THE Sydney Opera House. That soaring, white-winged palace of the
arts, which has been likened to everything from nun's caps to sails
to sections of an orange, is 20 years old.
The gleaming shells, jutting out of sparkling-blue Sydney
Harbor, are a symbol recognized around the world. More than 36
million people have visited since its opening.
Some of the international artists who have performed in the more
than 53,000 events staged there include Joan Sutherland, Luciano
Pavarotti, Marilyn Horne, Jessye Norman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Peter
Allen, Bob Hope, and Ella Fitzgerald.
But in keeping with its populist image, some of the festivities
marking the anniversary include an outdoor concert with rock singer
Wendy Matthews, Aboriginal singer Archie Roach, and the Aboriginal
Islander Dance Theatre.
The highlight of the festivities was a repeat, on Oct. 22, of
the original Beethoven concert performed for Queen Elizabeth at the
1973 official opening.
ON an azalea-festooned stage, the Sydney Opera House Orchestra
and the Sydney Philharmonia Choir gave a rousing performance of
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor. The piece with its
notoriously difficult choral music and rapturous conclusion seemed
a fitting choice to mark the opening of an opera house that had
finally triumphed over great difficulties.
The story of the building of the opera house starts with an
English conductor of Belgian descent, Eugene Goossens, who was
amazed when he came to Sydney in 1947 that the city didn't have a
first-class opera house. (He conducted his opera, "Judith," with
a young stenographer, Joan Sutherland, at the New South Wales
Conservatorium of Music.)
Goossens began lobbying for a proper hall, and he won over the
New South Wales government in 1954.
An advisory committee chose Bennelong Point, a tram turnaround
that jutted out into Sydney Harbor and overlooked the famous Harbor
Bridge, as the site. In August, 1955, a competition for the design
was launched. Danish architect Jorn Utzon beat out 232 other
The dashing young Dane won on the strength of rough designs, not
detailed plans. It was estimated to take three years and cost $7
million. Engineering hurdles proved enormously difficult, however;
roof vaults of this size and curvature had never been built before.
Years passed while mathematicians, engineers, and architects
scratched their heads, drew and redrew, the public got bored, and
the project became a political issue.
A new conservative government was voted in, vowing to get the
job done. Architect Utzon resigned when his ideas didn't mesh with
the new administration's. Others completed the project, which in
the end took 14 years and cost $103 million. …