REWIND: From The Australian, October 20, 2003
AS the Sydney Opera House celebrates its 30th anniversary today, two men on opposite sides of the country are remembering the role they played in securing a coup for Australian opera.
In 1973, the year the Opera House opened, Perth resident Rex Hobcroft was the director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, now known as the Sydney Conservatorium.
Among its student ranks was a young, upand-coming soprano, Yvonne Kenny.
On July 26 that year, these students, along with professional opera singers such as Harold Blair and Ronal Jackson, gave the first performance in the new opera theatre, conducted by Hobcroft, three months before it was officially opened by the Queen on October 20.
While the opening night had been slated for July 25, an industrial dispute put an end to that, Hobcroft recalled. But on the following day a full house watched a matinee performance of James Penberthy and Mary Durack’s Dalgerie. The second piece was Larry Sitsky and Gwen Harwood’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Sitsky, now living in Canberra, said it was obvious from the first performances there were problems with the new $100 million building [including] too little wing space, machinery that threatened to ‘‘ chew up’’ musicians in the orchestra pit and seats where ‘‘ you couldn’t see a thing’’. ‘‘ We smuggled some press in,’’ Sitsky said. ‘‘ They had a field day prowling around, pointing out the deficiencies. We weren’t very popular.’’