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Soundmirror Takes in the LA Opera with DPA Microphones

LA Opera's The Ghosts of Versailles

In partnership with Dutch classical recording company Pentatone, Boston-based production house Soundmirror was recently chosen to coordinate the digital recordings of composer John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles, performed by the Los Angeles Opera at the LA Opera House's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. To ensure the cleanest sound possible, Soundmirror owner John Newton and engineer Mark Donahue selected DPA Microphones' d:screet 4071 Miniature and d:dicate 4006 and 4011 Recording Microphone solutions to record both the cast and orchestra of the project.

In addition to being captured for an audio-only digital recording, in high-resolution surround sound, the performance also occurred in front of a live audience. With many singers participating in the production, Newton needed to ensure that the mics he used were accurate yet totally concealable. The d:screet 4071 Omnidirectional mics with low cut and presence boost, which are designed to secure high speech intelligibility in bodyworn situations, proved to be the ideal option for each of the 24 performers.

"We've been DPA users from the very beginning so we didn't need to search through the company's catalog," says Newton. "Going into production, we knew it was critical for the mics to be consistent performance after performance. We had no doubt that the d:screet 4071s would deliver on this. Our biggest concern was making sure that the costume designers secured the mics in the same exact position each night, so that something like a piece of a curl didn't cover a microphone or that it didn't flip under the wig. We never worried about the microphones' sound consistency."

Donahue agrees with Newton's assessment of the sound. "As far as mics go, we've always thought that DPA mics were the best sounding options out there," he says. "They're really tailored to individual needs and have the smoothest sound that we've found in a lavalier mic. Plus, the various mounting options and capsules allowed for different placements, which really helped us. This is especially important when capturing opera, since you can't have visible microphones. The d:screet 4071s proved to be a pretty sharp tool in this application. Virtually no other mic can provide as natural a sound in a position that far away from a performer's mouth."

Newton went on to explain that RF engineer David Williams, a frequent and trusted Soundmirror collaborator, was in charge of the wireless system, which included everything from the microphones and their placement to the transmitter frequencies, battery replacement, and the like. "He's the one who worked with the costumers and the wig staff at the LA Opera to make sure that the microphones were in the correct and exact position each night, to ensure consistency from performance to performance," says Newton. "This was critical since our task was to record live. We needed to ensure that Pentatone had all of the content necessary to edit together the performances, plus add in the material from a patch session in order to produce the album."

Soundmirror also utilized approximately one dozen DPA d:dicate 4006 Omnidirectional and 4011 Cardioid mics in the orchestra pit. Since the project was a cooperative production with the LA Opera's archival operation, the Soundmirror team ran audio on top of the theatre's existing system. In most situations, there were about six of the LA Opera's normal mics set up and then 10 to 12 of DPA's in the pit for specific recordings, such as additional coverage for the woodwinds section of the orchestra.

"We've always been happy with DPA and, given that the company has a strong engineering-based focus, their technical standards are incredibly high and we've always had a strong affinity to their products," says Newton. "For my day-to-day orchestral recording, DPA's d:dicate 4006s are my main microphones in 95 percent of the work I do; and they have been for probably 20 years now. We love DPA mics."

So much so, in fact that Donahue and Newton plan to use a collection of DPA mics for the recording and live performance of five or so more operas over the next year.


(14 August 2015)

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