Opera on Sydney Harbour a resounding success

Opera Australia’s experiment to take opera beyond the theatre and place it on the harbour has been declared an undeniable success. On a tailor-made stage built out over the water, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: La Traviata exceeded its sales target of $6 million, with an incredible statistic of over 50% of audiences being new to opera, over its three-week season.

Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.
Emma Matthews as Violetta. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Around 40,000 people attended one of the eighteen performances and the run concluded on April 15. In collaboration with Destination NSW and Tourism Australia Opera Australia was able to attract these record audience numbers from across the globe, as well as from Sydney and interstate Australia.

The sweeping production with a giant chandelier and fireworks involved over 750 people, which included 140 artists, 570 staff and crew (production, administration, construction, catering, cleaners, ushers, and security) and 60 volunteers.

“Opera Australia’s success in staging this ambitious and audacious production on the water with the city skyline, Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as backdrop to a firework-laden opera has created memories that will last a lifetime,” said NSW Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Arts George Souris.

“Opera Australia has a successful and entrepreneurial duo in Chief Executive Adrian Collette and Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini and their success is to be congratulated.”

Photo by James Morgan
Photo by James Morgan

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will return in 2013, featuring Bizet’s opera Carmen. It will be directed by Gale Edwards (La boheme), working with designer Brian Thomson who will return after this year’s event to again create something unforgettable and spectacular.

Opera on the Harbour… it’s an event that could be here to stay.


Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney. She studied communication and media at the University of Newcastle, where she began honing her professional writing and critical analysis skills, as well as publishing creative works in several journals and magazines. She has previously reviewed music and theatre for numerous online hubs including LiveGuide, BroadwayWorld Australia, and Time Out Sydney. Cassie can usually be found in a theatre foyer somewhere soaking up the atmosphere.

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