REWIND: From The Aus­tralian, Oc­to­ber 20, 2003

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines -

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.’’

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