Passersby can’t help but notice, and be inspired by, the exterior of the Royal Dutch Theatre, Ghent, Belgium Home of the award-winning performance group, Nederlands Toneel Gent (NTGent) and an array of impressive architectural features, the stately 120-year-old building moves visitors with its uplifting mosaic façade depicting Apollo and the Muses.

Recently, NTGent took steps to inspire creativity in the interior of the building as well, all while making the historic theatre more environmentally friendly, by installing a new LED lighting system that features CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied by Sotesa.

“This project was reflective of the philosophy of Milo Rau, NTGent’s Artistical Leader and Patrick Martens, the coordinator of production and technical departments, as well as the entire organisation,” said theatre supplier Jan Hooyberghs of Sotesa. “One of the largest and most important performing art venues in Belgium and the Low Countries, NTGent is committed to serving as a medium between cultures and people by acting as a bridge between old and new, as well as between classic and mythological.

“NTGent has its own multi-cultural troupe of performers and actors that tour internationally – not only to the obvious nations, but also to Iraq, the Congo and countries throughout the world,” continued Jan. “Although it has respect for the past, it is also open to new evolutions of today and the future.”

As a founding member of Greentrack and many other environmental initiatives, NTGent is also committed to advancing more sustainability in the performing arts, with the organisation also having its own ECO-team. Given its commitment to promoting versatility and sustainability, the decision to move to a versatile, energy-efficient LED lighting system made eminent sense. NTGent entrusted the process of making this happen to Jan, who has worked closely with the group in the past and shares its values.

“NTGent engaged itself to be a part of the future of theatre. Not only in the way they choose their plays or have a dialogue with the audience and the city, they aim to be at the forefront of sustainable theatre. Sustainable both towards employees, in ergonomics and workload, as well as technically through less energy consumption, waste and heat spill. The lighting needed to have low energy consumption, maximum versatility, and had to facilitate the work of the technical crew,” furthered Jan.

The NTGent technicians and Jan selected 66 Ovation E-930VW ellipsoidal fixtures and 16 Ovation F-915VW fresnel units for the installation. “Our decision was not based on budget, but quality,” said Jan. “The quality was not just with products, but also with people, with our mutual capacity for listening to customers, and with our shared desire to try to understand the clients’ goals.”

NTGent also includes five ChamSys MQ80 consoles, Jan’s belief was cemented by the consoles ability to double the number of playbacks and house a colourpicker that takes seven colours into account, not just RGB. The MQ80 also has the ability to sync audio and lights better due to the possibility of moving light cues on the timeline.

The Ovation fixtures are hung on fly bars, as well as from the sides and balconies of the theatre. They are used for front light and top light and to support a wide range of stage productions, including theatre, ballet, modern dance, and musical performances. “When we put a four-year-old Ovation next to a new one, dimming curves and colours still match perfectly. This nearly unique attention that the Ovation designers have showed for the matching, gives confidence in the future of the units,” said Jan. He also noted that the Ovation units will go out on touring productions.

“We needed fixtures that would be equal to the extremely high quality productions this theatre makes and receives,” said. Jan. “We also needed to factor in the proximity of the fixtures to the audience. In some areas, they are so close, the audience can touch them, they need to be virtually silent as well. The Ovations were an obvious choice.”

For Jan, the Ovation LED theatrical fixtures are a game changer. “In the past, theatrical lights had the same colour because of the gel and dimmed the same because of the dimmer,” he said. “Ovation fixtures don’t just replace incandescent, they outclass them. No more gels, no more bulbs, no more heat/light inefficiency. Instead, there’s higher output, more evenly balanced colours, tunable white and changing colours, uniformly dispersed light, and so much more. This endows our system with the flexibility needed to support the diverse range of performances by NTGent.

“I have worked with NTGent before, and we have complimentary points of view,” continued Jan. “They look at the big picture, view technicians equally as artists, and believe people are the true essence of performing arts. They aren’t looking for new products to produce old results; but rather, want to embrace the new with open arms. CHAUVET Professional Belgium allowed me to exceed NTGent’s expectations, because CHAUVET Professional also looks to what the client’s goals are and then delivers.”

With the implementation of the new lighting system at The Royal Dutch Theatre, Apollo and the Muses aren’t limited to just the façade. Now they are also fully embodied by the lighting and performances within the theatre. Jan and the team at NTGent worked in sync throughout this project and that, as Jan concludes, was the driving force that led to this spectacular installation: “What was important to me, was the way the collaboration took form, the human factor. Things like service are crucial. Because we’re in a very specific sector, it was important to work with people who knew where we wanted to go and helped us get there.”