Sydney Opera House begins work on historic Concert Hall upgrade
Sydney – Wednesday 29 January 2020. This week, Grammy Award-winning R&B singer-songwriter and visual artist Solange will be the final artist to perform in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall before work begins on a major upgrade to renew the world-famous venue for the next 50 years.
Funded by the NSW Government, the $150 million project will take up to two years to complete. New state-of-the-art theatre machinery and staging systems will ensure the hall is better equipped to present a range of performances, from classical music to contemporary concerts and theatre. The project will improve the acoustics for artists and audiences, enhance access for people with mobility needs and provide a more flexible and safer working environment for staff behind-the-scenes.
The refurbishment is the largest project in the Opera House's Decade of Renewal – a 10-year program of capital works totalling more than $275 million that will transform the World Heritage-listed icon ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2023.
Improvements to the Concert Hall will include a range of integrated elements:
- To enhance the acoustics, new above-stage reflectors will replace the clear acrylic ‘donuts’ and special acoustic diffusion panels will be added to the venue’s timber box fronts.
- A new automated draping system will make it easier to switch from classical to amplified mode.
- Lowering the stage will improve sightlines, create more intimacy between performers and audiences and improve backstage access.
- Automated stage risers will also improve sightlines and allow musicians to hear each other more clearly.
- A new flying system for lighting and scenery will facilitate larger-scale, more ambitious performances.
- A new lift and passageway will improve accessibility, making it possible for wheelchair users to independently access all levels of the Concert Hall. Accessible seating positions and toilets will also be added.
While the Concert Hall is closed, other venues and the wider precinct will remain open, ensuring the Opera House continues to offer unmissable performances and experiences for the more than 10 million people who visit the site each year. For more info about what’s on, see here.
NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said: “The Concert Hall is the heart of the Opera House. As well as being home to the wonderful Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, it has in recent years hosted a growing and dynamic program of contemporary performances. The NSW Government is thrilled to be supporting this once-in-a-generation project that will help ensure this global cultural icon continues to inspire for generations to come.”
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “The Opera House was built to serve the community. So it is vital that we ensure the building and its stages continue to evolve as the needs of our community change. Renewing the Concert Hall will enable us present an even broader and more ambitious program of classical and contemporary art in a venue that is more accessible, safer and better equipped. This is a historic moment for the Opera House and we are incredibly grateful to the NSW Government for its support and to everyone involved in making this project possible.”
In planning for the significant acoustic upgrades, the Opera House worked closely with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Australian Chamber Orchestra and expert acousticians Mϋller-BBM to test prototype solutions. Feedback from all involved was very positive and has informed the final plans, including the acoustic reflectors and new acoustic diffusion in the venue. The SSO will return to the Concert Hall in 2022 when Simone Young becomes its Chief Conductor.
Sydney Symphony Orchestra CEO Emma Dunch said: “The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is excited about returning to a renewed Concert Hall, the iconic auditorium we've called home since its opening in 1973. The re-opening will coincide with the 2022 debut season of the internationally acclaimed Australian Simone Young as our new Chief Conductor. We are confident that the renewal works will transform the experience of hearing live symphonic music and mark a new era for classical music in this country. The orchestra salutes the NSW Government for its leadership investments in cultural infrastructure and its commitment to renewing the Opera House for its 50th anniversary.”
All Concert Hall renewal works are being undertaken in line with the Opera House’s Conservation Management Plan, Utzon’s Design Principles and with respect to the original interiors, designed by Peter Hall, the architect who completed the Opera House after Utzon departed the project.
Taylor Construction and Waagner-Biro Stage Systems have been appointed to carry out the works, alongside an expert design team including architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), acousticians Mϋller-BBM, specialist theatre consultants Theatreplan UK, Arup Engineers, Steensen Varming and heritage architect Design5, as well as the Opera House’s Building Team, Design Advisory Panel and Conservation Council.
While work in the Concert Hall is under way, the Opera House will also start the final project in its Decade of Renewal, transforming office space in the building’s north-western corner into a new centre for creativity. Further details about this project will be announced in the coming months.
More information about Concert Hall Renewal is available here.
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