« Other case studies

Grimes on the beach at Aldeburgh


Aldeburgh Music celebrated the Centenary of Benjamin Britten with a production of his Opera Peter Grimes stage on the beach at Aldeburgh. A beautiful 50m wide set was constructed with its back to the sea that incorporated fishing boats that moved during the piece. A huge cast was assembled and directed by Tim Albery.

RNSS was brought in to provide the system design and equipment and it became obvious very quickly that the site brought its own peculiar challenges. The set required the vista to be as open as possible to provide the audience with the full benefit of the drama of the site. However this ruled out any chances of bringing structures or cranes in from which a PA could be hung. We were also advised that heavy machinery on the beach or any activity involving fixing structures deep into the shingle was inadvisable due to an amount of unexploded ordnance that may or may not be buried underfoot.

The Principles would perform live, the Chorus a mix of prerecorded and live, with the Orchestra prerecorded and delivered in sections on ten AES feeds.

With no weather protection and a 50m wide performance area the main concerns were twofold: How would the cast stay in time and hear each other and how might we reinforce them without simply amplifying the prevailing wind, which at times appeared to come directly from Siberia. The orchestra itself was recorded in Snape Maltings concert hall the week before and played back via Mike Hatch of Floating Earth’s Pyramix set up, which allowed sections to be looped and triggered live in order that the conductor, Steuart Bedford could have a degree of control not normally associated with playback.

The audience would be seated directly on the shingle for the first 12 metres, then a seating rake was installed bringing the rear rows directly over the sea wall. This meant a 55 metre throw from any speaker hidden in the set, which was itself limited in height to 1.5m.

We dealt with the problems by locating a large system of Meyer loudspeakers, including 30 degree dispersion MSL6s,  hidden under the main stage and carefully zoned to keep orchestra and vocal separation and put three lines of delays up the beach on custom brackets and mountings. We spent ten days rehearsing the piece to ensure only those mics that were in use were open when needed and then only for the smallest possible amount of time.

We sourced the best windshields we have ever experienced, though for visual reasons- it was being filmed- we also had to come up with our own foam versions.

"An opera performed on a beach with the sea as a backdrop; gales, rain, wind, some sunshine (but not much); probably the most testing project we have done together so far!  Thanks for bringing your experience, expertise and resources to the extraordinary performances of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach.  And hats off too, to your superb team on site, whose practical nous and professionalism coped with everything the North Sea could throw at them." 


Whatever the scale of your project we'd like to help. Please contact us on Tel: 020 7593 0011