Using microphones at the opera is a touchy subject. Pre-Caruso, technology to enhance the audibility of a singer, didn’t exist, so there are the issues of authenticity and even talent to consider. Live broadcast directly to movie theaters is a growing market, however, and many staged opera performances are being filmed for later DVD issue.
The sound team at the Parco Della Musica Auditorium in Rome recently turned to DPA Microphones’ Reference Standard 4017 shotgun microphones to record the audio for a specially commissioned double DVD of two operas (Ravel’s “L’Heure Espagnole” and Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi”) that were being performed as part of the Santa Cecilia Opera Studio.
No matter how cleverly handled, small mics mounted on the artists’ clothing invariably cause visual problems, a problem that sound engineer Giacomo De Caterini was well aware of.
“The director wanted to avoid any microphones that could be visible because he was determined to maintain strict focus on the performers,” De Caterini explains. “Due to bad experiences in the past, especially on video productions where close-up shots revealed poorly concealed microphones dangling from the singers’ wigs, he was very keen not to have any microphones on the singers’ heads. This ruled out the use of miniature microphones such as the DPA 4061s, which we had initially been considering.”
Wide-angle shots intended to bring the sets into full view posed another problem. “I was quite worried as the only option left was to use shotgun microphones positioned on the edge of the proscenium,” De Caterini says. “I realized this would only be OK if we had a sufficient quantity and if they were strategically placed to capture the audio properly.”
Ultimately, De Caterini chose to use a selection of DPA Reference Standard 4017 Shotgun microphones.
“Although I expected the high quality sound and trustworthiness that invariably comes with DPA microphones, what I did not expect was the ability of these microphones to deliver a sound unlike any other shotgun I have ever tried,” De Caterini explains. “They were much more akin to a pair of traditional cardioids, and with the amazing ability to behave more like 'wide cannons' than strict shotguns. In other words, instead of the typically coloured audio that becomes almost unusable as soon as the pickup is slightly off-axis, these microphones delivered great audio that required minimal tweaks and remained readable and clean even when picking up vocalists who were right as the back of the stage.
"Thanks to their new, dedicated preamps, they also delivered lower noise than any other shotgun microphone I have tried. Ultimately, what set them apart was something you certainly don't expect from shotguns: sheer musicality.”
For more information on DPA Microphones, please visit www.dpamicrophones.com