"The pool represents a source, a pond-like sanctuary protected
by a garden, an intimate place where the sunlight shines through the
forest leaves, creating translucent, stained-glass colors. It speaks
to me of the coexistence of nature and man, of the elements and the
technology used to bring them together." - Michel Crête
"O", a phonetic play on the French word for water - "eau", is a baroque world
filled with disturbing images, impressive acrobatics and amazing technical intent.
The theater built for the show, Cirque's first (and at present only) aquatic show,
is also a revolutionary conceptual space. Designed and created by Cirque du Soleil,
Scéno Plus, and Atlandia Design over a 2 1/2 year period (February 1996 to July 1998),
the 1,800 seat theater reflects the style of a 14th century European opera house with
arched loges and warm gold, red, and blue tones. Reportedly costing $70 million US to
build, it sports a number of innovative theatrical constructs making the space the
first of its kind. Nearly 500 people had devoted over 400,000 man-hours to the
preproduction and production phases of the show alone, not counting the time spent
on the construction of the theatre. And very prop and costume had to prove its
resistance to the harshness of a liquid environment. This is one instance where it
is hard to separate the theatre design from the production itself, as the success
of both revolves around the pool.
[ Le Théâtre •
The Pool •
Sound Design ]
You'll find the Bellagio theater tucked away in a seemingly normal looking hallway
on the casino floor, but nothing can prepare you for what you'll see inside. The
interior of the theatre was designed by Michel Crête of Cirque du Soleil in
collaboration with architect Michel Aube of Scéno Plus, a Montreal-based firm, and
it's a marvel of innovation masked by exquisite beauty and detail.
Take for example the Cupola, or rounded ceiling vault. At some point your eyes
will dart the 12-stories skyward and you'll find a breathtaking ceiling washed in
turquoise, indigo and blue. Take another glance... underneath that beauty lies an
innovate framework of galvanized metal mesh with a trellis (or frame of latticework)
that allows for an infinite array of lighting effects to be used. Cirque uses this
space to place scores of different colored lights to not only light the theater but
also the stage below. The translucent look is achieved with two layers of galvanized
metal mesh lit from behind with GAM 725 (turquoise), GAM 890 (deep indigo) and Lee
161 (steel blue) gels with over 4000 MR16 zip strips and 192 Altman PAR-64s. The
result is a kinetic shimmer above the audience, with one layer of the mesh pulled
taut and the second layer hand-crunched according to Crete's specifications. The
Cupola also comes with a space used for overhead performances, which is utilized
at the beginning of the show. A trapeze artist bathed in fog and light, with cyan
(Lee 116) and indigo (GAM 890) gel in the followspots as specified by lighting
designer Luc Lafortune, descends from a chandelier, or curved aluminum truss
structure to open the show. Fisher Technical Services of Las Vegas designed and
constructed a special braking system for the chandelier, as well a custom flying
winch, which moves the performer up and down in sync with the raising and lowering
of the chandelier.
While the ceiling itself is a wonder to behold, how many of you have sat with
mouths agape as the curtain is drawn back into the depths of the theater for the
show's explosive beginning? If so, you're not alone. The curtain impresses many
who have seen the show. So, how does it work? That amazing feat is done by another
winch by Fisher that draws back at a speed of 14-feet per second! At that velocity
one would imagine the curtain would flutter noticeably.
But believe it or not, Cirque keeps the curtain from fluttering with a series
of weights that hold it in place timed to release with the curtain's upward motion.
This keeps the curtain taught throughout the entire drawback sequence. The curtain
itself is nylon, approximately 50 feet high by 100 feet wide, and light in weight.
To the casual observer's eye, however, it looks like luxurious velvet because "it's
lit exquisitely." Two ropes from the winch attach to the curtain (which is really
two pieces) at the center. When the signal is given the winch starts pulling, the
hooks at the top of the stage release, and the curtain (and audience) is swept away.
