Sydney’s Opera on the Harbour: The Perfect Opera for People Who Hate Opera

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The first time I went to the opera was about 15 years ago to see La bohème at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. They sang in Italian and the costumes were stuffy; I was bored; it was the last opera I saw.
” data-reactid=”11″>The first time I went to the opera was about 15 years ago to see La bohème at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. They sang in Italian and the costumes were stuffy; I was bored; it was the last opera I saw.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That is until I went to a production of Giuseppe Verde’s Aida by&nbsp;Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour&nbsp;in March — and thoroughly enjoyed it. This harbor-side, outdoor opera is the perfect opera for people who hate opera.” data-reactid=”12″>That is until I went to a production of Giuseppe Verde’s Aida by Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour in March — and thoroughly enjoyed it. This harbor-side, outdoor opera is the perfect opera for people who hate opera.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Australia is, of course, famous for its unique and beautiful&nbsp;Sydney Opera House; more than 8.2 million people a year from all over the planet visit for performances that range from Madame Butterfly to Turandot. The opera theater there is intimate, the sound and performers are world class, and opera novices and aficionados alike consider it a bucket-list experience.” data-reactid=”13″>Australia is, of course, famous for its unique and beautiful Sydney Opera House; more than 8.2 million people a year from all over the planet visit for performances that range from Madame Butterfly to Turandot. The opera theater there is intimate, the sound and performers are world class, and opera novices and aficionados alike consider it a bucket-list experience.

But Opera on the Harbour is different. It’s like the new offspring of Sydney’s Opera House.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And it all started as daydream. According to Opera Australia artistic director, Lyndon Terracini, one day he was wandering through the Royal Botanical Gardens along the harbor in Sydney, taking in the view when he suddenly thought: “We should build an opera stage here.” His musings turned into a reality when he found out it was logistically possible, then secured financing from Japanese businessman Haruhisa Handa (hence the name) and the New South Wales government. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour was born, with its first performances (of La Traviata) in 2012. Every year since, Opera on the Harbour has gotten bigger and better. In 2013 it put on Carmen, then last year, Madame Butterfly, now Aida.” data-reactid=”15″>And it all started as daydream. According to Opera Australia artistic director, Lyndon Terracini, one day he was wandering through the Royal Botanical Gardens along the harbor in Sydney, taking in the view when he suddenly thought: “We should build an opera stage here.” His musings turned into a reality when he found out it was logistically possible, then secured financing from Japanese businessman Haruhisa Handa (hence the name) and the New South Wales government. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour was born, with its first performances (of La Traviata) in 2012. Every year since, Opera on the Harbour has gotten bigger and better. In 2013 it put on Carmen, then last year, Madame Butterfly, now Aida.

Opera on Sydney Harbour is reaching wider audiences than ever before, with good reason: It’s the ultimate Sydney experience, and it’s so much fun. Here’s why.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The view” data-reactid=”17″>The view

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That’s the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge to the right of the Aida set. (Leah Ginsberg)” data-reactid=”34″>That’s the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge to the right of the Aida set. (Leah Ginsberg)

The first thing you notice about Handa Opera is the setting. Walking into the open-air venue, it’s hard not to be awestruck by the scene: The set seems to float on the water, with the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge unmistakable in the background. The stage is also flanked, stage right, by the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Sydney skyline, city lights twinkling. I had just arrived in Sydney the day that I went to Opera on Sydney Harbour, and sitting in the seats, I had my first real “Wow, I’m in Sydney” moment.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The spectacle” data-reactid=”36″>The spectacle

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Aida is a love story at its core — a love triangle where an Egyptian, Amneris, and her Ethiopian princess-turned-slave, Aida, are both in love with the same man. But in the opera world, Aida is known to be a big production, and Handa doesn’t disappoint. This year’s Aida stage is actually larger than the stage in the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theater, and the centerpiece is a giant rotating Nefertiti head. The costumes are big and bold, with a modern touch — Aida’s dress is a contemporary take on African textiles, and her dreadlocked father, Ethiopian king Amonasro, looked like Adam Duritz playing a post apocalyptic warrior. The chorus’s costumes were glitzy and over-the-top. And there were fireworks — exploding overhead at one point — and the Triumphal March included the most well behaved real camels I’d ever seen. This all is in addition to two hours of glass-shattering singing. Though it was apparent even to my untrained ear that there are difficulties in amplifying and controlling the sound outdoors, it was almost beside the point thanks to sheer entertainment value of the production.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The stage” data-reactid=”56″>The stage

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It’s quite amazing how the Opera Australia team has built what is essentially a tiny metropolis (made up of the stage, 3000 seats, and caverns housing dressing rooms, sound and visual departments, and more) on the water to bring Aida to life. They also built a restaurant, a bar, and lounge. This insane feat of logistics takes months to create, runs for just about four weeks (this year until April 26), and then they tear the whole thing down and star planning for the following year. Though Terracini’s lips are sealed on exactly what’s in store for 2016: “We have a pretty big show that we’re going to do next year,”&nbsp;reveals Terracini. But Handa is funded through 2017. “An arts organization needs to be creative in its thought and in what it puts on stage, says Terracini. “The event that we do here after next year, if everything works out, will be a different sort of show to what we’ve done. It won’t necessarily be any smaller, but it will be a different area of the repertoire that we’d like to explore.”” data-reactid=”57″>It’s quite amazing how the Opera Australia team has built what is essentially a tiny metropolis (made up of the stage, 3000 seats, and caverns housing dressing rooms, sound and visual departments, and more) on the water to bring Aida to life. They also built a restaurant, a bar, and lounge. This insane feat of logistics takes months to create, runs for just about four weeks (this year until April 26), and then they tear the whole thing down and star planning for the following year. Though Terracini’s lips are sealed on exactly what’s in store for 2016: “We have a pretty big show that we’re going to do next year,” reveals Terracini. But Handa is funded through 2017. “An arts organization needs to be creative in its thought and in what it puts on stage, says Terracini. “The event that we do here after next year, if everything works out, will be a different sort of show to what we’ve done. It won’t necessarily be any smaller, but it will be a different area of the repertoire that we’d like to explore.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="WATCH: A Sampling of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s Aida (Video)” data-reactid=”58″>WATCH: A Sampling of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s Aida (Video)

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Related: 14 Guaranteed Ways to Humiliate Yourself in Australia” data-reactid=”63″>Related: 14 Guaranteed Ways to Humiliate Yourself in Australia

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