It boggles the mind.
By Brinda Bala
Sydney – what’s the first image that comes to your mind when you hear this name? Of course, the Opera House – one of the most unique, innovative and grand structures in the world. The Opera House, a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2007. Today, the Sydney Opera House is one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world, each year staging up to 2500 performances and events, and attracting an estimated four million visitors.
The Sydney Opera House which took 16 years (1957-1973) to construct, is an icon of Australia’s creative and technical achievements. A masterpiece of modern architectural design, engineering and construction technology, is the outcome of its designer, the Pritzker Prize winner Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the successful engineering by the Danish firm Ove Arup and Partners, and the Australian building contractors M R Hornibrook and the later architects Hall, Todd and Littlemore.
During our group tour, we were privileged to have a guided tour inside Opera House. We drove to the place in the morning. We were enthralled to see the unique shape of this world wonder at close quarters. When we looked to the left, there was this superb sight of skyscrapers of Sydney and a little ahead was the Harbour Bridge. Then there were those majestic steps leading to the Opera House. We were informed that these monumental steps are utilised for seating arrangements for events at the Outdoor Forecourt. We managed to spend more than an hour touring inside the monument appreciating its minute and intricate details.
As we walked up the steps and entered, we were welcomed by our guide for the day. She gave a walkie-talkie to each of us and took us around the building, briefing us about the highlights.
There were glass walls providing spectacular views from the main foyers out across Sydney Harbour. Through the huge windows, we could get a good view of the outside domes with varied patterns. Actually, these are glazed ceramic tiles. There were directions for the numerous halls as well as cafes.
We got to see the audio-visual of the history of the Opera House projected on the walls of one of the foyers – we got to know about Danish Architect Jorn Utzon who won the design competition for the Opera House in 1957, about the progress in the project under Utzon. His resignation in 1966 due to political interference and clash due to complex engineering problems and escalating costs, the completion under government supervision, inauguration by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 October 1973 for which Utzon was not invited nor even mentioned. The silver lining is there was a reconciliation with Utzon in 1999 and he was appointed as design consultant for future changes to the Opera House. It is indeed heart-wrenching that he died in November 2008 without setting his eyes on the completed dream project he had conceived and given birth to.
On entering the performance halls we had an indescribable sensory experience of space, sound and color – maroon to red to orange to cream, well-arranged seats. We could walk into a couple of halls which had not been booked for events that day. We could seat ourselves and take pictures of us attending a show! Only the tell-tale vacant seats would give the game away! There was one hall where a pianist was tuning his piano for a show later in the day. We were hushed by our guide and allowed to quietly sit and listen with a strict warning not to use our phones/ cameras which would be distracting. So we could also enjoy the awesome experience of listening to some great music (any musician playing there is a great musician) sans microphone in a hall with great acoustics. Though we were at the other end of the hall, we could hear the melody as if the musician was playing next to us. The wooden panels as well as carpeted walls and floors coupled with the physical shape of the hall contribute to the perfect acoustic effects.
These huge halls have 10-14 doors. Particularly impressive was the spacious Joan Sutherland Theater. The guided tour of the Opera House was indeed a memorable experience.
The same night we got to feast on a fabulously different spectacle of Sydney Opera House from the showboat Dinner Cruise. We had seen signs of Vivid Live everywhere. We were told about the superb LED show projected on the Opera House at night. As we were relishing dinner, the cruise was moving slowly under Sydney Harbor Bridge and past the Opera House and we could enjoy the dazzling skyline of Sydney through the cathedral windows of the cruise. And then began the the highlight of the day – the spectacular, vivid, live LED show as the Opera House dazzled with multifarious patterns projected on it. Many of us walked along the deck to take strategic points to get a good view/picture /video of the magnificent show even as our boat cruised close to it. Mesmerised by the glittering LED show with the most unimaginable shapes and colours gliding all over the Opera House – feathered/finned friends/creepy reptiles/geometric/abstract patterns / even world-renowned personalities. We feasted on it to our hearts’ content for almost an hour. Did we have our fill? No – yeh dil maange more … and more!
A focal point
Strategically positioned at the end of Bennelong Point, this internationally acclaimed building, with its soaring white roof shell- shaped sails atop a massive red granite platform lashed by azure waves, is the focal point of Sydney Harbour providing a spectacular vision viewed from the air, a ferry or from various vantage points of Sydney. The Opera House makes a pretty picture with the adjacent Harbour Bridge and skyscrapers. Throughout our sightseeing in Sydney, the strategically positioned Opera House was the cynosure of all eyes – it has dominated our memory cards, not to mention our memory!