The Snow Queen reimagined as ballet
Finland - To provide the Finnish production of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen with immersive lighting that elevated the show’s video elements, lighting designer Mikki Kunttu deployed a range of Martin MAC Series solutions.
An epic story about a girl named Gerda saving her friend Kai from the influence of the titular character, The Snow Queen is one of Anderson’s most well-known and acclaimed fairy tales. The story was first published in 1844 and - like many of Anderson’s classic stories - has inspired countless adaptations including operas, musicals, ballets and even Disney’s 2013 film Frozen. In late 2022, Tampere-talo and Kantelinen Company reimagined the story as ballet on ice that utilised modern LED and video programming to immerse the audience into the world of The Snow Queen.
Performed at the 13,455-seat Nokia Arena, the production required a lighting rig that complemented the video effects, avoided excessive glare and reflections caused by the ice and ensured a visually engaging experience from any seat in the venue - all while only having the day before the premiere for programming and a run-through. To meet these requirements, Kunttu utilised both the Martin MAC Quantum Wash and the new MAC Ultra Performance fixture.
“This particular production rests more heavily on the shoulders of video and projection.” explained Kunttu. “Naturally, the lighting needs to complement the video and interfere as little as possible. We needed to find ways of lighting the performers in a way that seamlessly melted into the very vivid colours, tones and video used in each scene. However, there were also these beautiful moments where there was only lighting and no video, and so we needed fixtures that could be bright and impactful when the time came. And of course, the whole stage is white and reflective because of the ice. That setting is somewhat challenging for lighting because you can more clearly see even the smallest differences between the lights in terms of colour shades, so having consistent fixtures was also crucial.”
Featuring a massive 1150-watt output across a 1:7 zoom range, a next-generation framing system and a variety of on-board gobo and colour wheel effects, the MAC Ultra Performance excels across a wide range of venue sizes and productions. For The Snow Queen, Kunttu deployed almost 100 MAC Ultra Performance fixtures in the central lighting rig, utilising its extensive effects and precise colour blending to fill the ice rink with saturated washes that seamlessly filled in the spaces between the video effects.
“I really love the power of having the MAC Ultra Performance in the central rig,” said Mikku. “If you’re looking for visual impact or something that accents the music and performers, then it’s all right there. Oftentimes, all I had to do was press a button and I got the impact I needed. And with the LED sources, the colour mixing is more constant than it used to be with bulbs. In the old days, you could have 24 spots and 22 different blues with the same settings. But now lights like the MAC Ultra Performance are much more consistent and can also mimic classic Tungsten looks and different colour temperatures and things like that.”
Supporting the MAC Ultra Performance is the Martin legacy MAC Quantum Wash with additional colour mixing, coverage and mid-air effects. Although discontinued, the Quantum Wash is still used for countless productions and events thanks to its reliably high 750-watt output, expressive Colorganics system, on-board aura effects and rotating front lens. Kunttu found the fixtures proved especially useful when there were large amounts of skaters on the ice and maximum coverage was needed to make everyone visible and touch all parts of the ice with colour.
Overall, the production proved a rousing success in part thanks to the innovative lighting and visual design. Kunttu noted how the MAC Ultra Performance exceeded his expectations, especially given the limited rehearsal and programming timeframe, and he looks forward to getting to know the fixture even better on future projects.
“This was my first time using the MAC Ultra Performance, and I was very happy with it,” said Kunttu. “It’s very bright and high quality, and I can’t think of any problems that we would've had with them. In terms of design, I was very happy with how the physical sets and the lighting and the video all worked together. If the production design is fully successful, then it should feel like they are one, harmonious statement. I think we achieved that here.”

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