Surprisingly, after several trips to the Opera House, I’ve noticed that a large portion of newcomers to Sydney’s most distinct landmark are remarkably disappointed upon arrival. Most visitors believe that the opera house is one continuous structure, and that it sits many stories up, overlooking the harbor down below. In actuality, the Opera House is three distinct structures that sit huddled together. While the views of the harbor are spectacular, some expect it to be a structure that is almost “larger than life” upon first viewing.
However, from an objective viewpoint, it’s hard to argue that the building doesn’t transcend time; given the fusion of the ancient and modernist influences visible in its construction the Opera House truly does seem like it was built way ahead of anything at the time. Although the Opera House is most famous and regarded for its external appearance, once inside, you are stepping into a museum full of architectural and fine arts achievements. Individually, each of the three major theatre halls are spectacular in their own right. The major hall, which is housed inside the largest structure of the Opera House, is fashioned to resemble the inside of a guitar; the beams and strategically positioned hollows amplify each note of music to perfection.
On a guided tour of the Opera House taken with my marketing class, we were given backstage access to a host of exclusive locations and rooms that were used for both technical and private purposes. Along the tour, we were given the history of Jorn Utzon, the man famous for submitting his plan for the Opera House structure and ultimately designing the entire building. However, Utzon left the construction of the opera house midway through, as the pressures of increased costs and anxiety over the final appearance set in. Although original costs of the Opera House were budgeted for $7 million in 1959, the final product ended up costing $102 million upon completion in 1973. Utzon’s masterpiece ended up defining his career, but over the span of his life, until he died at 90 in 2008, he never returned to see his completed work. When asked why, Utzon says that he can return to visit the Opera House whenever he wants to; all he has to do is close his eyes.
Along the tour, the room in the Opera House that has stayed with me the longest was the ‘Jorn Utzon’ room which was dedicated to him in the early 2000s. The room is rectangular, and simple in every way other than what covers the walls on the long sides of the room; on one side, sits Jorn Utzon’s famous multicolored tapestry titled Homage to Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, while the other side features a wall of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbor. Paired with the narrow and dark nature of the room, the contrast between the bright darting colors in the tapestry, and the cool aqua blue on the “harbor wall” truly is spectacular. Now, this is available for rental, and some lucky Sydney residents have had their weddings at the venue.
In the end, Utzon proved to create a legendary landmark as the Opera House was quickly synonymous for being a structure that no one had ever come close to creating before. Utzon, much like Van Gogh, produced a piece of art that simply hadn’t been captured by another artist both at the time and even to modern day.