There has never been a Lapointe family vacation that did not involve a beach or large body of water in some way. Even though it is winter in Australia right now, Mom was determined to not let this stop her from getting to the beach while in Sydney. Her one request for our last full day by ourselves was that we go to a beach so she could put her feet in the Pacific Ocean. So after getting up this morning and spending a few minutes at USyd using the Internet to skype, we caught the bus to Central Station and then the train to Bondi Junction, and then another bus to Bondi Beach. Once there we had a light lunch and a pastry at my favorite café in Bondi- The Gelato Café. Unlike last week when I did the cliff walk with Kaela and her mother, today was a beautiful bright warm sunny day, and the beach was buzzing with surfers and families enjoying the weather.
After spending a few minutes on the sand we started the cliff walk which goes is a roughly 5 km walk, but we only did the first leg of it which ends at Bronte Beach. We got off a Bronte and then took the bus back to the train station where we caught the train to Circular Quay.
While I have taken many people to see the Opera House when they have come to visit me this semester and I have walked around the exterior many times, I had not taken the official Opera House tour, but I definitely wanted to. Mom and I had attempted to do this on Monday but most of the performance spaces had been closed then do to rehearsals taking place, so we had agreed to revisit on Wednesday. So upon arriving in circular quay we went straight to the tour center and purchased tickets for the 4:00pm guided one-hour tour.
After meeting our tour guide, Daniel, everyone in our tour group of about thirty was issued a head set, and the tour guide had a microphone that he spoke through which we could hear in our headsets. Mom and I both remarked on what a brilliant way to conduct a tour this was since the guide never had to shout and you could always hear him no matter how close to him you were. One of the rules for the tour is that you were not allowed to take pictures inside of any of the performance spaces. This is because many of them have sets built inside of them that are under copyright, and the stage hands and musicians that work inside these spaces have signed privacy contracts that do not allow them to be photographed while they are working. Therefore, all my pictures are of the exterior hallways and lobby spaces of the opera house.
The first space we were taken into was the smallest one, which is a square theatre that has seating all the way around and chairs that can be brought out to fill the floor, or the floor can be left empty. This space can be used for intimate concerts, children’s shows, or any theatre performances that are done in the round. The second space we went through was the concert hall, which is acoustically designed so that no microphones ever have to be used and the sound evenly distributes throughout the entire room. The opera hall is similarly designed, so that the performers never have to use microphones, and a person sitting in the front row will receive the same quality of sound as a person sitting in the back row. In total the Opera House consists of seven spaces:
The Concert Hall, with 2,679 seats, is the home of the Sydney Symphony and used by a large number of other concert presenters. It contains the grand organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world, with over 10,000 pipes.
The Opera Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 1,507 seats, is the Sydney home of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.
The Drama Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 544 seats, is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.
The Playhouse, an end-stage theatre with 398 seats.
The Studio, a flexible space with a maximum capacity of 400 people, depending on configuration.
The Utzon Room, a small multi-purpose venue, seating up to 210.
The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue with a wide range of configuration options, including the possibility of utilising the Monumental Steps as audience seating, used for a range of community events and major outdoor performances. The Forecourt will be closed to visitors and performances 2011–2014 to construct a new entrance tunnel to a rebuilt loading dock for the Opera Theatre.
When the city of Sydney first decided to put an opera house on Bennelong Point, there was a contest held for architects everywhere to see who would get to design it. Hundreds of designs were submitted and discarded by the selection committee, but it was an American judge who arrived late to the judging process who asked to see the discarded designs that selected the design by Jorn Utzon, a Swedish architect, which had been placed in the discard pile initially but ended up being the winning design. The initial drawings done by Utzon were very crude and were more sketches than blue prints. He had no idea how he was going to construct the sails of the opera hose, and so work commenced on the base while Utzon and a team of mathematicians and architects worked on how they were to build the rest. This caused significant delays in the building process as the technology to be able to construct the building had to be invented.
The design work on the shells involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, in order to understand the complex forces to which the shells would be subjected. In mid-1961, the design team found a solution to the problem: the shells all being created as sections from a sphere. This solution allows arches of varying length to be cast in a common mould, and a number of arch segments of common length to be placed adjacent to one another, to form a spherical section.
The tile pattern on the outside of the shells is the design it is because Utzon saw the same pattern on a woman’s bathing suit one day and he was quoted as saying ” I liked the way it flattered her curves” and hoped that the same pattern would flatter the curves of his design. The tiles themselves were triple glossed ceramic tiles so they would shine in the sun, but would not have reflective properties. Also- due to the triple glossing, even if they get dirty any amount of rain water rinses them off so they never need to be cleaned.
In the middle of construction on the project the governor of Sydney changed, and the new governor was not as patient or forgiving of Utzon and his expensive and time consuming project as the previous one had been. Tensions arose and got so bad that Utzon abandoned the project, returned to Sweden and a new group of architects were brought in to finish it. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his completed masterpiece, although he was re-commissioned by the opera house board in 1993 to refurbish one of the interior spaces and draw up plans for several of the opera house spaces for the future. He died a decorated and famous architect, and now his son works with the opera house board to continue his fathers work and the refurbishing and updating of many of the interior spaces.
The original cost estimate given in 1957 when work began on the Opera House was $7 million. The original completion date set by the government was 26 January 1963 . The project was not completed until 1973, ten years late, and it ended up costing $120 million, so it went over-budget by more than fourteen times.
After finishing our tour the sun was setting, so mom and I found a bus back to Glebe. On our way back to our hostel we stopped and got some Thai food to go, and then did laundry at the hostel while we ate. When we wake up in the morning we will check out of our hostel and take a bus downtown to check into the Menzies Hotel near Circular Quay, where Dad and Julie will meet us assuming they made both their flights. So as of tomorrow all of the Lapointes will be in Sydney (hopefully). Here’s Hoping!