Opera Australia Blog

Record attendances show an appetite for opera

By Bryce Hallett

AudienceMadama Butterfly has attracted the highest attendance figures since Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour began in 2012. More than 42,500 came to the 20-performance season at Mrs Macquaries Point. Of that number, about half were opera first-timers.

The acclaimed outdoor epic generated strong word-of-mouth on social media. The comments posted ranged from “extraordinary accomplishment” (Monica Attard via Twitter) to “wow, blown away …” (Jason Dawson via Twitter).

Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini said that Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour had become an iconic cultural event for Sydney.

“The rise in attendance figures clearly shows there is an appetite. …It’s gratifying to see how much audiences have enjoyed this stunning season, and that they are voting with their feet! Congratulations to director Àlex Ollé and the entire creative team of La Fura Dels Baus, and our magnificent singers, who together have made Madama Butterfly such a big success.”

Terracini revealed that this year’s event had fulfilled his long-held goal of reaching a broad audience and breaking down stereotypes about who actually goes to the opera.

Madama Butterfly is everything I wanted it to be. We pushed the boundaries further this year in terms of artistic innovation. We wanted to make the production more narrative-driven and not just spectacle-driven … What we achieved was a combination of both but the work had depth and it had meaning for today’s audiences.”

After the final performance, it was announced that future funding has been confirmed by Destination NSW and Dr Haruhisa Handa

Dr Handa said he was delighted to have played a role in bringing the artistic director’s vision to fruition. “Opera Australia has brought a magical new opera event to Sydney – one that the city should be very proud of … I look forward to our continued partnership.”

Lyndon Terracini said Opera Australia was grateful for Dr Handa’s ongoing commitment and support. “There are never any guarantees – it’s not as though there’s a money tree – and having such a generous partner can never be taken for granted.”

Praised by critics and the public alike, Madama Butterfly has been filmed for cinema, TV and DVD release. We look forward to announcing the cinema and DVD release later this year, as well as screening on ABC TV later down the track.

7 Responses to “Record attendances show an appetite for opera”

  1. Eileen Tang

    I went on Wednesday the 9th April with my friend Bonnie,and we thought the show
    was splendid, perfect night. The cast were all wonderful but Hiiromi Omura was a stand out brilliant performance. The sets were incredible. It was a most impressive performance and the one I loved the most, my favourite music.
    I have been fortunate to see the 3 Operas on Sydney Harbour in fine weather.
    Look forward to next year.
    Superb cooncept.

    • Nicholas Siebold

      I hope some day Eileen you will see a real opera at the Opera House or some other venue. I have never been to these circuses and have no intention of going, but I have subscribed for over 30 years and have seen over 300 performances of real live opera, where you can see the orchestra in the pit, the performance is live, unplugged, without amplification. In these Handa productions, the singers could just as well lip sync to a recording. You only think it isn’t because they tell you. How do you really know there is an orchestra under the stage? How do you know they are not lip syncing? In real opera there is no room to hide. For a real opera experience, forget about being seduced by the harbour and the lights and the simple minded spectacular of this crap. It is a phoney, shallow and dumbed down travesty of the art form.

  2. kate lumley

    From the minute I walked into the bamboo garden set, I felt exhilarated. The performance, the set, the soft rain highlighted in the spotlights, made it one of the best nights of my life. Truly.

  3. Nicholas Siebold

    If Mr Terracini is expecting to increase the audience for proper, real opera on the opera stage, the comments above show the presentation of the pop so called Opera on the Harbour ain’t doing it.
    Eileen Tang has been three times to the Terracini circus and not once, it would appear, to the Opera Theatre.
    Kate Lumley walked into the set. What, drunk?
    Mr Terracini, why don’t you produce an animated version in 3D? Now that would really get the punters in.

    • Dr Jason James

      Dear Nicholas,

      I would first like to highlight the fact that I bear absolutely no connection to Eileen Tang or Kate Lumley.

      Now onto business, Eileen has only claimed to have attended three Opera on Sydney Harbour events, but never did she claim not to have seen an opera in the Opera House itself. Your observation made on the basis of her comment is invalid, purely because it doesn’t possess enough information for you to make such a judgment

      Now onto the issue of the Opera on Sydney Harbour event itself, I am fortunate that my flute teacher frequently performs as Principal Flute for orchestras including the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony to name a few, and consequently I attend more than a fair share of performances. Having seen many operas in both the Sydney Opera House and having attended this performance as my first Opera on Sydney Harbour experience, I argue that the event is just as special as seeing a Sydney Opera House performance, in different ways. It may not be as “pure” as you like it to be, but frankly it is more than pure enough for me. It was a splendid performance and the singing by Hiromi Omura was incredible.

      Having previously attended Madama Butterfly in 2012, also with Hiromi Omura at the Sydney Opera House I can emphatically say both performances were equally special, and dare I say it, this was even better. The Opera on Sydney Harbour allows much more creativity and spectacle than can be achieved in a small opera theatre, particularly one like the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre. With the issue of the music itself, I was not disappointed with the Harbour performance, it was world-class to say the least.

      While I do not claim to have quite as much experience with attending operas as you do, Nicholas (you apparently have been subscribing for much longer than I’ve even been on this planet) I regardless possess a notable degree of experience and most importantly, I have actually attended performances of both kinds. If you’re basing your argument off the fact that Eileen is supposedly devoid of experience in opera and therefore has no right to pass judgment then I believe you should be held by the same standard. You have made it perfectly clear that you have never attended the Opera on Sydney Harbour event and are therefore not qualified to pass judgment on something you have no experience in.

      I hate to sink to ad hominem at this stage but as you have indeed sunk to this level with regards to Kate Lumley, I will – there’s no need to be so cynical and snarky, Mr Siebold. With all due respect, you sound like a bitter old man loathe to opening up opera to the masses. I can surely imagine you sitting in the Joan Sutherland Theatre and groaning when an individual under the age of 60 is seated next to you, how unfortunate… for them, I mean. It’s the attitude held by people like you that the elitist perception of opera still exists.

      I highly applaud Opera Australia’s fantastic effort with regards to the calibre of their productions, and especially to their endeavour to appeal to the masses, despite people like Nicholas hoping for otherwise.


      Dr Jason James

      • Harriet Bourikas

        In reply to Dr Jason James,

        thank you Jason, for expressing what others like myself were thinking when reading such negative comments.

        I have attended opera sparingly over the past 20 years of my life, whenever i have had the chance to treat myself, and this year was my first ever Handa Opera. Despite the insisting rain throughout the performance, which i appreciated as something that i could never have experienced in the traditional setting, it was as superb as all the performances i have had the pleasure of seeing to date.

        I took my boys to their first ever opera experience on the harbour, and have no doubt that it was a good way to introduction the world of opera to them.

        I look forward to more of the wonderful talent that comes with Australian Opera in the future.


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