New podcast series unravels the hidden stories of the Opera House tapestry collection, hosted by award-winning broadcaster Tim Ross
Sydney – Wednesday 23 September, 2020. The Sydney Opera House has launched a new podcast series House Stories: The Tapestries that examines the stories and significance of four magnificent tapestries designed specifically for the Opera House. Hosted by award-winning broadcaster Tim Ross, four episodes and supplementary digital content will uncover this uniquely fascinating part of the Opera House’s design legacy, explore the tapestries cultural and artistic significance, and contemplate the future of these remarkable works. Episode one is available now, with subsequent episodes released on a weekly basis.
Over the four episodes, 20th century architecture and design enthusiast Tim Ross will explore the complex history behind tapestries designed by Australian abstract painter John Coburn, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. In a series of interviews, Ross will delve into the human stories behind the works, including the commissioning and fabrication of these large-scale textiles, setbacks, controversy and public opinion, and the extensive conservation that has been undertaken to maintain these important pieces of Opera House history.
This new series invites listeners to discover the significance of these important cultural assets and to celebrate the Opera House as a World Heritage-listed masterpiece of ‘human creative genius’ that belongs to all Australians.
House Stories: The Tapestries will be told over four episodes:
- Episode 1 - Coburn Tapestries: The Sun and The Moon – released Wednesday 23 September
In 1969, architect Peter Hall commissioned John Coburn, an Australian modern abstract artist, to design the curtains for the opera and drama theatres that were celebrated at the opening of the Opera House in 1973. This episode explores the design and creation of 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.
- Episode 2 - Coburn Tapestries: Conservation and Restoration – released Wednesday 30 September
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 3 - Le Corbusier’s Les Dés sont Jetés – released Wednesday 7 October
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 4 - Utzon Tapestry: Homage to C.P.E Bach – released Wednesday 14 October
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.
Supplementary Digital Content
A new digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture will invite people around the world to explore the story of these artworks and their place in the Opera House’s history. Supplementary digital content on the Opera House website includes playlists, articles and video. Educational resources about the Coburn tapestries designed for Years 3 – 12 across multiple curriculum areas are also available here.
Sydney Opera House Head of Talks & Ideas Dr Edwina Throsby says: “I’ve long marveled at the beauty of the Sydney Opera House tapestries, but until we started working on this series I had no idea of the tales of intrigue, deception, and controversy that surround them. The Opera House hides some wonderful stories, you just need to pull the curtain back a little to discover them.”
Tim Ross says: “Last year I saw the Coburn tapestries when they were rehung in the Opera House and I heard John Coburn’s daughter Kristin talk about the family’s experience when they went to France in the late 60s to make them. I was inspired by the tapestries and their story. A subsequent conversation with the conservator about the condition of the tapestries had me hooked… This has been a fantastic project and I can’t wait for people to take the deep dive and hear the story of these wonderful pieces of art.”
Episode one of House Stories: The Tapestries is available on the Opera House website now, along with playlists, articles and video content.