“We're touching on pretty much every piece of that portion of the building, be it the shells or the stage – we're interfacing with all of them,” Xavier says.
These extensive upgrades are all crucial to transforming the live experience for performers and audiences, but the innovations to the stage are perhaps the most exciting. An automated system will allow it to be easily raised and lowered, enhancing visibility for audiences, as well as providing quick, easy staging options for a wide range of performances. Tiered platforms needed by orchestras, once set up manually, will now appear at the touch of a button. It will also have the capacity to be extended into the auditorium, or to retract, making room for more rows of seating.
The acoustic upgrades are just as ground breaking. Despite an Opera House appearance being something of a holy grail for performers around the world, the sound inside the Concert Hall has often been uneven. This is partly due to the venue’s unusual shape, says Andrew: at 25 metres high and 43 metres in length from the front edge of the stage to the back wall, it is much larger than most contemporary concert halls.
It was also originally designed for acoustic music, but within months of opening was hosting amplified performances. For years, the Opera House’s production team have manually retrofitted the venue to get the best sound for the vast range of musical genres and stage shows.
Their job will be much easier and faster with Waagner-Biro’s machinery, which includes 40 new movable and automated ceiling and wall reflectors and 67 different types of banners and curtains. These can be raised and lowered at the flick of a switch, to dampen reverberation and create a fuller, richer sound, for acoustic and amplified music alike. When not in use, they slide into the walls, ceiling and floor, disappearing from view.
Waagner-Biro engineer Alex Amon says all the new machinery is designed for maximum impact and minimum intrusion.
“All the audience will see is the performance and all the beautiful art, not our machinery. If someone in the audience can see our machinery or hear it, we did something wrong.”
Rooms above the ceiling and a walkway dubbed “the central catwalk” – which are also invisible to audiences – give access to this new machinery for maintenance and operation.