While I was in Sydney in early April 2021, I had the pleasure of attending the opera, La Traviata – which was performed on Sydney Harbour against the stunning backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Way back in 2018 I wrote a post on theatrical blockbusters (link below), where productions attract the attention of the general public, irrespective of the art form. Often the location is a major drawcard.
I think it all started with The Three tenors 30 years ago:
Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti teamed up for their first joint performance on 7 July 1990, in a concert held to raise money for the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation. The landmark open-air show at Rome’s Terme di Caracalla (the summer venue for Rome Opera) also marked Carreras’s return to the world of opera singing following his successful treatment for leukaemia.2
In those days technicians had all sort of challenges with sound quality, lighting and set design in locations that were not meant to hold concerts. I recall the disappointing acoustics when attending The Three Tenors at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the 1990s – I bailed up the sound engineers to be told it was the best they could do.
Technology has steamed ahead in leaps and bounds since then. The outdoor performance of La Traviata was first rate – the sound as good as any theatre, the set a masterpiece of design with a huge chandelier as the centrepiece – and all against the backdrop of one the most beautiful harbours in the world.
It is still a feat of modern engineering to build the set. Behind the scenes:
- The pop-up site is build in 25 days, with the bulk happening in the first 15 days.
- The harbour stage is more than twice the size of any Australian indoor stage and can support 150 tonnes.
- The chandelier is 9 metres wide and 9 metres tall, holding 10,000 crystals – no wonder it weighs 3.5 tonnes!
- The orchestra performs live from a custom-built enclosed studio beneath the stage, affectionately know as the underworld. The performers see the conductor via a video screen and wear in ear monitors so they can hear the orchestra perfectly.
- Care of the environment is important. Rubber floor tiles used throughout the venue are made of recycled rubber tyres, which would otherwise be burned and added to landfill. The bespoke vacuum flush toilets use 80% less water than traditional toilets. Recycled paper and environmentally friendly packaging is used, while bio-diesel generators power the site.3
During the opera, the chandelier is lowered and raised or moved to the side. In the scene below left, you can see the size of the crystals behind the soprano playing Violetta, while on the right a central cage descends and Violetta ascends as she sings one of the main arias.
The short prmotional video below gives you a glimpse of this wonderful production.
Opera Australia is proud of its partnership with The International Foundation for Arts & Culture (IFAC) which has enabled Handa Opera to be staged in Sydney.
Founder and Chairman of IFAC, Dr Haruhisa Handa, a wealthy, philanthropic, Japanese businessman believes in:
Art’s unique ability to inspire hope, joy and unity amongst citizens from all walks of life, regardless of colour, culture or creed.
Although I have seen La Traviata before it was such a thrill to this superb performance in such an iconic setting.
1. All Images, other than my own photo, taken from the Program purchased at the opera
3. Text from the Program purchased at the opera