Joan Sutherland lives on at the Sydney Opera House – Opera Theatre renamed

Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House
Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Dame Joan Sutherland’s husband Richard Bonynge AC CBE, and members of the Bonynge and Sutherland families were in Sydney yesterday for the official renaming of Sydney Opera House’s Opera Theatre to the Joan Sutherland Theatre.

Set beneath the smaller of Sydney Opera House’s two sails, the proscenium arch lyric theatre is the Opera House’s second largest interior venue and while it was originally intended for symphony, it has become a key performance space for both Opera Australia and The Australia Ballet – and was recently home to the acclaimed production of South Pacific starring opera sensation Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

This lasting tribute to one of the world’s greatest singers, who was described by Pavarotti as having the ‘voice of the century’ is only the second of its kind to take place at the world-heritage listed building. Since its opening in 1973, only the architect of the venue Jørn Utzon has been honoured similarly.

“I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Dame Joan – her contribution to the Sydney Opera House and the Opera Theatre was immeasurable,” Mr O’Farrell said.

Dame Joan Sutherland – affectionately known by her fans as ‘La Stupenda’ attracted some of the greatest opera singers in the world to perform with her in front on the Opera House stage, and as Premier O’Farrell said “Dame Joan put the Sydney Opera House on the world’s performing arts’ map.”

Born in Sydney, Dame Joan Sutherland gave her famous farewell performance at the Opera Theatre (now Joan Sutherland Theatre) 22 years ago in October 1990.

Mr Bonynge said the renaming of the Opera Theatre after his late wife was a great honour.

“I am more than delighted the Opera Theatre will be re-named as a tribute to my late wife Dame Joan Sutherland and so is the whole Bonynge family. They are actually very thrilled and feel very honoured,” Mr Bonynge said.

Dame Joan’s contribution to the world of opera was acknowledged with a number of honours, including Australian of the Year in 1961, a companion of the Order of Australia in 1975 and a Dame of the British Empire in 1979.

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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