Sydney Opera House to reopen to the public in November

Sydney Opera House has lifted the curtain on a program of new Australian shows as it prepares to safely reopen its doors to the public from November.

Sydney Theatre Company's Rules for Life will mark the reawakening of the world-famous venue on November 2, a culturally significant moment for the performing arts sector in lockdown since March.

Major Sydney arts patrons, Opera House trustees, staff, and contractors have chipped in $1.2 million to fund up to 15 local productions at the world-famous venue, replacing international artists and acts grounded by COVID-19.

Indigenous World Art OrchestraCredit:Sydney Opera House

Chief executive Louise Herron said the initiative, New Work Now, was a response to the unprecedented impacts on artists, arts workers and audiences and would give local artists the chance to create and present new works.

Arts Minister, Don Harwin said: "The beauty of this initiative is how it will help rebuild our local arts and creative industries."

The first of the commissions will see Sydney Chamber Opera perform a new production of Diary of One Who Disappeared by Czech composer Leos Janacek.

The world premiere event has been entirely funded by French scholar and arts patron Prof Ross Steele and will be broadcast as part of the Opera House’s digital season From Our House to Yours on October 10.

CRUSH, by the Helpmann Award-winning company Branch Nebula, will follow in mid-November, the first of the supported works to be performed live.

Indigenous World Art Orchestra, a story of first contact accompanied by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and traditional rhythms, language, and cultural voices – all from a women's perspective – is in development for 2021.

The New Work Now initiative will span classical and contemporary music, First Nations, talks and ideas, contemporary performance, children and families, and digital works, director of programming Fiona Winning said.

Branch Nebula’s Crush is part Medieval research centre, part obsessive Bunnings shopping spree. Credit:Sydney Opera House

"The Opera House has always programmed contemporary work, often presenting work that is fully made, or whole, so to present more newly commissioned work is riskier but it is important at this moment," Winning said.

Donations for the program of new Australian work came from among board trustees Phillip Wolanski and wife Suzy, Deborah Mailman as well as Louise Herron, and long time supporters Helen Coonan, Ann Sherry, Penelope Seidler and George Miller.

Leading contractors working on renovations to the Opera House during the shutdown also contributed.

The Opera House is partnering with the Griffin Theatre Company to develop a new script in 2021 set in the post-coronavirus recession. The Bright Side of Bum Town, by Frieda Lee, will explore the excruciating choice facing parents of working longer hours to survive or spending time with family.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have a reason to sit down and work when so many artists are contemplating throwing in the towel because of COVID-19," Lee says. "And to get to do it at the Opera House is very special. Even my two-year-old is excited for me."

The Opera House welcomed 10.9 million visitors to the site in 2019, including more than 2.1 million performance and tour patrons. Last year Australia's largest arts employer the venue employed 1495 workers and generated $73.6 million at the box office.

From Our House to Yours, the Opera House's COVID-19 led program of live recordings, replayed concerts, and podcasts have received more than 5.6 million views and downloads, and 21 million minutes of content has been watched to date.

Steps towards live performances will be taken cautiously, with due regard to the health and safety of its audiences, Ms Winning said. The digital program would continue on "some level as not everybody will come back to theatre at the same time".

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