Images of the renewed Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House: Daniel Boud

The Sydney Opera House has provided a glimpse of the changes that audiences will see when the world-famous Joan Sutherland Theatre (JST) re-opens on New Year’s Eve, after seven months of renewal works.

As the $71 million-dollar works in the JST enter their final stages, NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin MLC, and Opera House Resident Company, Opera Australia attended the first behind-the-scenes tour since the venue closed in May this year.

The Opera House funded the $45 million upgrade of theatre machinery that had reached the end of its operational life, while the NSW Government contributed $26 million to enable additional venue improvements to take place.

Together, these major works will transform the experience of artists, audiences and staff in the much-loved theatre when the venue officially reopens on New Year’s Eve with Opera Australia’s The Merry Widow. Key upgrades include:

  • New theatre flying system that is quieter, safer and more reliable;
  • Improved grid deck providing a more flexible system of hoists and a clearer, more open work area;
  • Partial replacement of the auditorium lighting and a new sound console and follow spot room;
  • Upgraded orchestra pit and the installation of a state-of-the-art acoustic enhancement system to improve playing conditions for musicians and better distribute orchestral sound around the JST; and
  • Six additional female toilets to better service audience members.

Work on a number of accessibility upgrades will continue after the JST reopens, including a new passageway on the western side of the venue leading to a new lift to provide greater accessibility to all levels of the Northern Foyer and a new accessible bathroom. These works are due for completion in mid-2018.

The JST upgrade is the first part of a larger program of Renewal works at the Opera House totaling $273 million. This includes a $202 million investment by the NSW Government in upgrades to the Concert Hall, entry foyers and arrival area under the Monumental Steps and function centre and a new creative learning centre.

In preparation for the reopening, Opera Australia’s production team are part of an extensive training and bump-in program and members of the orchestra are involved in testing the new acoustic upgrades.

The JST is one of the Opera House’s busiest venues with around 330 performances per year, including opera, ballet, contemporary music, talks and ideas. Work on the venue has been carried out by Principal Contractor Laing O’Rourke as well as a number of specialist companies, including world-leading acoustic engineers Müller BBM and engineering firm Waagner-Biro.

For more information about the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House visit: