Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera has been staged in numerous ways since its 1986 premiere at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Now, Opera Australia’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has created a stunning visual feast in a new staging of Webber’s classic musical.
Venturing to the Handa Opera’s custom built home on Sydney Harbour’s bay parallel to the Sydney Opera House felt like exploring a hidden oasis developed just for us. With multiple ways of getting there, the venue is easily accessible.
Parking is available for an affordable $10 evening rate at the Domain Carpark with a free shuttle bus available to take you to and from the venue. Alternatively, you can park closer to the Sydney Opera House for a meal and drinks before taking the scenic walk along the Botanical Gardens pier that hugs the harbour. If this option seems too far, then never fear, there is also food and drinks available at their pop-up bars in the venue itself. NOTE: The Botanic Gardens gates shut in the evening so best to check the closure times and take a different route if needed.
I chose the former option of the convenient shuttle bus and safely arrived at the venue to swiftly collect my tickets before strolling through the gorgeously lit paths leading to the theatre. Faces of the Phantom’s mask adorned the pathways, allowing you to start fixing your mind on the performance ahead.
With this being an outdoors performance, the weather gods have to be favourable. Honestly, this was a concern leading up to the evening, but with a stable umbrella and sturdy rain jacket equipped, the excitement for this experience never faltered. This was confirmed when Gabriela Tylesova’s set came into view. With the Sydney Opera House and Bridge as background piece, the foreground featured half of a theatre arch that felt like it was plucked straight from the Opera Garnier in Paris. A grand (and I mean grand) staircase swept up from the tilted stage to swerve around the circular oval below and into the archway of the theatre curtains. And of course, dangling from a crane, was the ever so famous chandelier. To say my jaw dropped would be an understatement.
Due to the intense weather in Sydney in recent weeks, I had the context that this would be a Tech Rehearsal for the cast and crew. This was later restated by OA’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini as he welcomed us to the evenings performance, reminding us that there may be occasional stops and starts along the way. However, the amount of times this occurred was minimal in what my expectation and experience of tech runs was.
Led by the tour de force performance of Georgina Hopson’s Christine Daaé, the large ensemble powered ahead with occasional stops and technical changes, none of which seemed to phase them or the audience.
Indeed, the mixture of all of the facets of the performance and technical feats required is significant. From Nick Schlieper’s Lighting Design, to Gabriela Tylesova’s small changes to Joshua Robson’s Phantom costume, as well as the genius use of the bay itself – floating the Phantom’s boat above the harbour was incredible to watch – I was overwhelmed at times with the stunning visual buffet that was on display.
At times when the performance had to stop and sets had to be restructured or moved, casting my eyes over to the left and just seeing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the background was enough to remind me of how captivating the venue actually was. Perhaps my favourite visual in the show was during ‘All I Ask of You’ when Callum Francis’ Raoul and Hopson’s Christine were confessing their love, the ominous shadow of the Phantom himself could be seeing surveying the scene cast against the city skyline. It’s images like this that I wish I could have snapped and framed for musical moment bragging rights.
After the evenings performance concluded, I was left with only one thought: I have to get tickets to watch the full performance! If this was the preview and tech run of the show, then the full scale performance must be even more captivating.
In essence, this is a must see production for any fan of musical theatre, Opera or live entertainment. If this is what we can expect from the return of theatre after our unstable Covid-filled few years, then I am all in!
Tickets for Handa Opera’s Phantom of the Opera can be booked now via the link here. You can follow all the latest footage of the performance via their Instagram @operaaustralia