Lighting Designer Dan Weingarten Lights "Frida" for the Long Beach Opera

by Michael Eddy
LD Dan Weingarten had to meld his lighting with video projection for a production in a sculpture garden at Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art
LD Dan Weingarten had to meld his lighting with video projection for a production in a sculpture garden at Long Beach's Museum of Latin American Art

This summer, Long Beach Opera brought a production of Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida to Southern California for the first time. Performing in the sculpture garden at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA presented a unique challenge for Lighting Designer Dan Weingarten and Director of Production Holly Ahlborn.

Weingarten and Ahlborn turned to 4Wall Los Angeles for the lighting support needed to help tell the tale of famed artist Frida Kahlo. The overall goal of Weingarten’s lighting design was to capture the essence of Kahlo's own color palette; her vibrant, rich colors influenced heavily by her surroundings in contrast to the subject matter of her work. “On stage, video with images from her paintings as well as her lover Diego Rivera's murals created the scene, so lighting had to balance the powerful video images and colors with the action on stage,” said Ahlborn. “The opera visually wanted to parallel this amazing artist’s work with the story of her life.”

“The rig had to be flexible, able to cover a wide range of colors with as few instruments as possible as power and lighting positions were in short supply,” explained Ahlborn. “Steep angles and short throws meant Dan had to be creative with a small rig.”

They also decided not to use a generator for the project, so maximizing the available power was also a significant consideration in choosing all of the fixtures. “There was an extremely limited amount of power and we used every available amp,” said Weingarten. There were two tower positions in the audience area that served as both stage and house lighting. The LD also setup two more short boom positions far house right and left.

Martin MAC Viper Performance movers which were the work horses of the plot. These fixtures carried the design and created beautiful transitions with the video elements. “These fixtures were chosen for their color-mixing ability along with their zoom and shutters,” explained Ahlborn. “The shutters allowed us to be very precise about where the light was landing, keeping it off the video, while allowing singers to stand a few feet in front of the projected image.”

Chauvet Professional Rogue R1 Wash and Rogue R2 Spots also played a key role in the lighting design and were used as footlights and backlights. “The Rogues really helped fill the space and light the singers evenly throughout the piece,” said Ahlborn.

The lighting team was not only satisfied with the gear 4Wall provided, but also the numerous services. “From man lifts to decking to hazers to truss and instrumentation, 4Wall is the perfect one-stop production supplier,” said Ahlborn. “Service is fast, equipment is top notch, and 4Wall works with your company’s budget to make every production outstanding. I cannot speak more highly of the service, we were so well taken care of.”

Frida performed in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CADan Weingarten has designed the lighting for numerous productions with the Long Beach Opera and is the recipient of the LA Drama Critic's Circle Angstrom Award, the LA Weekly Award, the Garland Award, and the Dramalogue Award. Weingarten is also on the faculty at California State University Northridge.

Further information from 4Wall: