Sydney Opera House
Sydney’s Opera House has become a symbol of Australia, recognized by four billion people around the world. That is one piece of information we learned during a tour before dinner and a play our first Saturday night in Australia. More than a million people attend one of the 1500 performance each year in the opera house, concert hall, and three drama and studio theaters.
The Opera House is located on a Bennelong Point, a butt of rocky promontory that juts into Sydney Harbor next to the Circular Quay, five busy ferry wharves. Before the 1950’s, Bennelong Point was an ugly wharf with warehouses.
Jorn Utzon wins International Design Contest
In 1957, city officials organized an international contest to tear down the warehouses and build an opera house at Bennelong Point. The contest was won by Danish architect, Jorn Utzun, whose design was one of the last entries. Utzon’s design was personally chosen by Finish architect Eero Saarinen who reviewed judges finalist choices but didn’t like any of them.
Saarinen asked to see other entries, and he chose Utzun’s even though it was not detailed or complete. Saarinen admitted that it was the only design he could choose, with the creative clam shell design with the shells seeming to fold over themselves.
The original estimated cost to build the opera house was $7.5 Australian dollars in 1950’s. But after years of construction delays and much controversy about internal design and materials, the final cost came in at $140 million A dollars, a staggering amount in the 1970’s. The opera house was opened in 1973 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. Utzon did not attend, nor was his name mentioned at the opening as a result of the controversy about the delay, complications, and cost of the building.
But Utzon was rehabilitated and returned to Sydney to receive the recognition he deserved. He was asked to design a special hall, the Utzon Room, which opened in 2004. He died in 2008.
Opera House Tour
Our tour took us into four of the five halls; the opera house was dark as electricians were making changes after opening night the previous evening. We visited a theater in round where a cabaret was playing and the concert hall where the Illusionists, a team of international jugglers and magicians was opening that night.
The tour through the opera house took us to the open shells facing the harbor. Glass walls provided spectacular views of ferries, yachts, and sailboats on the harbor. An unusual feature of this part of the opera house was a thick purple carpet which boldly contrasted with the polished tan wood of the interior walls.
We saw a play, “Celebrity Autobiography,” in the drama theater that night which had been on Broadway for three years. In the play, six actors sit on stage and read embarrassing selections from celebrity memoirs; Britney Spears, Sly Stallone, Miley Cyrus, L.L. Cool J, Tiger Woods, and a couple Aussie athletes we weren’t familiar with.
One of the funniest bits was four actors reading selections from Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton memoirs published after the 1960‘s scandal when Fisher divorced Reynolds, married Taylor, and then was publicly cuckolding by Burton. It was very funny, with the actors making comic facial expressions and gestures that drew rounds of applause.
After our evening at the opera house, we strolled at dusk through Royal Botanic Garden to several free concerts in city parks where First Night of Sydney’s Festival was being held. It was a fun, exciting evening with great music, well-behaved crowds, plenty of food and drink kiosks, and light shows against historical landmarks and skyscrapers. We’ll remember our first Saturday night ‘Down Under’ for a very long time.
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Next: Aboriginal art
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
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