He is optimistic about the Opera House’s future. “The exterior is reasonably robust. This building is made of very, very hard materials, and if we look after it and maintain it in a way that doesn’t degrade it, then it should survive for a reasonably long time. Although the exterior is strong, the setting and intangible values, including use, are very vulnerable and require careful management and attention to detail if they are to remain strong and intact into the future. Everything we do there requires the utmost care and attention to detail, keeping Utzon’s vision and design intent as the primary focus."
The CMP provides detailed guidance on how this can be achieved. It’s not meant to be proscriptive; rather, he wants it to “empower and inspire” all those who work at the House and allow the building to evolve and embrace change by identifying its vulnerabilities and providing solutions.
“We didn’t want a document that was inflexible…it would be a travesty if the House became nothing more than an architectural monument without a function.” After all, he says, you only really understand the Opera House and its living, organic nature, its drama and theatricality, when you are sitting inside its shell as a member of the audience.
He grows emotional as he cites a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at the Concert Hall a few years ago, conducted by the late Stuart Challender. It was as if the building and the performance came together in perfect harmony that night, he says. “One lifted the other — and that was Utzon’s vision. The Opera House is a performance in itself.”
On the eve of the new CMP’s release, he says he is still pinching himself about his role in its evolution. Little did he dream that the country boy from Wagga Wagga would one day be here, caretaker of one of the 21st century’s most revered icons. “I never would have imagined I would be involved in something like this. It really is extraordinary.”
Download the full, interactive CMP at sydneyoperahouse.com/CMP.
Sharon Verghis is a writer whose work has appeared in The Australian, The Guardian, SBS and TIME Magazine. Twitter @SVerghis