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Compare and contrast the Royal Opera House, London with the Sydney Opera House

There are many similarities between the Royal Opera House in London and the Sydney Opera House, and a more unfortunate similarity is that they have been both affected by financial issues, for the construction and renovation of both of them.

In an environment of economic stress in industry and commerce all around the world, the construction of the Sydney Opera House came into trouble after Jorn Utzon - the architect who planned the building - left the project in 1966. This was a time which was marked by rapidly increasing construction and materials costs due to inflation, alongside rapidly increasing costs in labor (Wilkinson, 1995). Due to rising cost and numerous setbacks, the Sydney Opera House took 16 years to build and on the whole cost 102 million Australian Dollars. The building, which is now as iconic as any major building in the world, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on the 20th of October 1973.

The Royal Opera House, which was originally the Covent Garden Opera Company, has had similar economic problems. In the summer and autumn months of 1997, efforts to renovate the Royal Opera House put it on the brink of bankruptcy on two separate occasions. In November of that year, it was widely recognized as the biggest sink hole for art subsidies in the UK, with the Opera House having debts of 7.7 million pounds at the end of the financial year (Glaister, 1997). By the time the renovation of the building was completed, which was December 1999, the debt had sky rocketed to 178 million pounds.

Both buildings have had similar financial worries, and both buildings have also uses similar methods of fundraising to help pay the debt that accumulated. New South Wales created a fund for the Sydney Opera House, called the Opera House Lottery, which was a combination of just under five hundred lotteries. This effort was successful, and was able to pay almost the entire cost of $101 million. England used a combination of different funds from different sources, including 56 million pounds from the National Lottery fund, 25 million pounds a year in tax funds, and donations from rich sponsors and benefactors, such as Dame Vivien Duffield (TheStage, Royal Opera House webpage).

In conclusion, although both the English and Australian Opera houses mentioned in this study suffered different controversies and funding strife, they were able to defeat the problems facing them, and in doing so, provide each of their respective countries with a continuation of culture and world class entertainment. The designer of the Spanish Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, Frank Gehry, stated that the reason for the problems of both the construction and maintenance of these buildings was the wrongful mixing of business, public interest, and politics. The fact seems to be that the delivery of very large projects such as these benefits from the exclusion of politics, so that designers and contractors are given the freedom they need to get the job done.

References

  1. Glaister, Dan (1997). Going bust - the opera. The Guardian, November 10. p.1(1).
  2. Rodgers, Emma (2005). Opera House an architectural 'tragedy'. ABC News Online. April 4.
  3. Sydney Opera House - data. Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005 [Internet]. [Accessed 19 June 2006].
  4. Top 100 in the Arts. TheStage [Internet].
  5. Wilkinson, Joseph F. (1995) High buildings, high bridges, high wages. Engineering News-Record, v234 n1 p. 57(1).
  6. About the ROH- History. RoyalOperaHouse [Internet]. Available from: [Accessed 19 July 2006].
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