One of the first things that come to mind when you think of Australia is the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is a performing arts center that was built in three stages from 1957 through 1973 after a great deal of planning and a cost of about $102 million. Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the Opera house October 20, 1973 with a large crowd in attendance. It is the most recently constructed World Heritage Site to be designated as such by UNESCO sharing a distinction normally given to ancient landmarks like Stonehenge. The Opera House is located on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor, surrounded on three sides by the harbor, neighboring the Royal Botanic Gardens and near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The foremost tourist attraction in Syndey, the Opera house is home to some of the most celebrated performing arts companies in the world. It is a major venue for Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Symphony as well as many touring productions in a variety of performance arts. The Opera House is administered by the Sydney Opera House Trust under the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts.
The largest interior venue at the Opera House is the Concert Hall. With a high vaulted ceiling and interior finishes of brush box and white birch timber, it is designed primarily for acoustic performances. The hall has a maximum seating capacity of 2,679. The Opera Theatre is an arching theatre with an orchestra pit accommodating up to 70 musicians. With a maximum seating capacity of 1,507 it is the second largest of the Opera House’s venues. The 544 seat Drama Theatre is very suited for plays, dance and small scale musical productions as well as spoken word presentations. The Playhouse is the most intimate of the performance venues, seating 398. Originally designed for chamber orchestra recitals, it has since been modified to accommodate theatrical productions. It is best suited for single-set productions and small musical and drama productions. The Studio is another intimate venue that is quite flexible seating anywhere from 220 to 350 depending on configuration. Utzon Room is the first interior designed by architect Jørn Utzon, the original architect for Sydney Opera House. Previously known as the Reception hall, the room has been re-named in honor of Utzon and has Utzon’s signature features including natural timbers and finishes. The Sydney Opera House also houses a world class Recording Studio offering a unique and seamless blend of services between live concert sound reinforcement and a recording and production facility. The Opera House’s spectacular open-air venue, called The Forecourt, is used for concerts by world famous artists such as Jamiroquai, Michael Buble and the Buena Vista Social Club. It also is home to site specific performances and special events such as New Year’s Eve.
The Sydney Opera House is one of the architectural wonders of the world, perhaps the best known building of the 20th century. By its inclusion in 2007 on the World Heritage List its cultural, heritage and architectural importance is protected for years to come. Tours of the Sydney Opera House are run daily between 9am and 4pm. Some areas may be closed due to rehearsals; early tours offer a better likelihood of seeing everything. If you get hungry there are a number of restaurants serving great food, as well as a gift shop allowing you to pick up a souvenir of your visit. A fantastic architectural wonder, the Sydney Opera House has myriad ways to entertain, surprise, and delight.
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