London’s Royal Academy of Music needed to create stunning visuals for operas, symphonies, musicals and more in its new Susie Sainsbury Theatre. Founded in 1822, the Academy is the oldest and most established musical conservatoire in the UK. With nearly 700 students hailing from over 50 countries, the Academy provides training and education for some of the most talented musicians in the world through diverse programs such as instrumental performance, conducting, composition, musical theatre, opera and more.
The Academy recently decided to undergo the most significant renovation project in their near-200-year history. Designed by RIBA Award-winning Ian Ritchie Architects, the Susie Sainsbury Theatre features a new balcony, fly tower and side wings, which increased capacity by 40% and dramatically improved sightlines. This visually striking new design delivers world-class stage and recording facilities suitable for all forms of opera and musical theatre productions. In order to deliver stunning lighting designs, the Academy equipped the theater with new Martin MAC Encore Performance WRM and MAC Encore Wash WRM fixtures.
The Academy used the renovation project as an opportunity to replace their old Martin MAC TW1 fixtures from the Sir Jack Lyons Theatre. They wanted modern fixtures capable of creating big, punchy backlight images and natural skin tones with texture and definition. Since the Academy hosts so many world-class performances each year, they often need to rent additional lighting fixtures, which meant the new units needed to be easily supplemented with existing hire stock. Most importantly, the new fixtures would have to be whisper-quiet in order to keep from distracting guests during intimate performances. After surveying what was available on the market, the Academy found the MAC Encore Series to be the only fixtures that met their needs.
The Susie Sainsbury Theatre officially opened on March 14, 2018, with a performance of Jonathan Dove’s Flight by the Royal Academy Opera—making their triumphant return after years of touring during the renovations. The opening of the new theater was such a prestigious event, it even garnered an appearance from Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal and the Duchess of Gloucester. We invite you to visit https://youtu.be/LOgv6phpcok to learn more about this installation by watching a short video.
“We were starting to get a little bit panicky because at the time of the renovations there were no fixtures on the market that met our standards—then along came the MAC Encore,” said Jake Wiltshire, Technical Director and Lighting Designer at Royal Music Academy. “The Encore fixtures are phenomenal—we’ve got them permanently installed in all our key positions in the theater. We use them for cross lights, front-of-house lights, everything—they totally make the rig for me.”
“The Encore series gives us the best of both worlds—we can create subtle, detailed skin tones or a powerful emotional punch with vivid colours, sharp optics, and a great beam shape,” said Wiltshire. “It’s a very adaptable fixture—it’s small and nimble enough to get it into places you can’t get most moving lights. Plus they’re very energy efficient, so it doesn’t generate as much heat. Most importantly, it operates silently so our guests can enjoy the show without any distractions.”