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Baseball-Themed ‘Rigoletto’ Covers Bases, Audience

The Tulsa Opera recently took outdoor shows in a whole new direction when it performed a baseball-themed version of Verdi’s opera 'Rigoletto' at ONEOK Field, with the help of Axiom Audio and a sizable L-Acoustics Kara PA.

A ground-stacked array of four Kiva enclosures was positioned behind the orchestra section at home plate for center stadium reinforcement for the Tulsa Opera performance.

Tulsa, OK (December 3, 2020)—Mention ballparks and singing to most people and they’ll picture Fenway Park belting “Sweet Caroline,” or maybe a half-sober round of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at their local field. That’s fine – but what if you added opera singers? In fact, what if you flat-out staged an opera at a ballpark?

That’s what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 9 at ONEOK Field, home of the Tulsa Drillers minor league team. The Tulsa Opera staged a baseball-themed version of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto with the help of local sound provider Axiom Audio, which fielded an L-Acoustics Kara PA system to cover 1,685 socially-distanced audience members seated in the 2,700-capacity stadium.

Tulsa Opera performs a baseball-themed Rigoletto at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa Opera performs a baseball-themed Rigoletto at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma Shane Bevel

The system consisted of 24 Kara enclosures, six SB18 subs, and three four-speaker clusters of Kiva II used as center and sidefills, all powered by six LA12X and three LA4X amplified controllers. The components were on an Optocore fiber network that also included a DiGiCo SD10 FOH mixing console paired with two SD-Racks.

The event’s PA design was as unique as the venue itself. The stadium management wouldn’t allow rigging to be erected on the field’s grass areas, so the Kara speakers were loaded onto wheeled carts that lined the first and third baselines, four per side, facing the grandstands. A ninth cart was positioned at home plate, just in front of the low risers that were the stage for six orchestra members: two violins, viola, cello, bass and piano. This arrangement provided the necessary coverage for all of the widely-spaced grandstand seating.

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However, it also created the added challenge of putting loudspeakers on the field as the opera vocalists, unfamiliar with wearing wireless microphones, would roam about during the performance, creating the potential for feedback each time they neared a speaker cluster. The solution was to make each cart its own node on the system, putting each of the nine speaker pods on a matrix at the front of house, allowing Front-of-House engineer Steve Colby to turn off individual loudspeaker clusters as a performer approached one.

“We made the speakers individually controllable through the matrix,” said Axiom Audio president Ben Bruce. “Performers were moving all across the infield, and they’re opera singers, so they would be loud. Having individual control over the elements in what was essentially a distributed audio system greatly reduced the potential for gain-before-feedback. The Kara speakers were a perfect fit, in terms of size and power, for this.”

Colby added, “Kara’s coverage properties allowed for a large and effective stereo field between any two of the arrays deployed around the field,” he says. “As a result, we could pan vocals and effects a little farther apart than usual without diminishing the experience for audience members who were not centered between the arrays. In particular, this was noticeable with the amount of artificial acoustic ‘space’ we created using a touch of reverb. The available SPL and overall fidelity of the speakers are quite amazing given the compact size and light weight of the product.”

Tulsa Opera’s Rigoletto • www.tulsaopera.com/rigoletto

Axiom Audio • www.axiom.audio

L-Acoustics • www.l-acoustics.com

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