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Inside the Opera House
Inside the Opera House
Having breakfast

Sydney Opera House tour

Thursday, September 9, 2004
We go behind the scenes in one of our famous landmarks … the Opera House. Haven’t you always wanted to be on that stage?

Jutting into arguably the world's most beautiful harbour, Bennelong Point was the perfect place for realising the dreams of a state premier and two architects, one American, one Dane. The sketches of Jøern Utzon, the young Dane, were the key factors responsible for generating one of the world's most important modern buildings. It is remarkable in that no reference was made to history or classical architectural forms.

Despite much controversy — the architect being replaced, the budget being blown out several times over and general suspicion from locals — the building was completed in 1973. Prokofiev's War and Peace was the first work performed and those in attendance acclaimed the quality of the acoustics of the Opera House.

Its "sails" are covered with millions of glistening ceramic tiles. In a short space in time, the Sydney Opera House became internationally acclaimed for its interior and exterior beauty and function.

Since April this year, backstage tours have run each day, conducted by handpicked and specially trained guides. They are passionate and knowledgeable about the Sydney Opera House and take groups to three of the five theatres.

Tours start at 7am over breakfast in the Green Room, then move along the central passage to the Opera Theatre scenery dock, where scenery for Sydney and Australian Opera Company performances is stored. As there is a different opera each night of the season, the amount of scenery and props can be overwhelming.

The theatre is also home to the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company, which have their share of things in storage too.

The tour takes the spiral staircase to the inside of the pit, which houses the 70-member orchestra. Most people love to stand on the conductor's stand, hold the baton and get a view of the auditorium. You will see the safety net which was installed after a ballet dancer fell into the pit and a live chicken landed in a violinist's lap.

From there the tour goes to the Opera Theatre stage; most times props remain from the previous night's performance.

Next stop is the Drama Theatre and fly tower from where scenery is hung. It is quite narrow, though large enough to hold 30 stage mechanics at one time. You will see the trapdoors for those needing a speedy exit — they land on mattresses. That part of the building is below sea-level.

You visit the Conductor's Suite, used by VIPs performing in the Concert Hall. It has a beautiful Steinway piano, signed by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Guests are allowed a tickle of the ivories if they wish.

Last leg is centre stage of the Concert Hall, home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Crown lights will be illuminated so you can see the world's largest mechanical tracking organ. It is eight metres deep and holds 10,000 pipes. Only 135 can be seen by audiences and it comes as quite a surprise to see how many there really are.


Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour


Sydney Opera House tours last two hours and cost $140 per person. They run daily, year round, from 7am.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Sydney Opera House
Ph: (02) 9250 7250

Qantas: 13 13 13

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