Sydney Opera House




This is Katherine Satrom for “Travel Explorations.”   I’m delighted to return to the Prairie Public airwaves after a few months of traveling around the world.


Music:  from “Carmen”

This delightful and energetic music from the opera “Carmen” was performed at the Sydney Opera House in February.   Georges Bizet wrote a comic opera that was first performed in Paris nearly 140 years ago.


We toured Australia and New Zealand just a few weeks ago, and I’ll be talking more about those countries in the future. But today, I am concentrating on the unique and wonderful – and I mean wonder-filled – Sydney Opera House, where I was mesmerized by the Australia Opera’s performance .


I was extremely impressed with the incredible creativity of the iconic Sydney Opera House. You are aware that the architecture features gigantic, yet graceful, shells that house the major concert halls.  Some refer to them as sails.  In any case, these grand architectural features are the focus of the Sydney Harbour.


How did this fabulous structure come to be?  A competition was held for the design, and 232 contestants presented their designs.   The winner was a Danish architect, Jorn Utzon.  He was from Helsinger where his father was a naval architect. That background had some influence on his design.

A public reception area looks very much like the rear lounge on a cruise ship with banks of windows.


Knowing that the structure would be built on a peninsula named Bennelong Point, Utzon studied maritime charts of Sydney Harbour to measure distances and visualize the relationship between the site and its surroundings.  What struck him was the similarity between Bennelong Point and the peninsula at Helsinger around which he often sailed, a peninsula dominated by Kronborg Castle, famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”


The architect realized that, like Kronborg Castle, the Sydney Opera House would be viewed from all sides, and also from the Sydney Harbour Bridge deck and Royal Botanic Gardens above. He realized the Sydney Opera House could not have an ugly side, not even an ugly roof.


Sails on the water and the wings of a swan provided the answer. Shells would cover the halls and fly towers above the stages. And the halls would be placed side by side, not end to end.
Mayan ruins of Mexico provided inspiration for the base upon which the shells would sit.


Utzon’s entry was one of the last received.  Contestants’ proposals were identified only by number.

In January, 1957, Australian Premier John Joseph Cahill, who believed in the link of grand projects matched by progress in cultural opportunities, opened the envelope revealing Utzon as the winner.






The largest hall has nearly 2700 seats and a spectacular organ, the largest mechanical organ in the world with 10,000 pipes.


Acoustical rings are lowered during the performances.


The roof is made up of Swedish tiles in tones of eggshell and off-white.


The opera theatre is named the Joan Sutherland Theatre after the Australian opera singer who passed away in 2012.  We enjoyed a delightful performance of “Carmen” in this theatre.  Built on a grand scale, the stage allowed the presence of horses.  One horse even took a bow at the curtain call!


The building of this fantastic international treasure took 16 years and cost $102 million. The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973 with Queen Elizabeth present.


If you’re in the Bismarck area, come into our office and see a Lego representation of the Sydney Opera House.


I think this building is the most creative structure I have ever seen anywhere!

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