Güdel moves scenery at the Met

  • October 30, 2015
  • Case Study

October 30, 2015 - The Metropolitan Opera House (The Met) in New York, NY, found itself facing a unique challenge in designing a sophisticated backdrop for a very important 100 year anniversary production of Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers) Opera for their upcoming New Year’s Eve Gala.

The technical crew at The Met originally came to Güdel looking for components, but what they found was a team of engineers eager to work side by side with them in order to come up with a customized solution for their demanding linear motion application.

The sets to operas and plays are constantly evolving and have become more and more elaborate and technologically demanding in recent years. The Met is a highly automated opera house, with multitier stages using automated transitioning for major scenery and stage elements. The backdrop for the Pearl Fisher’s Opera pushes the boundaries as to what has been done before, requiring motion both during the performance as well as on and off stage.

The Challenge:

Tear down and setup in 30 minutes using existing Met crew. Usually, opera houses have the luxury of only performing one opera at a time over a period of 3-4 months, so there is no need to tear down a set in-between performances. The Met, however, strives to optimize as much stage time as possible. They practice and perform several different shows at a time all around the clock, meaning they have to change the set in between each show…which is multiple times a day.

The backdrop needed for the Pearl Fishers Opera includes 3 machines on separate 20 meter long tracks that hang from from trusses in the ceiling. The stage crew needs to be able to manually disassemble and remove the entire apparatus from the ceiling after each performance, in only 30 minutes. In turn, they also have only 30 minutes to put the whole system back together up in the ceiling, using only resources available in the theater. Hence, they needed the 3 tracks broken up into sections small enough for the crew to manage, and the sections needed to be easy to put together and take apart. 2) Quiet operation.

Complicating the obvious requirement for the equipment operation during the opera to be quiet is that fact that joints along a linear motion track can be a huge source of noise (picture the ca-chunk sound of train cars going over transitions in a railroad track). The Met has the ability to tune out consistent sounds, but not clanking or banging sounds. The sound produced by the system had to be smooth, and below 60db. Normally, Güdel’s joints would feature a slight overlap that makes the transitions virtually impossible to hear, however this type of joint is not meant to be easily taken apart, and requires a skilled technician to install.

The SolutIon

Güdel customized 60 meters of TMO-1-C Modules to meet these unique requirements. A total of 15 butt-joint sections were designed with a custom quick disconnect feature that was easy to put together and quiet during operation. The setup time was 30 minutes for all 15 joints. Project Engineer Olivia DuRussel, assisted by Chief Technology Offcer Sean Jaworski, came up with a unique keyed butt-joint and pin/bushing feature that guaranteed assembly in the correct order, which was critical for quiet operation. 

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