The Sydney Opera House – Viewed from the Stage
By Elaina Stuppler
This summer, I had the incredible honor of playing the trombone with a high school honor band at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable and creatively designed buildings in the world landing on the UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage List in 2007 and is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!
Located on 4.5 acres of land at Bennelong Point in Sydney’s harbor, the Opera House stands as an architectural masterpiece. The mind behind its design is Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who was selected from 233 entrants from a global competition in 1957. Utzon’s unique design of the Opera House shells mimics a boat’s sails in the Sydney Harbor.
More than 10,000 construction workers were involved in building the Opera House and over one million roof tiles were shipped from Sweden. The special glass for the exterior was made in France; each year, 15,500 light bulbs have to be changed inside the building. Notably, the Opera House is also home to the world’s largest mechanical-tracker action pipe organ, created by Ronald Sharp in a decade-long construction process. This remarkable organ contains an impressive 10,154 pipes!
The Sydney Opera House has two main halls, five theaters, several rehearsal studios, six bars, and four restaurants. The concert hall has a seating capacity of 2,679, providing a stage for a wide array of performances including opera, music concerts, theater productions, ballet performances, comedy acts, and children’s shows. The temperature is always 72.5 degrees to keep the instruments in tune!
In 1960, Paul Robeson was the first “unofficial” artist to perform when he sang “Ol’ Man River” to the construction workers as they ate lunch. In 1973, the first opera presented at the Sydney Opera House was War and Peace , composed by Sergei Prokofiev.
Originally slated for a four-year construction period, the Sydney Opera House project ultimately spanned a fourteen-year timeline, ending with its completion in 1973. The original cost was $7 million, but its final price was $102 million. Due to architect Jørn Utzon exceeding the budget, the Australian government stopped payments to him. The lack of financial support led to Utzon’s resignation from the task in 1966, and he never returned to Australia to witness the completed project. Instead, Australian architect Peter Hall was hired to finish the Opera House.
After learning the history and construction of the Sydney Opera House, it felt surreal to see it in person, let alone from the stage. Observing the care and detail that went into every crevice and inch of the space, I felt fortunate to play a small part in the performance history of the landmark.
Elaina Stuppler is an award-winning composer and singer. She attended Crossroads School for the Arts in Santa Monica, California where she studied vocal arts, composing, trombone, violin, and recently received the U.S. President’s Education Award.
The Oregon Symphony named Elaina as their first Luna Composition Lab recipient where her piece, Anxious Alignment, had its world premiere at their 125th Gala Anniversary. The Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony have also commissioned pieces by her. Elaina is a member of the Young Composers Project and will have her orchestral composition debuted in 2023.