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2007 Media Releases - Changing Faces at Sydney Opera House

Issued Friday, 11 May 2007


Today Sydney Opera House announced it will initiate a recruitment process for a new Chief Executive to succeed Dr Norman Gillespie who will complete his five-year term later this year. This follows what has been an extremely successful period during which Sydney Opera House has flourished and successfully engaged many new audiences.

Dr Gillespie commented: “It has been an enormous privilege to undertake the Chief Executive role over the last five years, and very satisfying to implement a number of major initiatives which have expanded the reach and accessibility of the Opera House, grown its artistic and commercial base, and set the building on a course for World Heritage nomination and major renewal.

“Sydney Opera House is now not only one of the great performing arts centres in the world, it has truly become the most recognisable symbol of our nation.

“With the tremendous team here at the House, and with the strength of the relationship with Jørn and Jan Utzon, we have created a strong and effective platform for the future.

“As Sydney Opera House embarks on its next new phase of development, I believe this is an opportune time for me to hand over the stewardship to a successor, and to explore new personal challenges.”

The Chair of Sydney Opera House Trust, Kim Williams AM, said that an extensive search will be conducted for a successor to Dr Gillespie, and the position will be advertised in the next fortnight.

Mr Williams said: “On behalf of the Sydney Opera House Trust I would like to thank Norman for the fine work he has done for Sydney Opera House over the last five years and acknowledge his many achievements.”

He said these achievements included:

  • Major enhancements to the building:
    • Creation of the Utzon Room, the only authentic Jørn Utzon-designed interior space
    • Development of the Western Colonnade, the first major exterior change to the building
    • Installation of a state-of-the-art multimedia and recording studio
    • Dramatic new illumination of the sails by night
    • Winning approval for $38m of State Government funding to improve access for less mobile visitors and elderly patrons
    • State and National Heritage listing and World Heritage nomination
    • A major upgrade to security
  • A focus on bringing performances at Sydney Opera House to new audiences - from Australian Idol to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Establishing Sydney Opera House as a major producer, responsible for 40% of all presentations
  • Expansion of kids and youth programming through the launch of House:ED and Kids at the House and to non-metropolitan audiences through Proms on Tour
  • Creation of a new Utzon Room Music Series
  • Growth in Tourism and Food and Beverage businesses to unprecedented levels to provide a strong financial base for performing arts activities
  • The highly successful, first-ever visit to Australia by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • The first live transmissions of Opera Australia performances to the Forecourt, free to the public
  • Establishment of a regular season by Bangarra Dance Theatre
  • Commissions and collaborations with a wide range of performing arts companies including Honour Bound, Kaidan, Wild Swans and Last Cab to Darwin
  • Implementation of Tessitura, the leading international ticketing and customer management system (the first for Sydney Opera House in 18 years) and making that system available to a number of major performing arts companies in Australia, including Opera Australia, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Bell Shakespeare Company
  • A major rebranding of Sydney Opera House and the introduction of a philanthropy capability.

The Chief Executive of Opera Australia, Adrian Collette, said: “The partnership with Sydney Opera House is critically important to the development of our national opera company and I have the highest regard for the spirit of collaboration that has developed during Norman’s time as Chief Executive.

“I am sure we will feel the positive effect of his tenure, both on programming and access, for many years to come.”

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