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Nov 11, 2008

André Rieu in Australia Upstaged by His ... Stage!

A Music Superstar Is Upstaged by, Well ... His Stage
Geoff Strong November 11, 2008

EVEN before the first bow slide across his Stradivarius strings, and before nearly 400 performers take to the stage, some of the most spectacular elements of Andre Rieu's performance will have already taken place.
It began mid-last week on the almost hallowed turf of the Docklands stadium, where Hawthorn's Lance "Buddy" Franklin last August kicked his 100th goal for the season.
First task was to smother that grass with thousands of aluminium plates. Simultaneously, in front of the stadium's functional western end, began to rise a life-size replica of the front section of Vienna's Schoenbrunn Palace.
Two fountains are now being tested in what would have been the forward pockets, and both sides of the palace front will feature ice rinks totalling 600 square metres.
It is a 700-tonne stage set worth close to $6 million and so big that it took 220 shipping containers to bring it from Holland.
Putting it together has taken more than a week, with the construction workforce peaking last Saturday at 350, about 200 of them specialists from Europe.
The Docklands stadium has never known anything quite like it; even for its two previous biggest concerts by U2 and Robbie Williams, the sets were relatively restrained.
It is hard to imagine that a classical music concert would outdo rock, but the Rieu phenomenon has surprised nearly everyone, selling 1.8 million CDs and DVDs in Australia alone in the past two years, making the Dutch violinist our biggest selling recording artist.
Outraged classical purists see the Rieu concert as "schlock in front of a schloss", but in Melbourne two of the three performances are sell-outs. The Rieu formula has clearly proven there is a large, unserviced market for glitzy, romantic, light classical music — and that delivering it can be highly profitable.
Unlike normally restrained classical performances, this is the Barnum & Bailey of Beethoven, a multimedia spectacular with four specially constructed LED video monitors totalling 150 square metres and 200 high-fidelity speakers, computer-managed to reproduced the sensitive tones of the classics. None of that heavy thumping, high wattage rock stuff here.
There is a 60-member orchestra —not quite the size of a symphony orchestra — that plays on a podium at the central entrance to the "palace", and above them is a ballroom complete with gold chandeliers and ceiling painted with waltzing couples.
Such is the weight of the Rieu concert stage, plus the four mobile cranes needed for its installation, that re-enforcements needed to be fitted in the stadium's underground car park.
Standing in the middle of the construction site, wearing a gold-coloured safety helmet, is a tall man with curly blond hair who looks like a younger version of the man with the violin.
Pierre Rieu, son of the star, is responsible for constructing this set and it's something he will do again in Adelaide, Sydney and finally Brisbane.
He said that Perth, because of the time needed for shipping will have to make do with a less elaborate set.
"We first used this set in Toronto last year, but while that was under cover like here, it is designed to be used outdoors. We have used it outdoors in Europe. It is designed so it can withstand force-eight winds and can be dismantled fairly quickly if the weather gets worse."
While the palace exterior looks like romantic Viennese sandstone, it is actually made of a steel frame covered by sheets of aluminium. What the audience sees is a plaster-like material veneered over the aluminium to give the appearance of the original building.
Being able to quickly assemble and dismantle such a structure repeatedly needed a high level of engineering expertise, and the design was entrusted to the Belgian company Stageco. It is one of the world's biggest set designers and has served customers like the Rolling Stones, U2, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.
Pierre Rieu said they came up with was a system where the aluminium panels are stored in order of assembly in wheeled trollies. Each panel is lifted into place by a crane onto a pair of rails. As it is lifted the next panel is attached to the bottom of the upper one with metal locking pins. This process is continued until the section of the palace front is complete.
The preparations and performances require a large staff, and Rieu said 15,000 hotel room-nights had to be booked for all those involved with the Australian tour.
But only since he has arrived in Melbourne is Rieu coming to realise the significance of the turf on which he is standing.
"I now realise this is holy ground. Depending on how much damage is done, we are going to have to pay for the cost of replacing this grass."
How much will that cost?
"A lot."

Photo by Rebecca Murphy©

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Pierre and André September 30, 2016 Maastricht

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Photo Taken at Mexico City Concert ~ September 2013

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"Hello to all my fans on The Harmony Parlor!"

Soundcheck in Maastricht 2013 (RTL Photo)

Maastricht 2012 ~ "André on The Theater Steps" by Bee

Maastricht 2012 ~ "André and Pierre on The Theater Steps" by Bee

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