Sachi R

Obiter dicta on music, men and matters

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The Sydney Opera House

Posted by rsachi on November 24, 2009

This is a magnificent structure, and Sydney is duly proud of it. It was conceived and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who in 2003 received the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honour. The citation stated

“ There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent. ”

The Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007. It is one of the 20th century’s most distinctive buildings, and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world.

Utzon won a contest to design and erect an Opera House, and conceived of a design which was easy to “manufacture” and erect. In fact the entire structure is largely cement, ceramic tiles and wooden interiors.  There is a plaque showing how the structure which evokes visions of sails blowing in the harbour actually is made up of parts of the surface of a sphere, which can be cleverly divided up. That was the way the tiles were made in Sweden and transported all the way here.

I understand that Utzon was accused of underballing the cost estimate, which was over-run several times, and he was in fact dismissed towards the end. Sadly, he was not even at the inauguration ceremony. You can read more about it here.

I attended a grand eight piano concert here. All Steinways. The atmosphere was electric. The Australian pianists as well as the presenter were a huge revelation. And finally, after we had soaked up a wonderfully rich feast of profound music, one of the pianists went up to the organ. The Sydney Opera House organ is perhaps the largest in the world, weighs tons, and looms impressively in that magnificent concert hall. The organ made an absolutely mind-blowing impact. And the eight Steinways sounded like a feeble chorus of priests propitiating God himself. Think of Vishwaroopa Darshana.

The organ is located so high that the pianist had refused to go up there as he would have to look down from such a great height into the cavity of that huge concert hall. He agreed to go and play, only after they agreed that he would be screened off from the audience. There was therefore a black screen behind him, but his dimunitive figure was nothing compared to the grand, glowing sight of that spectacular organ.

Steinway supplied the original piano that Edison used to record the first sounds on his phonograph. I think it was Handel’s Messiah. Edison, world’s greatest inventor, was amazed by the quality of sound that the piano could reproduce, and wrote,

What great works are wrought by man, and think of the One who made him!

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