This past Sunday I had an Opera House Day. At 3pm I took the 1-hour tour that brings visitors through some of the seven theatres as the guide gives a historical overview of the building. It was fabulous!
At 5pm I then went into the Drama Theatre to see a performance of Bell Shakespeare Company’s Henry 4. It was just a regular old play, no opera, and it combined parts 1 and 2 of the Henry IV plays into its 3.5 hour performance.
The Opera House has quite an interesting history, and even though I’m not into architecture I was fascinated by the history and process of constructing this building. You can read about that here: http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/house_history_landing.aspx
…but I’ll bring you on the discount tour and offer up a few highlights that I found interesting.
The original estimations for the Opera House were 3 years and $7 million; in reality it took 16 years and cost about $104 million.
These structures are referred to as “sails”.
It was begun in 1957 and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.
The exterior, all that beautiful off-white tile, is self-cleaning. All it needs is a good rain storm and the water washes it clean. It’s designed so that all the crevices in the tiles act as drainage so the water doesn’t sit and leave dirt.
The sails are actually interlocking grids of concrete and metal that are covered in tiles. Here is an interior view, and all those lines of concrete you see are separate grids that are fastened together through space-age technology and manual labor.
The sails themselves are shells that cover interior buildings. The guide described the Opera House as “a building within a building”, with the sails being one building that cover the theatre buildings. The wooden part that you see below houses some of the theatres, and then the concrete on the right is part of the support for the sails.
The seats in all of the theatres absorb sound so perfectly that an empty theatre offers the same sound quality as a full theatre. The seats are also ergonomically (?) designed for maximum comfort, and yup, they are maximally comfortable.
Microphones are rarely needed as the acoustics are nearly perfect.
There are 7 theatres in total in two separate buildings that are side-by-side. The theatre I saw the show in holds 550 people, and I think the largest is 2500.
The stages are just below sea level, as are first few rows of seats, which allows for improved acoustics. The Greeks did this too with many of their theatres.
The play was excellent, the tour was great, and I got to spend one of my final nights in Sydney down at the harbour. It was a good way to spend the day and night.