In 2015, the Opera House announced it would self-fund a $45 million Renewal project to replace theatre equipment that had reached the end of its operational life and improve reliability, functionality and safety in the world-famous theatre. The NSW Government contributed a further $26 million to enable additional venue improvements and accessibility upgrades.
On New Year’s Eve 2017 the Opera House reopened the Joan Sutherland Theatre after the venue closed from May to December 2017. Changes to the theatre included:
- A new theatre flying system that is quieter, safer and more reliable;
- Improved grid deck providing a more flexible system of hoists and a clearer, more open work area;
- Partial replacement of the auditorium lighting, a new sound console and follow spot room;
- Upgraded orchestra pit and the installation of a state-of-the-art acoustic enhancement system to better distribute orchestral sound around the JST and improve playing conditions for musicians; and
- Six additional female toilets to better service audience members.
As planned, a number of additional works commenced during the closure and continued into 2018. These works included:
- A new rehearsal room that provides resident companies and other performers with a purpose-built, state of the art practice facility, with an improved layout that better meets their needs;
- A level passageway suitable for wheelchairs to provide wheelchair access to the JST Northern Foyer; and
- A new lift in the Northern Foyer provides wheelchair access to all levels for the first time. This also enables older or less mobile patrons to access the theatre’s circle seating via a lift, reducing the number of stairs.
These works were completed in mid-2018.
The JST upgrade is the first part of a larger program of Renewal works funded through a $202 million investment by the NSW Government. It includes upgrades to the Concert Hall, entry foyers as well as new function and creative learning centres, bringing the total value of Stage 1 Renewal to $273 million.
Read on Backstage: how we celebrated New Year's Eve with the reopening of the Joan Sutherland Theatre
Download the Joan Sutherland Theatre fact sheet