The curtain is pulled up smoothly onto a large roller. The custom-built winch that
pulls the curtain resides high in the grid rigging over the stage.
Weighing around 500 pounds and about 5 1/2 feet in height, its 8-foot winding
drum (with high sides to take up the curtain) acts as a big sewing spool, powered
by a 20-horsepower SEW EuroDrive induction motor mounted vertically. Once activated
by a technician holding a joystick touch screen, it takes just 6 seconds for the
curtain to be whisked away completely. This curtain is pulled up to reveal yet
another curtain that floats on top of the pool and is pulled aside to reveal the
water. The winch used is a Fisher 20-horsepower F200 model that draws back at a
speed of 14-feet per second. It moves away to reveal another innovation of the
theater, the pool itself. (At the end of the show, a similar red curtain is used,
but this one appears magically from a wicker basket that seems to float on the
water. The curtain is pulled quickly into a closed position by a system of wires
and traveling guides.)
Fifty-five feet above the stage and the pool is the Téléphérique, a complicated
system of trusses and catwalks with automated winches and tracks that support
performers, scenery, and props. Conceived by Crete and Johnny Boivin (of Cirque's
production staff) and engineered by Olaf Soot Associates (a sub-contractor to
Hoffend & Sons who installed the rigging), the téléphérique consists of 6 tracks
of box truss with open bottoms and catwalks on top, each of which contains two
independent traveler winches that can move scenery and acrobatic devices up and
down, or from side to side (for a total of 24 winches. Four of these are 70-feet
long and run parallel to the proscenium. The other two measure 130-feet long and
run upstage to downstage, and are placed 26-feet apart to support the central
The 18 ton, 24-foot diameter Carousel travels on the inside of the upstage/downstage
tracks. It is driven by a continuous loop cable drive that can spin up to 180 feet
per minute (3 feet per second). It is supported by four double-wheel trucks, designed
to equalize the loads on the polyurethane-treaded wheels. It's four winches can lift
up to 1,000 pounds each at speeds of up to 240 feet per minute (4 feet per second) at
2 RPMs. Lighting on the carousel includes four ETC Source Fours and 16 Par-64s,
operated without DMX cables, using wireless method by Radio DMX technology on the
The carousel sits 55' above the stage. Additional rigging exists 100 feet in the
air on the high grid which includes 41 scenery-related winches. The winches used to
fly the performers have a maximum line pull of 1000 lbs at a maximum velocity of 15
feet per second with a 2G acceleration.
A number of scenic elements - props, if you will - make use of the téléphérique
throughout the show. A carousel of horses, for instance, lower from the rafters
during the opening sequences. The four horses (ridden by Comets) are made of
Fiberglass, run on battery power, and are equipped with propellers. The horses are
controlled by two levers; the clutch has three forward speeds and one reverse. Each
horse weighs 750 pounds (340 kilograms). Another prop, one that created one of the
biggest development headaches, was the mirror that rises from the water on center
stage. It had to be capable of a complex range of motion, including a 90-degree
pivot, before rising vertically into a one-meter slot in the ceiling.
"For me, the pool represents a pond; like a sanctuary protected by a
garden--an intimate place where the sunlight shines through the forest,
creating translucent, stained-glass colors as it shines through the leaves.
The scenery depicts the coexistence between nature and man, between the
elements and the obvious technology used to bring them together." — Michel
Crête, Scenic Designer
To translate his vision into reality, Crete designed a vegetation curtain, or
"Vege," which resembles a swamp-like maze of plant roots and serves as a backdrop
for many of the show's acts. Made of vapor-resistant, rigid plastic, the "Vege"
curtain was made by thermoforming, a process in which Lexan is poured into a 45-foot
x 60-foot mold and left to solidify, at which point paint and varnish are applied.
To create visual contrast with the dark "Vege," Crete added two white rip-stop nylon
curtains that look like sails and pivot from points on the grid. These were designed
to add an airiness that does not get soggy when wet, especially in scenes with rain
The pool itself, also designed by Crête in conjunction with Scéno Plus, is 25-feet
deep and measures 150-feet from right-to-left by 100-feet from upstage-to-downstage.
