Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sydney Opera House

Impossible to do a post about Sydney Harbour Bridge and not add one about Sydney's other world-famous landmark, and here they are together on this photo.

Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect, and as I vaguely recall, there was quite some controversy and a few changes to the original design. But if you want to read about all that, there is plenty of stuff out there on the net.

Being in Sydney, I decided that listening to opera at Sydney Opera House was a Must Do, on the world trip tick-box list.

The tickets however, seemed rather pricey to me. Maybe 20 bucks at the time? Can't remember.

As the whole world knows, journalists are a scammy breed and always managing to scrounge something for nothing on the back of a press card (NUJ union card actually). While I hate to shatter such a popular myth, to that day I had never had anything for free apart from obviously, tickets for work where I had to do a review. Eg, a concert by the utterly boring Glen Cambell. I would probably have paid someone else to go in my place to get out of that one.

Even in those days, to get into something that was popular (and expensive) you invariably needed to be separately accredited.

But in Sydney on a budget, and with NUJ card in pocket, I decided to put this myth to the test and marched down to the Opera House. It seemed they didn't dish out tickets to random journalists who popped in from the other side of the world, but they did direct me to an office in the city centre.

Off I traipsed. Arriving at the office, I gave them my plausible and actually, genuine, story. I was a freelance journalist, and I was intending to do a series of reviews for the Illustrated London News (I thought a nice glossy like this might accept my submissions as they sometimes included non-UK stuff if it was prestigious enough). Blow me down, not only did they give me three tickets for the next three (different) performances, they gave me an extra one for each night for a guest.

I was very pleased. And not a little excited, because, not only was I going to listen to opera at SOH, but the very first of the three performances was Joan Sutherland. Singing Lucia di Lammermoor. This, for those of you who are not opera fans, was the opera that shot her to fame when she performed the famous Mad Scene.

Now, I should say, that JS was never one of my favourite sopranos, nor, was Maria Callas. Maybe it was an age thing, but I loved the voices of Lucia Popp, Frederica von Stade, and Victoria de los Angeles. Still, JS doing her mad stuff at SOH was not to be sniffed at, and my mother (a huge JS fan) would be so excited.

Anyway, she cancelled. There I was sitting expectantly in my seat, when an announcement came over the public address system. She had a sore throat, or something like that. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the following day, it was the first time she had cancelled in her career. Fine sense of timing.

I managed to acquire a guest for the other two performances. One was a pastoral thing, but as for the other, no idea. We wandered around the outside on a lovely evening drinking our glasses of Australian fizz, but after being deprived of Dame Joan performing her most famous role in her home town, they were just another couple of free operas.

No, I never did write any of it up for the Illustrated London News. Couldn't think of anything to say really apart from ranting about Joan Sutherland choosing the night I was waiting to hear her, only for her to make the first cancellation of her career due to ill-health.


  1. Oh how funny. Our Joan just recently passed away in Switzerland :(

  2. Yes, I hadn't realised actually until I was just having a quick spooch around the internet about her before I finalised this post. Still, she had a fair innings and brought a lot of pleasure to people. Even if I wasn't one of them :D


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