installed such a revolutionary sound spatialization system. Its quality and adaptability help us daily to push our limits.