While the pool itself is an interesting marvel, haven't you ever wondered how it all
becomes a stage? Below that liquid surface lies a series of hydraulic lifts built
specifically by Handling Specialty of Grimsby, Ontario.
There are seven of these lifts, consisting of four primaries and three auxiliaries,
each with a one-million pound capacity holding up the 53x90 foot main stage surface.
Each platform these lifts support measures 1,000sq feet and can quietly travel (thanks
to special sonic probes) from a depth of 17-feet 3-inches below water level to 18-inches
above, moving separately or together at a rate between 5 and 25 feet per minute. Each
lift is powered by three hydraulic rams, each with a 100,000 pound weight capacity,
and use in its hydraulics a biodegradable vegetable oil. The rubber floor of the lifts
is custom-designed and fitted with a resilient rubber-like material (fiberglass
combined with sports matting with PVC) in a series of 4-foot by 8-foot panels. Each
panel contains 5,000 plus holes to allow water to pass as the stage is raised or
lowered. But the speed of their disappearance and sudden reappearance can fool you
into thinking that the lifts and the stage are quite light. In fact, the combined
weight of the system is a hefty 460,000 pounds!
10 months of research went into the creation of the surface. But the lifts are
only part of the innovation. Many of the problems with the show's development came
because of the water itself. Ask yourself a couple of questions: How would the noise
of the splashes be contained? How could the temperatures between the water and the
air be comfortable for both the performers and the patrons? How could the smell of
chorine be contained? How could a stage of water be lit without reflection? How would
the performers hear the music to make their cues? How to keep costumes from
disintegrating from the pool's chemicals? And how would they breathe?
The solutions are novel in their own right.
The undesirable noise of waves splashing against the sides of the pool is absorbed
by a series of different sized pebbles scattered around the ring (or gutter) of the
pool. These rocks, used in conjunction with special matting from 3M called Nomad, help
absorb the waves, and thereby the noise. Another problem is masking activity. An
aquatic masking system that makes the pool form and bubble is created by more than
one mile (6,000 feet) of perforated hose, mounted on the bottom of the pool. The
perforations allow bubbles to form, which serve to mask any underwater activity. A
team of 14 divers also works every show. Not only do they help the acrobats make
their mark, but they're also there in case of an emergency. You'll only see them
once - and that's a scripted point in the show!
Because the large pool of water has to be kept warm and is rather humid (the
temperature in and around the water is approximately 87 degrees), a special HVAC
system was developed by Cirque and Scéno Plus in conjunction with Dupras & Ledoux
of Montreal to provide air-conditioned comfort for the audience. A temperature of
72 degrees is maintained in the seating area by way of a special ventilation system
with silent air movement that brings cool air at 55 degrees directly under each
seat. Special air cannons can be used to warm the air around the stage and control
the movement of the ventilation. The mesh ceiling acts as a chimney and allows the
warm air to escape the auditorium. Using Bromide in the water averts the chlorine
Lighting and Sound are issues in their own right. Water and electricity are not
considered very good bedfellows. In fact, one usually conducts the other to all kinds
of nasty behavior. And how DO you project audible sound under the water? But Cirque
du Soleil and Scéno Plus have found a way to marry the two with fantastic results
here. Read on.
"The idea was to keep the tableaux in the show simple, with only one,
two, or three lighting gestures, or elements that stand out. It's never too
busy in spite of the large scale of the stage. I try to keep the human scale."
