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Sydney Opera House
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated on Bennelong Point in the picturesque Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts center and one of the city's most iconic structures. Designed by Danish architect, Jørn Utzon , who won an international design competition held for the project, the Opera House was officially opened on 20 October 1973. In 2007, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site and hailed as ‘one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind’.
HistoryEugene Goossens, the director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, was the catalyst behind the project, lobbying for a large performing arts center during the late 1940s. An international design competition was launched by NSW Premier, Joseph Cahill in 1955, and 233 architects from 32 countries entered. The criteria was for both a large and small hall with capacities at 3,000 and 1,200 respectively, and that their use be multi-purpose, allowing for operas, orchestral and choral concerts, ballet performances, lectures, and large meetings.
The design of the winner, Jørn Utzon, was originally part of a 'rejected' pile but was rescued by a notable architect and went on to win the competition, as well as the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003, regarded as architecture's highest honor.
The Fort Macquarie Tram Depot originally occupied the site of the Sydney Opera House. It was demolished in 1958 and construction of the arts center began in 1959 with over 3 stages, finally completed in 1973 at a cost of $102 million USD.
ArchitectureThe Sydney Opera House is built on a podium, upon which the shells of the roof emerge. The shells provided considerable problems for the design team, particularly in finding an economically acceptable way of constructing them that would be solid yet aesthetic. This work in structural analysis was one of the first to use a computer system to help understand the complex forces the shells would be exposed to. The solution was to cast the arches from a common mold and a number of arch segments of the same length were placed adjacent to one another, resulting in a spherical section.
Utzon resigned from the project towards the end of the second construction stage due to disputes and Peter Hall took over his position and was largely responsible for the interior design. Significant changes were made to Utzon's original plans, particularly in regard to the usage of the halls. The large hall that was designed to be multi-purpose became just a concert hall, and the minor hall that was originally intended for only stage productions became the Opera Theater, presenting opera and ballet as well.
PerformancesThroughout the construction, period lunchtime concerts were held for the workers with the first person to perform on the site being Paul Robeson. The first public concert to take place in the large Concert Hall was presented by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on 29 September 1973. They performed an all-Wagner program conducted by Charles Mackerra and with soprano soloist, Birgit Nilsson.
The Opera House was formally opened by Elizabeth II, Queen of England, on 20 October 1973 and the event was televised with fireworks and the performance of Beethoven's monumental Symphony No. 9.
While Utzon was not invited to the opening or recognized for his design, in the late 1990s the Sydney Opera House Trust reconciled with the architect and he was appointed as a future design consultant. Today, ‘The Utzon Room’ stands in his honor and was the first interior space rebuilt to his design.
Upon his death in 2008, a state memorial service was held in the Concert Hall that featured performances, readings, and recollections to pay tribute to his design and work on this great building.
At the close of 2013, during the Opera House’s 40th anniversary year, a New Year fireworks display lit up the skies from the building for the first time in a decade.
Visiting the Opera HouseToday, the Sydney Opera House presents both national and international performing arts and is considered one of the country’s premier performance venues with more than 1,600 concerts, operas, dramas, and ballets presented there every year. The best way to experience this iconic building is to attend a show, and performances and times can be found by visiting the ticket counter inside the venue or online at www.sydneyoperahouse.com.
Alternatively, tours are conducted daily that allows you to explore the theaters and foyers of the building whilst delving into the history of its design and construction. Accompanied by a highly experienced guide, you can touch the famous shell tiles, sit in the custom-made white birch timber chairs, and witness what is considered one of the biggest pillar-free chambers in the world, together with accessing areas that are off limits to the general public. Tours are available in English, French, and German and run daily from 9 AM-5 PM.
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Author: Pip23. Last updated: Feb 08, 2015