------Program code: DO-081216-02100 (what's this?)
In 1972, world famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti performed La Fille du Regiment for the first time in the Metropolitan Opera. That night Pavarotti produced 9 solid high C’s easily within one minute, a feat that impressed the entire music world. From that moment on Pavarotti was known as the King of the High C’s.
Now that China’s National Center for the Performing Arts has a perfect heart – it’s superb opera house, what will ensure that it has a beautiful soul?
The interior acoustic system of an opera house has always been what determines whether it is a world class opera house. The acoustic system of an opera house can be roughly divided into two major aspects: reverberation time and noise suppression. During the middle ages, spacious interiors were used to enable long reverberation times in order to create an atmosphere of mystery, as can be clearly demonstrated in many of Europe’s larger cathedrals.
Later, with the development of European drama and opera, many theaters and opera houses were based on cathedral designs or, in some cases, were even remodeled cathedrals.
However, artists at the time noticed that while a massive interior resulted in longer reverberation times, it also caused the sound to be indistinct. This is why the reverberation effect of the interior of a cathedral, as impressive as it is, is not appropriate for theatrical performances.
To acquire perfect acoustics with appropriate reverberation times and noise suppression, precise design is necessary.
Reverberation time is determined by the physical environment of the place where the sound is transmitted. When a sound emanates from a sound source and then stops abruptly, you will still hear the sound for some time afterwards: this is reverberation, and the length of time the sound lasts is called reverberation rate.
In 1971, a Japanese man by the name of Daisuke Inoue invented the world’s first karaoke machine. A karaoke machine alters the electrical current between the microphone and the amplifier to add reverberation to the singer’s voice.
As we all know, karaoke went on to become popular all over the world, and it even changed the lifestyles of many people. The fundamental principle behind karaoke is about refining the sound of a singer’s voice via by manipulating analog electrical current to create a reverberation effect that imitates the acoustics of an opera house.
However, when an opera singer sings on stage, he or she is not supposed to resort to the use of any electronic equipment. How could a perfect reverberation effect be achieved in the National Center for the Performing Arts? The secret lies in the seats and the walls.
The National Center for the Performing Arts is over 100 meters long from tip to tip, and without making special adjustments the normal reverberation time would be more than 2 seconds.
However, due to the acoustic design the sound coming from the performer’s voice is partly absorbed by the wooden stage and by the seating materials, and in the meantime, the sound is reflected in almost every direction because of the dispersion effect of the seat backs.
What remains is absorbed by the walls and the ceiling. With 2400 people seated on the 2400 seats, the reverberation time of the concert hall is exactly 2 seconds, the golden reverberation time opera singers dream of. This effect is exactly the same reverberation rate as Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Paul Andreu and his acoustic engineers worked for 4 years to achieve the perfect acoustic effect created by a 2 second reverberation time. But achieving this result was only part of the job. They also had to solve the problem of noise suppression, because noises unrelated to the performance are naturally a great annoyance to theatergoers.
Due to fast development of public transportation systems in the United States in the 1970s, newly-built subways ran underground past many theaters. In the end some theaters had to be abandoned because they were unable to solve the noise problem caused by the nearby subway.
China’s National Center for the Performing Arts was faced with the same problem, as subway line 1 was just 50 meters away. To prevent vibrations from the subway line affecting the theatrical performance, Andreu came up with a very clever design. This is a rehearsal room 30 meters under the stage. The floor in the rehearsal room looks nothing special, but underneath hides something extraordinary.
Under the floor of this rehearsal room, 100 springs were installed in order to dissipate vibrations from the nearby subway. In effect, the whole room is a huge damper for the entire building. As a result the audience cannot feel any vibration at all when they sit upstairs watching a performance.
In 2007, 70-year-old Paul Andreu published two new books: The National Grand Theater and Islands of Memory. Both books are about his work in China, one of the oldest countries in the East. For China, the global bidding for the National Center for the Performing Arts was an opportunity to show the determination of the Chinese government to attract to China the attention of the whole world.
The National Center for the Performing Arts became known in the Western media as the largest architectural project in the world in the last one hundred years. Soon after the project was completed, China invited bids on a series of other important public buildings, including the new CCTV building, the Olympic stadiums for the Olympics 2008 and the National Museum of China extension project. With these projects the Chinese are bringing to the world a series of new miracles or architecture.