The image of the Sydney Opera House with its giant white sails overlooking the stunning blue waters of Sydney Harbour is probably the most iconic image of Sydney and certainly the first that comes to mind for many when they think of Australia. It surely is an incredibly impressive building and is home to some of the best cultural and artistic talent in the country and, sometimes even in the world.
While we found life in Sydney a lot more expensive than we were anticipating (travelling always seems to cost more than you initially think it will!), we decided to splash out one evening on a trip to the opera! Neither of us had ever seen an opera before and, quite frankly, we weren’t even sure if we were going to enjoy this rather costly experience. But if there is one place where you should watch opera for the first time, we figured it was the Sydney Opera House!
We chose to go and see La Traviata – a devastating love story (as many operas are) set to an Italian libretto (that’s just a fancy word for a story told through music and song). Our first concern was that we wouldn’t be able to understand what on earth was happening but we were pleasantly surprised to discover English subtitles that ran across a small screen above the stage. The vocals of the actors and actresses were incredible and we left the performance finding we had thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
The attendants at the box office at the opera house were extremely patient and helped explain which operas we might enjoy most and helped us find seats which weren’t too expensive and which we would still have a good view from. They then explained that with tickets to certain performances, you were eligible for a free tour of the opera house which would usually cost Aus$35 each and ours was one of these! So we decided to make a day of it – we booked our tour in for 3pm and then visited the Fortune of War (self-acclaimed oldest pub in Sydney) for dinner before returning to the opera house for the performance at 7pm.
If ever you are in Sydney, even if you do not attend a performance at the opera house, I would highly recommend attending one of the tours. We learnt so much about this incredible landmark, and it’s construction that this post could go on for quite some time! So I have tried to narrow it down to just the most interesting facts.
FUN FACT: The Sydney Opera House is one of the largest unsupported concrete chambers in the world and, shockingly, the sails of the opera house contain more steel than the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
We were shown 3 venues within the opera house – the Playhouse Theatre (which hosts all of the Shakespearean plays), the Concert Hall (the largest venue in the opera house) and the Opera Theatre (where our performance would take place).
The Concert Hall is one of the most impressive venues I have ever seen. The room was built entirely for the acoustics using different types of wood in order to absorb or deflect sound waves. Unfortunately, once the construction was complete, the discovered that the ceiling had been built too high and there was a noticeable delay in the sound bouncing back down to the performers on the stage. To counter this, the doughnut shaped acoustic clouds were installed to create a fake ceiling and this perfected the acoustics. No electronic amplification is needed in either the Concert Hall or the Opera Theatre due to their incredible and unique design, which makes the performances all the more authentic and impressive.
The organ in the Concert Hall is the largest in the world – it took 10 years to make and 2 years to fine tune! It may not sound believable from the part of the organ that you can see but this is just the tip of the iceberg – behind the wall are another 10,000 pipes!
The project of building the Sydney Opera House was given Aus$7 million and 4 years. You’ll never guess how long and how much money it actually took… just short of 16 years and it actually cost over Aus$107 million!
A lot of people would surely argue that this was money well spent. Sydney now has a cultural and artistic centre which is famous across the globe and which help to attract around 15 million tourists to the city every year.