— Luc Lafortune, Lighting Designer
Working with a cast of 74 performers, 115 technicians, 1.5 million gallons of
water, and 1,815 lighting instruments (using more than four million total watts of
light), it might seem like a contradiction in terms for Luc Lafortune to say that
his lighting for "O" is simple. But his clean yet expressive lighting gestures, with
bold dichroic colors cutting through fog and mist or dancing on the water, adds a
beautifully restrained elegance to a 90-minute spectacular performed in, on, around,
and above a giant swimming pool. "Simple" is of course a relative term. There is
nothing simple about the complicated ground-fault dimming system created for the
pool, or the infrastructure for the entire lighting system, which has a cutting-edge
crispness unmatched at this time. "O" provided an aquatic canvas full of movement,
both in and out of the water.
"Things fell together at a late period," Lafortune says of the design process. He
was faced with an enormous pool, painted a dark blue, that reaches as deep as 25' (8m)
and an upstage white cyc (backdrop) that measures 45-feet wide by 80-feet (14m x 24m)
high. In addition, there are the aforementioned automated scenic panels, white ones
that look like sails and brown ones that look like an underground tangle of roots.
"There is no single configuration to the set," Lafortune points out. "It's not the
kind of environment where you can work from a model or software."
Some things he showed Franco in Montreal didn't look the same in the theatre, but
the real challenge was the nature of the set. "It was tough; the scenery doesn't
offer much direction, it's very vague and abstract." He was also faced with the
difficult task of lighting circus performers, and balancing the light on the
performers and the rest of the environment. "I ask what each light adds to a given
tableau, or what does it add to the scene. Sometimes I need to peel things away."
The end result is a mixture of magic and mystery as the action of "O" moves in and
out of the pool. The lighting rig includes over 500 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals,
plus 72 automated luminaires: 42 High End System Studio Colors, and 30 Clay Paky
Stage Scans. These are hung on short, articulated battens, referred to as scan
sticks, over the stage, with additional positions on the telepherique trusses.
Lighting the water in the pool was a huge design challenge, and required
experimentation with different lighting angles and techniques, since water is
highly reflective and filters light differently than air. Testing designs took
more than two years but installing the system would take even more thought - 288
of those would be underwater lights - how to mix electricity and water safely? How
about in a specially created tunnel! The tunnel consists of eleven four-inch thick
windows of Plexiglas, able to withstand both water pressure and heat from the
lights, which allows for the safe installation of electric cables under the water.
Located in the tunnel are 22 Altman single-cell farcyc units, half with no color
and half with GAM 900 blue, or one of each per window. There are also 7 Juliat 2.5kW
HMI profile spots and two 4kW Strand fresnels with Wybron Coloram scrollers, each
with 24 color choices. Aquatic masking is also used to refract and diffuse the pool
lighting. Instead of adding permanent haze or clouding agents to the water to help
see the light, a system of tiny bubbles was added to give the water extra body and
make it look a little milky. Hydrel uplights mounted under the stage lifts are used
for underwater cues since the visibility is somewhat limited. All in all, 222,956
feet of cable were used in the lighting installation, a length of almost 42 miles.
There are four dimmer locations for the 1,695 Strand CD80 Supervisor dimmers,
including 288 GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) dimmers for wet-location
lighting developed in conjunction with Bob Barbagallo of Scéno Plus. The four
locations are: 1) in the lighting tunnel for 96 of the GFCI dimmers; 2) 192 GFCI
dimmers at stage level for the pool and onstage circuits; 3) in the light booth
for house lights and front-of-house; and 4) in the grid for the grid circuits over
the stage. The goal was to localize the dimming as much as possible to reduce wire
runs and avoid voltage drops.
A full reporting system identifies voltages, amp loads, burnouts, and other
troubleshooting data for every individual dimmer module. A signal panel in the
center of the auditorium (in front of the sound mixing board) has a second set of
input jacks that echo the light booth for remote use of consoles for programming
in the house. The lighting control system integration was assured by Production
Arts/PRG, which also helped test the GFCI dimming system.
Lafortune often uses a sober color palette on the water, including earth tones
like Rosco 13 Straw Tint and Lee 201 color correction. "These are not necessarily
pretty colors, but we wanted the water to be an element in the show, not just a
prop. I didn't want anything with a candy quality--the light didn't seem natural.
