Central Asia’s oil-rich Turkmenistan celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union with a multimedia extravaganza lit by Luc Lafortune, one of the creators of Cirque du Soleil, with an extensive package of Clay Paky Alpha moving heads.
The size and sweep of an Olympics opening ceremony, the event highlighted the tremendous economic growth of Turkmenistan in the last two decades and linked its history and cultural heroes with its future prospects. It was staged by Filmmaster Events, Milan, on October 28 in the capital’s Ashgabat Stadium, which was recently enlarged and refurbished.
Lafortune, a lighting designer with nine shows currently running, including all of the top Las Vegas productions, was brought on board in July. “It was a very short turnaround for a show of this magnitude,” he notes. “Designing lighting for a theater in Vegas is very different from designing lighting for a stadium. Everything is so much bigger – you need a lot of very powerful fixtures, but we were limited to 575 fixtures due to power issues. It was very challenging to keep things dynamic.”
Rome-based Agora supplied Lafortune with a large complement of Clay Paky moving heads, including 80 Alpha Beam 1500s, 50 Alpha Profile 1500s, 100 Alpha Spot HPE 700s and 90 Alpha Beam 700s.
Lafortune designed the lighting keeping the Turkmen aesthetic in mind. “They were very proud and eager to show the world that they have come of age and that their destiny is a bright one,” he explains. “It was all about brightness and colors. We had to put aside everything we know from working in the west and start with a blank page.”
While opting for a bright and colorful palette, Lafortune also had to maintain “a certain degree of elegance” for the gala ceremony. “It would have been easy to go down the path of something that might look tacky,” he says. “The celebration had to come across as something very precious – like giving a nice gift.”
Lafortune spent a good deal of time in the capital of Ashgabat observing how the Turkmen light their monuments. “They use very bold colors. If you find the right colors you can have two colors unexpectedly work well together. I wanted the Turkmen to recognize themselves when they watched the show.”
He deployed 100 Alpha Spot HPE 700s around the periphery of the field to punctuate the stage area where an elderly storyteller related the country’s history to a group of children and acted as the show’s narrative element. “They were a means of illuminating the actors without touching the ground because there was projection as well, and we didn’t want to interfere with that,” Lafortune explains. “The challenge was being able to light the actors without distorting the projections. Putting the Alpha Spot HPE 700s on the perimeter of the field allowed me to do that. They have an amazing amount of output – the beam is so tight, they really kick. I was surprised!”
Lafortune positioned 90 Alpha Beam 700s primarily around scenic devices, including the LED screen, where they enhanced the shape of the screen and provided lighting effects. He used Alpha Beam 1500s on Front of House trusses and some Alpha Profile 1500s with gobos. “At certain moments there were no projections and I didn’t want to have to use white light, so I still needed a lot of power to get the output,” he says. “The 1500s were great at that. I could get color and output at huge distances with flat angles.”
The lighting designer was pleased with the speed of the fixtures’ movement, “particularly on some of the larger lights – it was really quite surprising,” he reports. In addition, “the color mixing has really come a long way. People sometimes pack so much stuff in fixtures that you can’t get good color. Somehow, Clay Paky has managed to pack a lot in the 1500s, yet we could still mix the color we wanted and they weren’t unmanageably big.”
The robust lights also held up under a grueling schedule in a largely desert climate. “We worked them really hard – they were on for very long periods of time,” says Lafortune. “Turkmenistan is mostly desert, with lots of dust. We had no problems – they lights were great and performed magnificently.”
Pio Nahum, Clay Paky Sales and Marketing Director, adds, “We’re proud to supply the lights for such a high profile and important event. I’m glad that the Clay Paky line of fixtures was able to meet all the needs of Mr. Lafortune, a very important designer in our industry.”