This week we have a great comment from James McCarthy about living in Sydney. James was a contributor on our recent Olympics discussion. It is a vivid and warm picture he paints of living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Over to James: If you live in Sydney and you love music and theatre, as I do, you can make a reasonable guess that you will end up inside the Sydney Opera House quite regularly. And you would be right.
Taking a birds eye view of the city – let’s say you are flying high above the harbour – if you look down you would see a great, broken waterway with a rambling city spread all around it. At its narrowest point is the Sydney Harbour Bridge; the famous arch that they try to melt down each new year with spectacular fireworks.
Nearby, right next to the down town area, is the Opera House. From this height it looks glorious, a real picture post card view, the famous white sailed roof flashing in the bright sunlight, surrounded on three sides by water of the deepest blue.
However, for those music lovers like me, who spend a great deal of time within its halls, appearances can be deceptive. You see, we got the outside right, but due to political interference during construction, we got the interiors wrong. Despite what you read, the acoustics are not so good. The concert hall and the opera theatre are musically compromised. You won’t read about that in the promotional press.
Nonetheless, I spend many happy hours there, as the Sydney Symphony, Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet and the various theatre companies, play to very high standards.
Part of that pleasure is getting there; which may seem a strange thing to say, as Sydney traffic can be heavy. I live on the northern side of the city, which means that I have to cross the harbour bridge to get to the city proper. I can drive, but once you add in the bridge toll and the ruinous cost of parking the car in the casinos masquerading as parking stations, other means are more attractive. My best option is to drive to one of the ferry wharves where there is free parking and go by sea. At any time of the night or day, rain or shine, a harbour trip is a lovely experience. Best of all, the ferries all terminate at Circular Quay, which is only a10 minutes walk from the Opera House.
During this time of contemplation on the ferry, I usually ruminate on the loveliness of the harbour or the wonderful show I have just seen in the great building. I also think on the foolishness and expediency of politicians who would rather spend millions on yet another sporting fixture rather than fix up the acoustical problems in the opera house of which they say they are so proud. Well I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you about the expediency of politicians.
This week, I made that familiar journey once again. This time to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the magical opera by Benjamin Britten. Next week it will be Bliss, a new opera by the Australian composer, Brett Dean. John Bell, our greatest Shakespearean actor, is currently performing his craggy King Lear in the drama theatre. If I want to I can take in lighter fare with Harry Connick, Junior, or a contemporary dance piece, Good Morning Mr Gershwin.
Then again, if nothing takes my fancy, I can stay at home in my leafy suburb, only disturbed by the lawn mower next door, or the occasional plane passing overhead to land at the airport to the city’s south. Compared to the problems faced by so many others in the wider world, I really can’t complain.