Light turquoise and lime green seem more appropriate." At times, subtle crossfades
let the color of the water change almost imperceptibly.
On the 8-foot (2.4m) covered gutter around the edge of the pool (which has the
same perforated rubber Mondo covering as the stage lifts), a soft, textured gobo
was added on the stage floor, laying sharper images of foliage, webs, and branches
on top of a more abstract Rose Window gobo that looks like stained glass. The Cirque
du Soleil scene shop in Montreal also created custom gobos, using high-heat paint
in acid colors on Vycor glass. These are added to metal gobos and projected on the
stage and the proscenium to add extra interest to the lighting. In fact, there is
rarely (if ever) a full color wash without a gobo or texture and contrasting color.
Many of the gobos and gels come from GAM Products, which also provided 100 StarStrobe
3s and 24 TwinSpin II slow speed gobo rotators.
Two and a half years before the theatre opened, Jeanette Farmer, the lighting
director for Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio, roughed out the basic infrastructure
for the lighting system, including switch gear, power panels, dimmers, and signal
distribution (both DMX and ethernet). The Gray Interfaces Pathfinder DMX routing
system, which has 96 DMX outputs and 16 inputs, controls all the dimming, moving
lights, smoke effects, and rain. Effects cabinets built by Production Arts turn
the DMX signal to analog to control fountains in the pool and other aquatic features.
"In effect, the lighting console is controlling plumbing," says Farmer, chuckling.
There are a total of eight Juliat followspots in the theatre: four long-throws
front-of-house; two medium-throws on the proscenium arch; and two more medium-throws
in lower side positions. A catwalk is hidden on the stage side of the proscenium
arch for additional positions and front-of-house followspot locations. Scott Fisher
of Fisher Technical Services designed custom-built chairs using car seats with
lumbar support and headrests to add extra comfort for the followspot operators,
who wear fall-protection harnesses. The chairs also have special pivoting mechanisms
to make the followspots easier to articulate. There are four of these custom chairs,
two in the proscenium catwalk and one on each side of the stage.
The balcony-level light booth is integrated into the ceiling. Its design was
based on the booth for Mystère and an estimate of how many people would be needed
to run the new show. The control booth is set up with a followspot location at each
end, with five control stations. These stations have two Strand 550 consoles for
the conventional lights; two Flying Pig Systems Wholehog consoles for the automated
luminaires (with a Strand 520 for extra power circuitry); a stage manager position;
a Strand 520 console for fluid special effects; and computer control for 85 different
automated elements including the chandelier, acrobatic rigging structures, a moon,
light ladders, and scenic pieces. Elevators take technicians up to the grid, and
they can circulate around the entire theatre at any level without going up and down
The head of fluid special effects controls the fog, mist, fountains, and rain
used during the show. The system includes water mist fog from Island Systems, which
is controlled by rows of tiny nozzles on fog battens around the stage. Fog machines
include four DF-50s from Reel EFX, two Roadies from Jem, and six Rosco 1600s. Liquid
nitrogen would have made the atmosphere too cool for the swimmers, and the extra
humidity provided by the pool enhances the use of water mist fog.
Additional stage lighting comes from a series of pods that are hung on rigging
lines from the grid. The pods are designed to look like chandeliers with clear
plastic Uni-Par fixtures as lamp shades. Stage ladders fly in on the sides of the
stage to provide sidelight positions, as shinbusters would have been too close to
the pool for safety.
"Simple" though it may be, the intricate lighting system has offered the
flexibility to create stunning scenes such as an African tableau with cutouts of
an elephant, an ox, birds, trees, and two performers who step out of a boat
silhouetted against the white cyc. Here gobos in ETC Source Fours as backlight
with amber gel are used to suggest clouds and textures. "I used a singular source
for singular shadows," says Lafortune, who also had to avoid casting a shadow of
a large boat rigged to fly in for the next scene.
