The ExPat Diary: A Night at the Opera

When I first began telling friends that I was moving to Sydney, many of them said, ‘oh yeah, that’s the place with the Opera House, right?’

Sydney's famous Opera House, with the Opera Bar in the foreground.

The Opera House is a universally recognized symbol for Sydney. It’s actually kind of funny considering that it’s design was originally cut from the competition to design what would become the Opera House. As Wikipedia explains:

The winner, announced in 1957, was Jørn Utzon, a Danish architect. According to legend the Utzon design was rescued from a final cut of 30 “rejects” by the noted Finnish architect Eero Saarinen. The prize was £5,000.

Quick trivia question for you: What famous midwestern monument was Eero Saarinen responsible for designing?

That's right, friends, The St. Louis Gateway Arch!

Anyway, the Sydney Opera House is famous worldwide, and is pretty hard to miss when you are in Sydney. It’s right on the Harbour, surrounded by water on three sides, and it faces one of my other favorite Sydney landmarks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Harbour Bridge peeking through the Opera House's shells

A close-up on the shells

Looking out over the CBD

As many times as I’ve been by the Opera House, I’ve never actually been inside. Seeing an actual opera there has been on the ‘to do’ list, but its a bit on the pricey side. However, in an extreme stroke of birthday luck and parental kindness, Alex’s parents surprised us with tickets to see Turandot for his birthday.

Inside the Opera Theatre, facing the stage

We got there a bit early, but every seat was filled before the show started

A (blurry) picture of the balconies

The inside of the Opera House and the Opera Theatre feels very 60’s (which makes sense after all, that’s around when it was built). It’s a very minimal design – certainly nowhere near as opulent as the Met, but in a way I think it matches its outer decor. Of course, the Opera Theatre is only one part of the larger complex that is home to four resident companies including the ballet and symphony.

There is more in there than meets the eye!

During the intermissions Alex and I headed outside to enjoy some very pretty views of the CBD.

Looking towards the CBD

One of the shells at night

Looking in towards the Opera Theatre

All in all, it was a great performance made even better by being at such a beautiful and culturally significant venue!

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2 thoughts on “The ExPat Diary: A Night at the Opera

  1. I find this post interesting because my first trip to Australia was a whirlwind month where I first went to Germany for a week, then back home to Canada for a few days, then Aus for about e weeks. I was thrilled at the idea of seeing the opera house. I have no interest in opera, and didn’t know much about the building then. But before I came, I read all the controversy about it, and that it isn’t actually acoustically great; the design works better for a tourist than for an opera fan. What I remember about that month was that on both trips we were in two cities with spectacular opera houses: Sydney and Dresden. And among conference goers (both were work trips for one of us) on both trips, a quest was to get tickets to a performance in one of these iconic buildings. Well, I was one of the few ‘tourists in either city with the free time to track down tix, but also among the few with no interest! As a building and precinct, the mid 19th C Dresden Semperoper was a much more intriguing building than the one in Sydney. There, we seriously thought about seeing something…it made it through the firebombings pretty much unscathed. And it is a spectacular building! But…well, early morning treks to parks with birds and flowers trump opera! We could have gone on a tour, but the soccer world cup was on in Germany so most tourist attractions not affiliated with soccer were on short hours. In Sydney, we at least got into the building: after several hours of trekking around the rocks/botanic gardens/hyde park/etc we realised that the OH would at least have a clean toilet though no other part of it interested us…

    • That sounds like an amazing whirlwind trip! I would love to see the Semperoper, it seems to have the opulence and grandur that Sydney’s Opera House is missing. I’m sure it makes sense with the exterior design, but it really wasn’t all that interesting inside so I have a feeling that the Semperoper is a bit more up my alley. I wasn’t a big opera fan before I went to this performance, but I have to say I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would – though I did hear grumblings that the acoustics truly aren’t that great (which I find so strange for a building that was meant to be an opera house). All in all, it was a fun ‘checklist item’ experience but there are certainly more interesting things to do in Sydney after you’ve seen it up close. 🙂

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