The Sferisterio is a building in Macerata that was designed by the young architect, Ireneo Aleandri, for the Italian sport of pallone col bracciale (a ball game popular in Italy in the mid-19th century, played with a wooden cylinder over the forearm) and opened in 1829. In the years that followed, the building’s elegant structure with its neoclassical colonnade, high straight wall and large open central area made it the ideal location for fulfilling the dream of Count Pier Alberto Conti who wanted to stage Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in Macerata. The count therefore financed the refurbishment of the Sferisterio, which included the construction of a large stage and the opening of a central door in the long wall that is still used today. On July 27th 1921, Aida was staged to great acclaim. 17 replicas followed that first performance and ten thousand people from all over Italy came to see it. The following year, however, this success was not repeated and opera performances were temporarily suspended and only continued in 1967 after the interruption of the Second World War.
In that year, the Marches-born Carlo Perucci was named artistic director and under his supervision, which lasted twenty-eight years, a number of changes were made, including new furnishings, a new lighting system and the opening of three arches at the back of the stage. Perucci also ushered in a new period of successful performances that has continued up until the present day. The Sferisterio’s excellent natural acoustics and large stage make it an ideal location for all kinds of music, especially opera, as numerous historic performances have demonstrated, including Ken Russell’s La Bohéme in 1984, Josef Svoboda’s famous “mirror” La Traviata in 1992 and Hugo De Ana’s Turandot in 1996.
In all this time, however, the building has never had a specific outdoor architectural lighting system, an oversight that the local authorities decided to put right with their “Beauty plan” for the town that included a review of its lighting systems, starting from a number of key locations. The responsibility for carrying out the plan for Macerata was entrusted to the town’s Fine Arts Academy and was based on an analysis of what already existed. The plan began with the illumination of the Sferisterio and the new lighting system was unveiled on the same day as the opening of the Macerata Opera Festival.
The lighting system developed for the Sferisterio is designed to highlight the architectural value of the building and the surrounding area, which includes the Porta Mercato Gate, the roundabout it overlooks, which is closed to traffic during performances and turned into a pedestrian plaza, and Corso Cairoli, the wide avenue that leads up to it. The analysis conducted by the Academy revealed how the existing lighting did not enhance this area of the town at all, as the Porta Mercato Gate and the Sferisterio were not illuminated, apart from the Sferisterio loggia.
To remedy this situation, the Academy design team, headed by Francesca Cecarini, divided the Sferisterio into horizontal strips, in line with its architectural design and then focused the lighting on differentiating the light and shadow zones to create a rhythm along the whole perimeter of the building.
To highlight the stonework, Linealuce luminaires with a wall grazing effect and 3000 K high colour rendering were mounted on the string courses according to the cadence of the windows. On the façade, this type of effect was then integrated with the light projected by a series of Palco InOut luminaires mounted on the surrounding buildings to create a soft final effect with no excessive contrasts of luminance.
To differentiate the portico, on the other hand, subtle colour temperature contrasts were created using surface-mounted Laser Blade inOut luminaires positioned on the tie rods, Linealuce Mini 47 luminaires recessed in the pavement and 2700 K colour temperature Palco In Out projectors installed on the capitals of the pilasters. The same differentiation technique was used for the Porta Mercato Gate. For the exteriors, recessed 3000 K luminaires were installed at the foot of the columns to emphasize their height, while the inside of the round-headed arches was uplit with a grazing effect by 2700 K Linealuce Mini 47 luminaires.
For the Sferisterio, the luminaires use RGBW technology and are operated by a DMX/RGB control system to offer coloured lighting for special effects or to recall, during operas, the colour motif for each festival, which in 2019 is red and in 2020 will be white. The entire system is flow adjustable, so the intensity of each luminaire’s individual light flow can be dimmed, if necessary. The first stage of lighting intervention also included Corso Cairoli, the avenue that leads up to the Sferisterio and has the Porta Mercato Gate as a backdrop. The avenue has a mixture of pedestrian and vehicular traffic (one-way apart from the last stretch from Piazza Nazario Sauro). The previous lighting system supplied a very poor quantity and quality of light. Its pole-mounted spheres had no flow control and created an uncomfortable glare effect (including on the façades of the buildings in the street), a waste of energy and a significant degree of light pollution. The lamps also used a neutral white colour temperature that created no light atmosphere whatsoever and did not enable the street and the “backdrop” of the Porta Market Gate to be viewed in comfort. While respecting the previous quinconce installation, the new Platea Pro luminaires installed have a colour temperature of 3000 K and are fitted with a Comfort street optic that is particularly suited to pedestrian areas. The result is a homogeneous effect on the road surface, zero light pollution and an improved general perception of the area as the luminaires’ special weathered steel finish allows them to blend into the environment perfectly.
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