Certain acts were harder to light than others, such as the synchronized
swimmers, a fire act, and divers on a swinging acrobatic platform. Many of these
performers were either acrobats new to working in water or swimmers new to
theatrical lighting, so the use of followspots was difficult. For the swimmers,
he a color-coded system of lights over the pool was created since they couldn't
see marks on the bottom. The artists are bathed in red light to hide their bodies
as they emerge from the pool, feet first, as sea creatures from the primordial
sludge. For the fire act, Lafortune used a gun-sight target gobo in a front-of-house
followspot and bounces it onto the floor off a large round mirror that flies in
over the pool, whose lifts have come up to create a solid stage. In the side boxes
and on the set are flame effects created with billowing white raw China silk
fluttering with Reel EFX fans. Amber gel in Altman ZipStrips and PAR cans create
the flame effect. "This both backlights the performer and creates an environment
for him," says Lafortune, who uses a 2.5kW HMI Robert Juliat followspot with no
color and a hard-edged beam to light the show's high-divers, who plunge fearlessly
into the pool.
Citing the work of Dali, Magritte, and Picasso as a visual influence, Lafortune
bought quite a few art books for inspiration as he worked on the design. "I like the
surrealist movement in painting between the world wars. The juxtaposition of the
colors is just amazing." His own use of dramatic light cutting through the mist and
bold choice of colors in "O" confirms Lafortune's own artistic bent. "I wanted to
make a statement, as selfish as it sounds, so that the lighting would be noticed as
something that's really out there. I like the idea of pushing the envelope and
discarding old lighting rules. I wanted to do things we hadn't done before."
"Acoustically, the Bellagio Theatre is a hybrid, designed to complement
the subtlety and nuance of a specialized sound reinforcement system, yet live
enough for the audience to feed off its own reactions to the
performance." — François Bergeron, Sound Designer
The show's musical score, performed by a live orchestra (for each performance),
is integrated with the sound design. The orchestra includes standard
instrumentation--keyboards, percussion, cello, guitar, saxophone, flute, and
vocals--as well as offerings from rather exotic instruments like tiplet, African
koras, an assortment of ancient English and French reed instruments, bagpipes,
various Chinese two-stringed erhus, and even an accordion. It all contributes a
mood and emotion rarely actualized in any other production. As a result, a
traditional sound design doesn't work here.
The room includes close to 30 surround loudspeakers alone, with others specially
placed for effects. They are distributed behind the balcony, on the face of the
balcony but firing forward to cover the main floor, and there are even some built
(and completely concealed) into side walls. Meanwhile, the proscenium framing the
stage/pool contains two loudspeaker clusters, with more loudspeakers along its sides.
Finally, a series of compact loudspeakers contained in the stage lip bolster coverage
to the first few seating rows not getting complete mid/high output from the clusters
due to logistics.
As is common for Cirque resident shows, the musicians are housed on either side of
the stage in "booths." However, unlike other Cirque resident shows, the vocalists and
musicians are isolated acoustically from the stage, which allows for the use of
high-quality studio microphones for better sound and has the additional benefit of
protecting the instruments from the humidity of the pool. All microphones used by
the orchestra and performers are first fed to Aphex Model 107 microphone pre-amps,
located in a backstage equipment room. With a technology called Tubessence, the 107s
supply an added level of warmth to these signals before they are sent to the Cadac
F-type front-of-house mixer. During production rehearsals, a small recording studio
was established at the house mix position, centrally located on the main floor. The
key component in the studio, a DigiDesign ProTools digital audio workstation,
facilitated creation of custom sound effects and more, loaded onto samplers.
