Sydney Opera House

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Sydney Opera House

The city's world-renowned architectural symbol is the Sydney Opera House, which opened in 1973. (It cost $51 million to build, all paid for by the lottery.)

It is so well known, that it has been nominated for World Heritage status. The exterior shape symbolizes the sails of vessels that were responsible for the city's development. Surprisingly, the surface is made of individual French ceramic tiles rather than stucco. At sunset, when the building assumes a luminous quality, the concept of seashells predominates. The opera house is composed of three shells, the largest of which is home to five theaters. The Studio--the newest and smallest shell--is the most flexible for varied venues, including the performance of contemporary art forms.

Diverse Venue

The opera house harbors Opera Australia, the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Sydney Theatre Company, among others. It also hosts children's programs. The interiors are simple, unembellished by gilding or chandeliers, because it's believed the most important aspect is what's happening onstage, says Derek Wood, manager of tourism operations. The Concert Hall, home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, seats almost three thousand. The Opera Theatre showcases the world- class Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, and the Sydney Dance Company.

Other opera houses host dramatic performances and lectures. In Sydney, organizers go farther, booking varied performers--including a flea circus--to lure more Australians of all ages. And there's no dress code. Kids 's theater, orchestral programs, an introduction to ballet, and circus performances. Two Half Tix box offices provide same-day half-price tickets for concerts and the theater.

All manner of art forms are represented at the Sydney Festival, an annual event following Christmas (which is summer down under). It's a competitive, international arts festival, says Brett Sheehy, Sydney Festival director and chief executive.

The festival began twenty-five years ago as a fair but now includes music, dance, theatrical productions, visual arts, and opera performances. Nevertheless, Sheehy says, "We care more about Sydney residents having a good time than others; seventy-five percent of Sydney people haven't ever been inside the opera house." Possibly in an attempt to overcome this, school groups are much in evidence.

Today the festival includes local companies and international performers such as Twyla Tharp Dance, the Netherlands Dance Theatre, and the Russian National Orchestra. "The idea is to expose our people to companies from all over that they wouldn't get to see otherwise," says Sheehy. For numerous outdoor productions, the streets around Circular Quay are blocked off, the Sydney Opera House and other historic buildings are illuminated, and lasers and fireworks light up the skies.

It's obvious that Sydney offers cultural sites and venues that appeal to locals and tourists alike. "Sydney has been rejuvenated and given a new confidence since the Olympics were held here," says Sheehy.n

For more information on Sydney, contact the Australian Tourist Commission or visit its Web site at www.australia.com

Sydney Opera House