Lambda Labs professional acoustics

DH-18 in Vienna’s ‘Burgtheater’

Black Boxes in the Black Box

Having a déjà vu? Lambda Labs at the Burgtheater? That’s right, but you’ll have to allow some room for improvement. The year 2013 saw the Burgtheater’s 125th jubilee. Situated in the heart of Vienna, it ranks among the most eminent stages of Europe and – following the ‘Comédie-Française’ – also its oldest ones while it is the greatest stage for german-speaking straight theatre. Across the decades, the ‘Burgtheater’s’ grand halls, accomodating more than 1,340 spectators, were more than stage and setting for thespian display; they witnessed the dramatic struggles of reality in a glorious arena resounding with radical upheavals, pioneering spirit and the constant yearning for improvement.

Upon its completion in 1888 the Burgtheater became the first monumental structure to boast electrical illumination. This bright prospect however, could not long disguise the then already lurking acoustic issues in the stage’s machinery that would later come to the fore. Extensive renovations solved these problems in 1897. In the wake of the events of WW II, the building was gutted by fire in 1945 and could only be reopened in 1955. Actor and director Gerhard Klingenberg remembers his stint as “Burg Chef” between 1971 to 1976 as a no less turbulent time in his attempts to internationalize and modernize the Burgtheater. He writes: “I was greeted with the words “He’s going to die!” by the renowned Viennese periodical ‘Wochenpresse’.” And: “The article went on to say: Within business circles the seat of the Burgtheater’s theatrical director is compared to the electric chair: You ascend it as a healthy man and by the time you leave it, everything remains is a tiny pile of ashes.”

But it’s not just the directors that give it their all. Each day, the staff of 600 pull a lot of strings, and it’s always about the theater, about this evening’s show, the next premiere. 160 stage hands alone are busy every morning removing last night´s stage design to replace it with the setting for the coming rehearsal. At noon, it’s time to redecorate the stage for the evening performance. Not all settings can be stored in the local storage rooms. They are transported each day to and from the outlying depots by truck. Suspended at a height of 28 metres, technicians can sidle about on 9 floodlight bridges if needed, to align 600 lamps. The lighting console controlls over 850 circuits. A dive of 30 metres further leads into the burg’s catacombs and into the microcosms of the different crafts. Upholsterers, tailors, carpenters, locksmiths, welders – all of them with working hours between 7 a.m. And 11 p.m., all of them ready on demand. Karl Heindel, the building’s security adminstrator, proudly presents the fire hydrants in the building: “If I open it now, the valve will release 200 litres per minute. That thing is always under pressure and is checked daily.”

Speaking of fire hydrants, light desk and the electric chair: no one has crumbled to ashes in the Burgtheater as yet. Even Mr. Klingenberg as director was able to avert the ill omens of the press and is still enjoying his good health. But he, as well as his successors and all those who contribute to the Burgtheater, have passed and still pass through that tightly grinding mill work, the black box ‘Burg’ to turn the instituion into what it is: A world renowned theatre – created through the steady, honest and thorough engagement with its own matter in the spirit of the entire oeuvre.

We are glad to have become part of this burg with our 2 DH-18 subwoofers. Starting as an effect bass at first, now acting as an allround tool it is also used as part of the main PA for up to 1,340 listeners.

Technical Details

What 2 x DH-18
Where Burgtheater GmbH, Universitätsring 2, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Installed by pro performance
System setup by Mag. David Müllner (Burgtheater’s Lead Tonmeister) in cooperation with pro performance