The samplers, as well as reverb units, are MIDI-linked to the hub of the audio
system, a network of LCS LD-88 digital mixers, which work in tandem with the Cadac
automated mixing console. Each LD-88 digital mixer supplies eight channels of 20-bit
audio I/O, as well as eight audio processing DSPs and a control DSP. Here, there are
enough LD-88s to supply 80 inputs, 80 outputs, and 32 buses, forming a giant matrix
where any input can be routed to any output. The LD-88s were linked to a PC at the
mix position. Loaded with LCS CueStation software, it allowed the designers to
"paint" soundscapes, moving both the effects and live musical programming throughout
the desired area or the entire soundstage. The SpaceMap technology in the software
facilitates the design of custom panning curves to "fly sound" between any imaginable
All actions and movements of sound facilitated by the digital matrix are programmed
and saved as cues, which are then triggered by the show's master control system (via
SMPTE timecode) at the appropriate point in the show. In addition to spatialization
control, all signal processing functions such as equalization and delay are also
accomplished in this portion of the system. All power amplifiers are Crest Professional
Series, split between two equipment rooms. They are also linked to a PC at the mix
position, where Crest NexSys control software lets the system operator monitor their
The main loudspeakers are Trap 42s from Renkus Heinz, with the company's Co-Entrant
design offering a natural point-source and controlled directivity. Many of the
surround loudspeakers, as well as near-field and fill loudspeakers, are also from
Renkus. In addition, the company supplied a customized version of its SR-81
loudspeakers, with their size reduced to allow them to fit in extremely limited
openings along the stage lip. Renkus C2 subwoofers are concealed within an upper
level of the proscenium. An additional pair of subs are mounted in the ceiling
for certain effects. Meanwhile, Sound Advance SA2 loudspeakers are mounted in the
side walls, completely invisible, with the loudspeaker complement filled out by
several small JBL surround loudspeakers distributed around the house.
The system is extremely complex and powerful. Seven computers are used at front
of house, to run Cadac cue control and backup, LCS CueStation software and backup,
Crest NexSys amplifier control and monitoring and backup, JBL Smaart-Pro Acoustical
Analysis software, and perform record-keeping and administrative tasks. The Crest
LMX monitor console, manned by Pascal Van Strydonck, affords monitor mixes for each
of the 10 musicians. The mix stems provided by the outputs of the Crest console are
fed to each band member's own Yamaha ProMix, giving each member control over their
mixes, with presets that can be recalled on a song-to-song, or cue-to-cue basis as
The aquatics department, with its many divers, and the performers, including
synchronized swimmers, rely heavily on what they can hear underwater. To this end,
what is termed the "Neptune system" was developed. It provides not only show music
throughout the pool, but also the ability for stage management and aquatics safety
officers to communicate directly to those beneath the surface. Vocal cues and
instructions can be given during the show. Also, a system of warning signals was
established, where a unique sound is triggered by any movement of the lifts within
the water. A click track used by the musicians is fed into the system as well,
providing the cast with the timing and tempo they need. The system is mixed with a
Soundcraft Spirit mixer, routed through various equalization, ducking and dynamics
processing, and fed to Crest 1600 amplifiers.
Twelve underwater speakers in the pool, provided by Clark Synthesis, are bolted
to custom mounts. They supply increased frequency response underwater and increased
energy transfer by acting as a sound board. There are 2 "rover" speakers used when
aquatic masking is activated so the swimmers can still hear cues and music. An
additional Clearcom system was installed, which interfaces with the dive-com system
in the water. It has 12 channels linking 196 lines at various points. All in all
the pool speakers in "O" have a total capacity of 12,000 watts.
* * *
Consequently, the pool is drained annually for maintenance and when that's done
it drains into the Bellagio Lake raising the water level one inch. It takes twelve
hours to fill the pool again. Interestingly enough, though, the pool is below the
water table and tries to float when there is no water in it; therefore, a slab of
concrete 12 feet thick holds the pool down!
As we conclude our understanding of this aquatic habitat, permit me one more
fact about the theater: for their collaboration, Cirque du Soleil and Scéno Plus
were awarded New York's prestigious Eddy Entertainment Design Award in 1998, the
Canadian Institute for Technology's Award of Technical Merit in 1999, and the Las
Vegas Best Theater of the Year Award for their ingenuity.