The highly anticipated production of La Traviata staged on Sydney harbour opened on Saturday night. This production has polarised opera lovers. Without doubt the performances are superlative and the concept of an open-air opera with the spectacle of Sydney harbour as a backdrop is irresistible. As to whether it is ‘opera’ – the verdicts on that proposition are rolling in.
As pure entertainment the idea has great merit. Just as Sydney ‘ does’ Opera, Symphony and Jazz in the Park, Opera on the Harbour aims to de-mystify and to entertain informally, eschewing the unspoken rules of the opera theatre which can seem daunting to neophytes.
As a hook for tourists, the event ticked several boxes, but the potential of tourists as longer term subscribers or supporters of the company is limited .
If one of the objectives was to make opera accessible to a new demographic, then the journey into the city and the cost of tickets and parking offered nothing new. Venues like Homebush Bay, Manly, Bondi or the Shire, whilst less charming than the harbour and not as iconic to tourists, may however have offered an opportunity for a truly different audience to experience opera.
Sydney’s open air fireworks parties are the envy of the world. It remains to be seen whether this event will draw more long-term audiences to ‘real’ opera, which is less about pyrotechnics and the level of overstatement required in such a large scale production. SdeS.