Sydney Opera House to get multimillion-dollar upgrade | Music | DW | 11.08.2016
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Sydney Opera House to get multimillion-dollar upgrade

Australia's most recognizable building, the Sydney Opera House, is to get a major makeover. The acoustics, once compared to toilet seats, are just one item on the renovation agenda.

With 8.2 million visitors a year, the Sydney Opera House is Australia's most-visited attraction.

The state government said Thursday that the cultural institution, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, would undergo a major overhaul. The state has committed to spend 202 million Australian dollars ($153 million) on the project, said New South Wales state deputy premier Troy Grant.

The opera house's acoustics are set to be a major component of the update - and necessarily so. In 2014, US actor John Malkovich said the acoustics in the otherwise beautiful building were so bad "they would do an airplane hangar a disservice."

Inside the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Copyright: cc-by-sa/Ludopedia

The acoustics inside the hall have been widely criticized

In 1999, Sydney Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Edo de Waart threatened to boycott the hall during the 2000 Olympics, telling Australia's ABC that the circular sound reflectors above the stage "might as well be toilet seats. They do nothing whatsoever."

A German sound engineering company, BBM Mueller, has been hired to reform the acoustics, architect Peter Bickle said. Newly designed reflectors, automated draping and a 3D surround-sound system are among the plans.

"Acoustics have moved on from when this place was built, as have the expectations of the audience," said Bickle.

Opera House to offer a 'renewed experience'

To otherwise meet audiences' evolving tastes, building director Greg McTaggart told German news agency dpa that the project is not just a renovation," but change for a renewed experience."

Besides improvements to the 2,000-seat main concert hall and foyer, the upgrade will also include a new Creative Learning Center for children and families, as well as the creation of a new function center with views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

In addition to the state-funded upgrades, the Opera House has said it will fund another renovation project for the venue's smaller second theater.

With smaller upgrades starting in May 2017, major construction is due to begin in mid-2019 and last for an estimated 18 months. The building will have to close for portions of that time, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which rehearses in the hall, will have to temporarily relocate.

The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973. It was initially designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who resigned from the project in 1966. Peter Hall finished the job. This marks the opera house's largest renovation since its inauguration.

kbm/rb (dpa, AFP)

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