But don’t worry; those sails aren’t going anywhere.
Specifically, the state-funded AUS$202-million renovation is designed to eliminate acoustical flaws that have plagued the facility since it opened in 1973. Most of the improvements will take place in the Concert Hall—one of six separate venues underneath the white sails. By the time all of the repairs are finished in 2021, experts say the Opera House acoustics should rival those found at other great performance spaces around the world.
Problems with the facility’s acoustics stem from the ceilings—the same roof that makes the Opera House one of the most recognizable buildings in the world also collects and traps sound so performers (and audiences, for that matter) can’t hear the music the way it’s supposed to be heard. According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a new ceiling will be installed with “sonic reflectors” that essentially will bounce sound back down toward the audience and stage.
As part of the improvements, the stage will be lowered and the backstage area expanded. Also, the existing air-conditioning system—which is the size of four shipping containers—will be removed, and a new, sleeker, and more efficient air-conditioning system will be installed under the seating area.
Elsewhere “under the sails,” the modernization project will include the construction of a new foyer space, outdoor seating areas, a function center for social events, and a new learning center for visiting children and families. The Opera House also will undergo remediation to become more handicapped-accessible.
Although the Opera House will remain open during all of this construction, officials said they expect the Concert Hall to be closed from August 2019 to January 2021. Some of the other venues—including the Joan Sutherland Theatre, home to the Australian Ballet—will close for certain periods of time as well.
Our advice? If you’re itching to experience performing arts on an upcoming trip to Australia, check the Opera House website for construction updates and closure information before you go.
And if you’re serious about your photos (or your Pokémon), fear not—the exterior of the facility will remain untouched. You can still get that killer pic of the Opera House to show your friends or share with the world on Instagram.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com