It makes you feel something special is about to happen.

Simply approaching it makes you feel something magic is about to happen.

Mevrouw T and I don’t do this often enough. A thoughtful Christmas present was two tickets to a Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert.

A rare trip to the iconic Sydney Opera House at night reminded us what a special building it is, and what a spectacular location it enjoys.

It must surely be one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – up there with the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. (Any other suggestions for iconic structures?)

According to Wikipedia, seven million people visit it each year, 300,000 do a guided tour, and 1.2 million attend the 1500 performances held in its five main theatres (The Concert Hall, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio).

Its construction, its cost overruns and the disputes between the NSW government and Danish architect Jorn Utzon, leading to his resignation, are the stuff of legend. It is tragic that, despite a later reconciliation, Utzon never returned to Australia to see his finished masterpiece.

It is probably inevitable that it’s far more spectacular on the outside than on the inside. The exterior is hard to beat. Inside it is more conventional.

On the one occasion that I’ve produced a play there (admittedly over 20 years ago), we found the facilities for getting sets up lifts and into the Concert Hall awkward. The Drama Theatre and Playhouse, where we’ve seen many productions, are perfectly acceptable though not particularly special theatres.

The Concert Hall. Of course photography is not permitted during a performance, but the SSO was just tuning up. And since the lady in front of me was holding up the iPad, I thought I'd sneak a shot too.

The Concert Hall. Of course photography is not permitted during a performance, but the SSO was just tuning up. And since the lady in front of me was holding up the iPad, I thought it would do no harm if I sneaked a shot too.

We enjoyed a fine SSO concert – sorry if you missed it, you should have been there, it’s over now so there’s no point in my describing it.

But the special magic of any night at the Opera House comes at interval and after the show, when audiences spill out onto the balconies and into the bars and restaurants of the Concourse with Sydney Harbour and the Toast Rack lit up before them.

I should be a hardened old thespian by now, but I never fail to get a buzz out of this.

One of the must-do sights of world travel.

One of the must-do sights of world travel.

And finally, a little pre-show plug…

If you have kids and will be in Sydney in September-October this year, you can introduce them to the Opera House experience by bringing them to see my play, an adaptation of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s weird, wacky and fiendishly funny book, The 13-Storey Treehouse.

Tickets on sale now. All good, silly, imaginative family fun!


Filed under Travel-Australia

12 responses to “A NIGHT AT THE OPERA HOUSE

  1. Pete

    A couple of weeks ago my wife and I travelled down on a Monday night to see Colin Hay in the Drama Theatre. I never tire of a Sydney visit. What I couldn’t believe was the buzz around the area. For a Monday night, The Opera Bar, Circular Quay water front, round to the Rocks was packed until late at night. How Sydney has changed in recent years. Admittedly, there was a large Cruise Ship in port. Makes us want to live somewhere in the inner-city.

  2. Well, bravo you, and chukkas for the Playhouse season of the 13 Storey Treehouse.

    Great to remember nights at the house – magical nights of theatre and opera and ballet, of course, and wandering out with a glass of bubbly to drink in that view … I thought they’d recently spent millions fixing some of the theatre and backstage shortcomings, Richard, or is that yet to happen?

    • September will be my first time backstage for over 20 years, so we’ll see if things have improved.

      And to be fair, the Concert Hall where we performed my play was never designed as a drama theatre. The biggest thing they expected to move in there was a grand piano.

      Once we had the show on the stage, the sound facilities and technical staff were terrific.

      • That’s true – though I’ll never forget our (Sydney Dance Company) guys and their bump in headaches in the Opera (oops Joan Sutherland Hall, now, eh?). Seems such a long time ago now, yet every inch of the place seems still to be part of my DNA! Hope it goes well Richard.

  3. Such a beautiful sight, I’ve always loved the Opera House and can still recall the first night I saw the John Olsen mural Five Bells and heard the sad story that inspired the artist. Congratulations on the play, how exciting for you and it is wonderful that you still get a buzz out of being at the Opera House.

  4. My suggestions for iconic buildings…St Basil’s Cathedral, The Guggenheim Museum, The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Statue of Liberty!

    • Thanks Andrew. I know the Guggenheim Bilbao and naturally the Leaning Tower and Lady with the Lamp should be on the list. I’ll have to Google St Basil’s. Pardon my ignorance for a moment…oh yes, of course!

  5. I think you’ll have to throw in the Taj Mahal and St Paul’s here in London. What about the Potala in Tibet?

    • The Taj Mahal definitely. St Paul’s is famous but I’m not sure I’d recognise it as easily as Westminster, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Will google Potala now.

      Then there’s the Coliseum, the Great Wall of China…um…

  6. Yes I was going to mention the Taj Mahal as well

  7. Stunning – I’ve never seen what the inside of the opera house looks like, so I am glad you snuck a photo. Why exactly is photography prohibited during performances? I understand that they don’t want flashes going off all the time, but can’t they just say ‘no flash photography’?

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