• Short Summary

    The Sydney Opera House has taken 14 year to build and cost more than 100 million Australian dollars (about GBP 60 million sterling - U.

  • Description

    The Sydney Opera House has taken 14 year to build and cost more than 100 million Australian dollars (about GBP 60 million sterling - U.S. $140 million). It is one of the most original and adventurous works of architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. A grand complex for the performing arts, conferences and exhibitions, its first festival season begins on September 28, 1973 and will be officially opened by Britain's Queen Elizabeth on October 20th.

    It's first presentation, the Australian Opera Company's production of Prokofiev's "War and Peace," might be an ironic commentary. Since it was decided to build the hall in 1954, it has been the subject of controversy.

    An international competition was held to find a design; it was won by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. His conception inspired by the yachts sailing in Sydney harbour, envisioned ten interlocking, vaulted, white shells, rising to 221 ft. (70 mtrs). It was a revolutionary departure from the tradition of four walls and a roof. Its critics said it could never be built, or if it were, would create a deafening wind tunnel, in which the one-and-a-half acres (0.6 hectares) of interior glass walls would shatter.

    Construction began on March 2, 1959. It was meant to last two years and cost less than 10 million Australian dollars (GBP 6 million U.S. $14). As schedules lengthened and costs soared, public criticism of the project swelled to a roar. Tax-money was not involved as it was finished by a State-run lottery, but the money would otherwise have gone to hospitals and not, as one politician put it, "to the benefit of snobs." In 1966, Mr. Utzon resigned over expenses and was replaced by a consortium of three Sydney Architects. The resulting row brought students, architects and artists out in street demonstrations.

    There was more controversy about the interior. Opera fans ware infuriated that the Concert Hall was given more room than the Opera. The building also contains a drama theatre, cinema chamber music hall, two smaller halls, an exhibition area and two restaurants. Total capacity is around 6,650.

    The controversy will not cease. It has no car park, and it will be immensely expensive to run. But it has already become a Sydney land mark. For the past two months, tourists have been queuing to pay 50 cents (32 pence, 70 U.S. cents) for a peek inside.

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