There are many ways to experience the Sydney Opera House, either admiring the building’s impressive roof line from a vantage point in Sydney Harbor, attending a performance in the main concert hall or one of the many performance spaces throughout the complex, or enjoying one of the group tours offered to visitors. I was lucky enough to be offered another way, a private, behind-the-scenes tour that helped me see the Sydney Opera House like an insider.
The most notable thing I learned about the Opera House from my energetic tour guide, Bruce, was that this building is truly enormous. We only had time to visit a few of the many spaces dedicated to the producing the world-class entertainment for which the venue is so famous. What we did see, and what I got to fully experience was a glimpse of what it’s really like to work on one of these performances. From a humbling walk on the enormous main stage, facing the over 2,000 empty seats in the auditorium, to standing in the spot where the conductor takes charge of the orchestra for each performance and getting to hold the baton, to trying out a few ballet moves in the main rehearsal room, to standing backstage among the massive set pieces that must be moved on and off the main stage during a performance, it was amazing to see what goes into a production.
In addition to these spaces, there are over 300 corridors and around one thousand individual rooms in the complex. Some are rehearsal spaces, some are recording studios for video or audio and some are dressing rooms. I was privileged to get a sneak peek at one of the more elaborate dressing rooms used for the top stars that perform at the Opera House. This spacious room featured a beautiful view out over the water to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Lesser stars might have to make do with a smaller room featuring only a mirror for a view but this room, which I learned had been used by Prince himself, even included a grand piano. Again, I was able to put myself in the shoes of the artists who make magic at the Opera House and bang out a short tune on the keys.
After touring the Opera House in a quiet moment behind the scenes, the only thing left to do was to see how it all comes together by attending a performance. The show running while I was there was “My Fair Lady” and even as a newly minted Sydney Opera House expert, I was still dazzled.