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2006 Media Releases - Corporate - The Queen will open first change to Opera House

Issued Tuesday, 7 March 2006


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will visit Sydney Opera House on Monday 13th March to formally open the new Colonnade – the first change to the exterior of the building since its completion in 1973.

In an event which will echo the opening of Sydney Opera House by the Queen on 20th October 1973, Her Majesty will officially declare the new addition open and recognise the building’s visionary architect, Jørn Utzon.

Utzon, having left working on Sydney Opera House during its construction, was not recognised in the 1973 celebrations.

Sydney Opera House Chief Executive, Dr Norman Gillespie, said today: “It is an honour to have Her Majesty opening the Colonnade, such a significant milestone in the history of Sydney Opera House and a real acknowledgement of the role and importance of our architect, Jørn Utzon.”

Dr Gillespie will present 11 staff to the Queen who were working at Sydney Opera House on the day of the 1973 opening. These include Ivan Ginovic, of Turramurra. Ivan is now a Venue Manager at Sydney Opera House, and over the past 32 years has enjoyed meeting many dignitaries including former US President Bill Clinton and dinner with the Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.

Ivan was working as a fireman during the opening and remembers the massive number of ships and sailboats of all sizes in the harbour and planes overhead to celebrate the Queen’s visit. Ivan says it was a windy day and the streamers from the northern end of the Opera House were flying everywhere; “the most exciting thing was the tugs spouting water fountains. It was the busiest I have ever seen the harbour.”

Working on Saturday 20th October 1973 was Gavin Carragher of Willoughby, a former Olympian who represented Australia in the 1956 Melbourne Games in 4x100 sprint relay. Gavin has worked as an Usher at Sydney Opera House since its opening. One of his most vivid memories of his years at Sydney Opera House was travelling in a lift with Prince Charles. Gavin remembers Prince Charles question of whether he was being paid overtime.

The Queen will be joined at the Colonnade opening by Jørn Utzon’s architect son, Jan, who worked with him on the design for the new addition. Jan will represent his father, now 87 years old and still active in all aspects of the design process.

Jørn Utzon was re-engaged as Sydney Opera House’s architect in 1999 and the Colonnade is his second project, following the opening of the Utzon Room in 2004 – the building’s only authentic Utzon interior.

The 45 metre long and five metre wide Colonnade runs along the Harbour Bridge side of Sydney Opera House. Nine openings have been created into the Playhouse and Studio foyers – six new large deep set windows and three glass doors. The foyers are now flooded with natural light and for the first time patrons will enjoy harbour and city views.

The Drama Theatre, Studio and Playhouse were not part of the original brief given to Utzon and were not included in his plans. They were added after he left the project in 1966. As a result they did not fulfil his design principle that Sydney Opera House venues should have a sense of the building’s harbour setting.

Dr Gillespie said “I think most people would agree, the Colonnade is a fantastic addition to the building and will be popular with theatre patrons and the general public. Previously when patrons were in these foyers, they could have been anywhere, rather than looking out onto one of the most beautiful harbours in the world,” he said.

As with the rest of Sydney Opera House, the Colonnade is an example of the highest level of workmanship. “The craftsmanship of the Colonnade and niches is absolutely first class, and certainly up to the standard of the craftsmanship expected in Sydney Opera House” said Jørn Utzon in a message from Denmark.

As part of the celebrations, an exhibition of photographs by award-winning photographer Jeremy Piper will be on display in the Western Foyers. This exhibition documents the construction of the Colonnade, the workers involved and the sculptural nature of the project. This free display will be open everyday from 14th March to 11th April.

Café West, offering a light menu, will open underneath the Colonnade from March 14th. With 80 seats and fully licensed, the café will operate everyday between 11am and 6pm.


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