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House Stories

Uncover fascinating stories of the Opera House’s rich cultural heritage and design legacy in our new podcast series exploring the building as a work of art and the artwork within it.

House Stories is available to listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Season 2: The Concert Hall

Our popular House Stories podcast returns with new episodes unearthing stories from behind-the-scenes of the building’s transformation for the 21st century. 

Join host, Zindzi Okenyo, for Season 2 as she delves into stories about the Concert Hall and the people and performances that have made it what it is. Through the lens of its renewal – we explore the history of this iconic space and captivating tales about the artists on its stages.

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Episode 4: The Concert Hall: Raising the roof

When the Opera House’s Concert Hall was built, nobody thought that rock bands, circuses or talks would be held in such a room. Yet by the early ‘70s, the Concert Hall stage was hosting iconic performances by the Bee Gees and Roy Orbison, setting a legacy for contemporary music to come decades later.

This episode looks at how an Opera House appearance has become something of a holy grail for performers around the world and what the revamped Concert Hall signifies for the Opera House as a contemporary music venue, the Australian music industry at large, and for international and Australian artists coming to play on its stage. 

Episode 3: The Concert Hall: How's the sound?

Despite the Opera House being one of the world’s most famous music venues, the Concert Hall has long had a problem. Everyone loves the building, but not everyone loves the way it sounds. After nearly 50 years of mixed reviews, the Concert Hall is getting a major upgrade which will result in better sound for artists and audiences. In this episode, host Zindzi Okenyo explores what is good sound for both classical and contemporary music and that indescribable feeling of getting lost in live music.

Episode 2: The Concert Hall: Beyond the walls of the Concert Hall

In this episode, Zindzi Okenyo uncovers the intriguing story of Aboriginal actor and direct descendant of Woollarawarre Bennelong, Ben Blakeney OAM who appeared silhouetted at the apex of the Opera House’s Concert Hall sail on 20 October 1973. On that day, Blakeney played Bennelong, the Aboriginal man whose name is given to the land where the Opera House now stands.

As Blakeney began the official proceedings for the opening of the Opera House, half a million people watched from the harbour and the packed foreshore parks. But who was this man? Listen along as Zindzi explores why Blakeney was asked to play the part of Bennelong, how he prepared for the role and the reactions from the community.

Episode 1: The Concert Hall: Graffiti in the ceiling

The Opera House’s Concert Hall is the building’s beating heart, welcoming music greats to its stage for almost 50 years and hosting landmark performances that have made history. There is something magical about shows in the Concert Hall – a fact which many attribute to its masterful design. 

In this episode, host Zindzi Okenyo reflects on the journey of this incredible venue, from Jørn Utzon’s original design that caused a stir, the appointment of Australian architect Peter Hall charged with completing the world-famous building after Utzon’s sudden departure, to the current day upgrades that are transforming the venue for the future. Through interviews with journalists, historians and Opera House staff, Zindzi explores what it would have been like for the hundreds of workers who built the Opera House, and what it is like for the team renewing the Concert Hall today, who continue to be reminded of the past through remnants left behind in the ceilings and walls of Utzon and Hall’s masterpiece. 

Season 1: The Tapestries

Design enthusiast, award winning comedian and broadcaster Tim Ross explores the incredible stories behind the four Sydney Opera House tapestries. 

Unravel how the iconic John Coburn’s Curtain of the Sun and Curtain of the Moon, Le Corbusier’s Les Dés Sont Jetés (‘The Die Is Cast’) and Jørn Utzon’s Homage to C.P.E Bach tapestries came to be designed for the Opera House. Plus, take a deeper look at the tapestry artform, their cultural and artistic significance and the future of these masterpieces.

Episode 4: Utzon Tapestry Homage to C.P.E Bach

The final episode explores Jørn Utzon’s tapestry Homage to C.P.E Bach as an expression of music through design and representation of reconciliation. Architect Richard Johnson discusses the process of re-engaging with Utzon nearly four decades after he left the project, the design of the Utzon Room – the only Opera House performance venue entirely designed by Utzon – where the tapestry hangs, and the ongoing application of Utzon’s Design Principles that help ensure the building’s architectural integrity is maintained as it evolves to meet the expectations of future generations.

Episode 3: Le Corbusier's Les Dés sont Jetés

The mystery of the missing tapestry. In this episode, Professor Antony Moulis recalls how in the early 2000s he discovered the correspondence of an unknown tapestry commissioned by Jørn Utzon for the Opera House, designed by acclaimed modernist architect Le Corbusier. How did these two great architects come to collaborate and why was this medieval artform embraced by modernist architects and artists in the 20th century? How did the tapestry end up in Utzon’s home before resurfacing at an auction house, and why did it have mashed potato on it? Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM tells the story of how this incredible work of art finally found its way home.

Episode 2: Coburn Tapestries: Conversation and Restoration

The story of how John Coburn’s iconic tapestries came to be hung in the theatres once again in 2019. But why had they been taken down and ultimately decommissioned in the 1980s? This episode features interviews with artist Kristin Coburn and conservator Julian Bickersteth to explore how the tapestries were made and their restoration process and conservation challenges.

Episode 1: Coburn Tapestries: The Sun and the Moon

In 1969, architect Peter Hall commissioned John Coburn, an Australian modern abstract artist to design the Sydney Opera House opera and drama theatre curtains that were celebrated at the opening of the Opera House in 1973.

This episode explores the design and creation of John Coburn’s tapestries through the stories of his daughter, Kristin Coburn, and how the tapestries realise Jørn Utzon’s design vision for celebrating performance with colour through Australian architect’s Peter Hall’s interior design.