Be it grand opera in Beijing, orchestral concerts in the Persian Gulf or Goethe’s Faust in Saarbrücken – technology from Saxony always plays a key supporting role.
Actors in every corner of the world perform on stages made in the Dresden suburb of Niedersedlitz, with SBS-Bühnentechnik GmbH of Dresden designing and installing theatre stage technology on every continent. A steel structure with a floorspace of around 100 sq m is currently taking shape in the firm’s production facility. “This revolving stage platform will be heading to Surgut in Siberia in a few weeks’ time to be installed in the stage of the new theatre there,” explains Manfred Freimüller, a partner in SBS-Bühnentechnik GmbH. Beside it stand dozens of blue-painted cable winches that will be used in the same venue to hoist podiums weighing several tonnes out of the stage floor without making a sound.
Total precision, maximum safety
But mechanical perfection is not the biggest challenge, according to Freimüller. “Control is the crucial factor. Our expertise is primarily focused on designing technology that allows revolving stages, podiums and scenery wagons to be operated safely with millimetre accuracy.” Anyone who has ever seen an elaborate theatre performance involving many backdrop changes and scenery movements will have an idea of the complex processes required behind the scenes. “Our systems need to comply with the same safety standards as passenger aircraft,” says Freimüller. The professional skills and wellbeing of his 180 employees are correspondingly important to him. Staff benefits include the company’s own crèche. “No employee has ever left us by choice,” he says proudly.
Stages around the world
The history of SBS dates back to 1874 and the company is now one of the two global market leaders in the industry. After the fall of the Berlin wall, SBS began to operate internationally. The company’s reference list includes opera houses, theatres and concert halls in Amsterdam, St Petersburg, London, Novosibirsk, Tashkent and Shanghai, and closer to home in Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg and Saarbrücken.
Asked to name his favourite project, Freimüller replies with a single word: Oman. By that, he means the new Royal Opera House Muscat, where SBS installed globally unique stage technology between 2008 and 2011 at the request of the sultan. “The greatest challenge was the combined stage designed to accommodate not only opera and theatre performances, but also concerts,” he explains. The requirements for these types of performances are very different, especially with regard to acoustics. “Thanks to our technology, it now takes just a few minutes for the entire theatre set to disappear at the push of a button and the stage to be replaced with a mobile concert hall complete with organ,” says Freimüller. The movable structure weighs 500 tonnes.