Rehabilitating the man who ‘buggered up’ Sydney Opera House

Rehabilitating the man who ‘buggered up’ Sydney Opera House


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2016

Peter Hall, the architect who took over the unfinished building after the resignation of its visionary designer Jorn Utzon, received so much abuse that he retreated into a bottle and died a broken man at 64.

Now, it’s being acknowledged that Hall made the best of a very bad job. If anyone buggered up the opera house, it as the Sydney politicians who could not stop meddling. ‘Why was my father treated so badly?’ his son wants to know.

There’s a new documentary about Hall on the ABC. Unfortunately, you can only watch it in Australia. (UPDATE: Or try this link, which may work in the US and UK).

Here’s a trailer.

peter hall sydney opera house



  • Tony says:

    I have just returned from a live concert recording in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House and can report that the sound was very fine indeed, as was the support from the in-house technical and stage staff. What needs to be put in perspective is how much better it is than many others in various major cities including London and New York. If you build a large concert hall with capacity of nearly 3000 audience, the physics of its dimensions will impact on the sound heard by some audience members in more distant seats – nothing unique to Sydney. Whoever is planning the new hall in the City of London should consider carefully how big to make it.

    The flight to/from London is long, but I would be very happy to return to Sydney Opera House any time.

  • Holly Golightly says:

    I saw the program on this much-maligned architect on Monday night. It’s a very sad story about a man who worked on a thankless project ruined by the interference of muddle-headed and unimaginative bureaucrats. Peter Hall did a great job in fitting the maximum number of seats into the recital hall auditorium. The opera theatre has problems because there are too many seats with “restricted viewing” and Wagner cannot be staged in there because the pit is too small for the Wagnerian orchestra. So, everything was a compromise.

    Sometimes the vision splendid will often not translate into something as workable as we would like. I think that was Utzon’s fate. I was working for our ABC when the Opera House was opened and people were aware of the problems even then.

    I’ve been to the Musikverein in Vienna dozens of times and that’s the most uncomfortable place in the world to listen to music!! Overcrowded with tiny seats and narrow seating in all the fixed-seating rows. Way too small for its modern use, but full of history and significance.

    • Mr Oakmountain says:

      The Musikverein in Vienna also happens to be a place where I still have not found a single seat where the sound is not amazing. However that came to be, and I’m sure accident played as much a role as design, it’s hard to beat.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        Oh, yes, I’d have to agree about the sound. But the seats are so uncomfortable, especially in the Balkon Loge and Parterre Loge (I just had to consult one of my old tickets to check that spelling!). Down on the Parterre or up in the circle at the back they aren’t so bad, but the rows are awfully close together. On the whole, though, the Viennese are extremely polite and that makes things easier!!