Experience 18th-Century Technology
It’s nice to be reminded, every now & then, that we are not the great technological geniuses we think we are. A good place to do that is at the Drottningholms Slottsteater, an opera house in the Stockholm area that opened in 1766. It’s a long story to explain why, but suffice it to say that they perform operas there today using the same stage technology as when it opened.
That includes mechanisms for changing wing flats and flies, elevators, flying apparatus, ocean-wave mechanisms, wind and thunder machines, and, yes, lighting control dating back to 1766. The ropes have been changed, but otherwise the mechanisms are essentially as they were almost two-and-a-half centuries ago. They can nevertheless effect a complete stage change, say from a street to a palace chamber, in as little as four seconds.
Naturally, a modern European country’s regulations would be unlikely to allow hundreds of candles to be used for illumination in a wooden building, so the light sources have been replaced by a fiber-optic system that delivers one candle’s worth of light to the former candle locations. After that, the 18th-century controlled reflectors take over.
You can watch a quick movie of the stage machinery in operation on their web site, www.dtm.se. Sometimes it doesn’t load from the English-language site, so, on the main page, click on “Visningar” and then on the small picture at the bottom right.
Better yet, go experience it for yourself.