Hamburg’s historic opera house

Germany - When updating its auditorium lighting, the historic opera house on Hamburg's Dammtorstraße opted for LED double-focus downlights from Erco, achieving not only energy savings in excess of 80 per cent but also lighting quality and high visual comfort.

The citizens of Hamburg take great pride in their opera house, a cultural institution with a lineage tracing back to the original opera house at Gänsemarkt, established in 1678. In 1827, it found its new home on Dammtorstraße. Today, under the leadership of general music director Kent Nagano, the State Opera stands as one of Europe's premier opera houses.

The existing structure, designed by architect Gerhard Weber (1909-1986), was inaugurated in 1955. Recognised as a protected monument, it features a spacious glass façade and an elegant auditorium that accommodates 1,690 spectators.

The recent modernisation efforts encompassed upgrading the lighting in the auditorium, previously equipped with high-voltage halogen lamps. The switch to LED technology was clearly identified as a means to significantly decrease energy consumption. The selection of Atrium LED double-focus downlights, with their narrow-beam lens optics, was appropriate for tall spaces like auditoriums, demonstrating their suitability for such environments.

In buildings like the State Opera, hall lighting is technically linked to stage lighting, allowing seamless integration into the performance's dramaturgy. The demand for smooth and consistent dimming performance is substantial, with the turning on and off of lights needing to be virtually unnoticeable.

Erco crafted a tailor-made solution for Hamburg, modifying around 150 double-focus downlights with DMX drivers that facilitate dimming from 0.1 % to 100 % and allow for the programming of custom dimming curves. These adjustments also meet the flicker-free standard, which is crucial for clear, distortion-free digital photography and videography.

"Our auditorium now radiates its inherent elegance and beauty, while significantly reducing energy costs," says Bernd Gallasch, head of Hamburg State Opera lighting/video department.

The Atrium double-focus downlights demonstrated ‘exceptional quality in various aspects during the sampling process in the auditorium’. In compliance with the preservation requirements, their warm white LED colour temperature of 2700K matches that of the previously used halogen lamps. These downlights blend seamlessly with the light from the auditorium's restored historical wall fixtures and, thanks to their outstanding colour rendering, enhance the deep red velvet of the seating with an intense glow.

Due to Atrium's highly efficient lens optics, even the 18W LED module variant surpasses the required room illuminance of 200lx. Opera goers enjoy the glare control and the consequent superior visual comfort provided by the double-focus downlights.

"The Erco team in Hamburg aided us in identifying a sustainable lighting solution for the State Opera House suitable for a heritage-listed building," says Alexander Olias du Bosque, from Kiel’s building services engineering team.

Since the luminaires were scheduled for installation in the auditorium's lighting ceiling during the opera's six-week seasonal hiatus, the planners required a reliable delivery schedule. Erco, with its proximate and adaptable manufacturing capabilities in Germany, easily met this demand. The individual DMX addresses were pre-programmed into the drivers at the factory, adhering to the opera technicians' specifications, which greatly expedited the on-site installation process.

In use, the new lighting meets all expectations. Energy consumption has dropped by over 80 per cent due to the reduced power per lighting point. This decrease also results in a lower heat output, creating a more comfortable work environment in the lighting ceiling.

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