Sunday, 24 April 2016

# 4 - Sydney Opera House

The say a picture speaks a thousand words.  Sadly, my high school english teacher disagreed when I handed in ten pictures of a book instead of a ten thousand word book review.  Of course, that never really happened, and was just a link for me to make the claim that the best reviews of the Sydney Opera House are the many stunning photographs that include the Opera House as their focal point.  I will still try to write some words on it though.

The traditional side on view

The less common view from the front, or back - I'm not really sure which
In actual fact, the Sydney Opera House, like most spectacular photography subjects, looks even better in person.  There are details that the human eye can just pick up more effectively than any camera lens.  The movement of the waves and the constant activity in the harbour generally enhances the scene, rather than detracting from it.  Even just being in the open air adds to the appeal significantly.

The approach from Macquarie Street

Bird's eye view
The Sydney Opera House is located in the central area of Sydney, on a piece of land called Bennelong Point.  The location is sensational just in terms of natural surroundings.  The piece of land is a small peninsula (I think, I probably should have paid more attention to geography lessons in school), which juts out into Sydney Harbour.  This means it has water on three sides, giving it expansive open views on all sides.

The night-time version of the traditional side on shot

A view from the ferry on the way past
In its own right, the purely natural environment of Sydney Opera House makes it a place worth visiting.  Add to that the man made surroundings, and it gets even better.  You have the second of Sydney's world famous man made structures, the Harbour Bridge, dominating the landscape to one side.  You have the iconic Sydney skyline to another side, adding another element to the naturally beautiful harbour.  And then you also have the Royal Botanic Gardens, ensuring that the landscape retains a natural presence to counteract the glass and concrete sky scrapers in the CBD.

With the start of the Botanic Gardens and the city skyline in the background

A close up view from the terrace during an interval in the opera
I think it is saying something that I've been raving about the Sydney Opera House for three paragraphs, and haven't even mentioned the building itself yet.  The Opera House is an incredibly unique, innovative design.  If you plonked it in the middle of an industrial estate, it would still be worth visiting.  Put it in one of the most stunning natural locations on earth, and it is absolutely breathtaking.

Is it really necessary for that light to be that bright?

From the Pylon Lookout on the Harbour Bridge - no surprise they never bothered to fit curtains to this window
The Opera House is actually three different buildings.  The largest building is the one closest to the Harbour Bridge, with the adjacent building actually being slightly smaller.  There is then a third building which is quite a bit smaller, located next to the largest building, at its south side.  Each of them are functional, and are used for various events.

It even looks nice in the rain
It's difficult to understand what makes some buildings more attractive than others.  After all, every major building is designed by an architect, and I imagine very few design them with the intention of making them look ugly.  However, the mixture of curves, angles and sharp edges on the Opera House just combine to make a structure that is very pleasing on the eye.

A bit grainy, but I think that is the moon on the left of the picture

It's hard to concentrate on the cinema when the background contains the Opera House
I've heard people comment that the Opera House was smaller than they expected.  This quite obviously depends on how big you expect it to be.  For me, it was roughly the size I expected. Another thing that surprises some people is that it is not actually pure white.  It can appear brilliant white in the bright sunshine, but it is a mixture of white and cream.  The one other thing that can be slightly surprising is that the surface is not completely smooth, but is made up of over 1 million small tiles.  There's a thin line between boring and interesting sometimes.  I'll let you decide which side that nugget of information falls on.

From the North shore of the harbour at Kirribilli - still haven't found a bad angle
It looks incredible on a bright sunny day, as the sun makes it appear perfectly white, which contrasts beautifully with the bright blue sky and sea, and the green surroundings provided by the Royal Botanic Gardens.  However, it is equally appealing at night, when the lights really highlight every curve and bring out some of the subtle features of the design.  One other thing to mention is the annual Vivid festival, when a variety of bright colours and designs are projected on to the side of the Opera House.  There can't be many more inspirational canvases to display these designs.

From the water during the Vivid Festival
It really is just a beautiful building.  Many of the great things to do in Sydney involve looking at the Opera House from various different angles.  It is such a unique design, that it is fascinating to look at from the many different vantage points.  Whether you look at it up close, from a distance, from above, below, front, back, side - you get the picture.  It's a nice building.

The Opera House becomes a giant projector screen during the Vivid festival
It feels like I should probably mention the inside of the building as well.  This is the one area where I'm slightly less than glowing about the Opera House.  There's not much wrong with the inside, but it just doesn't quite live up to the stratospheric standards set by the outside of the building.

Another angle during the Vivid festival
The areas at the front of the interior have large windows with nice views out over the harbour.  The lobbies and foyers are functional but unspectacular.  The theatre halls themselves are also nothing special to my unsophisticated eyes.  I've heard the acoustics are supposed to be very good, but if they are, the difference was too subtle for my uneducated ear to detect.  Again, there is nothing wrong with them, but they just look like standard theatre halls.  There are bars, cafes and restaurants which are all very nice, but, for me, nothing amazing.  There are regular renovations to the interiors, so some of these may have improved, or be in the process of being improved.

It's almost like they designed the Opera House with the Vivid festival in mind
I started this review by pointing out that the pictures speak for themselves, so I think I will stop now. I'm not sure that anyone really needs me to tell them that the Sydney Opera House is an incredibly special place, and definitely one of the top things to do in Sydney.

A little fireworks display to bring in the new year
Have I over-sold the Sydney Opera House?  Or alternatively, have my words and pictures failed to do it justice?  Please insert some words into the comments box below.  Preferably ones that form a sentence that conveys your thoughts or questions.

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