I see there is going to be a funeral service for Joan Sutherland in the Sydney Opera House. I saw and heard her sing Aida in that Opera House – one of those highlights of my life, spectacle and sound combining into glamorous glory.
The Opera House is situated on Bennelong Point. The next point to the east is Mrs Macquaries Chair. The view from there to the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge beyond is one of the most attractive sights on the planet. The striking structure of the theatre contrasts with the bare steel bones of the bridge – beauty and power. Ships and ferries on sparkling Sydney Harbour add to the scene.
I’ve seen other shows in that building. The first time I took Anne – Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte – I gave her a glass of champagne in the interval on the balcony overlooking the harbour. Boats with their lights glided past on the reflective water. It was magic – I’ll never forget the gleam in her eyes.
We also saw a production of Hamlet during that visit. A conducted tour backstage preceeded a meal at the Bennelong restaurant. And then the play. We were stuck behind a group of elderly Americans, obviously a package tour. They grumbled ‘what’s this all about’, complained about the lack of action. After interval most of them had disappeared. We had a great view of the stage and settled down to watch the remainder of the play in peace. It is the only time I’ve seen a live production.
Anne and I had another visit. Her son Patrick was now living there so we caught up. During both visits we explored Sydney’s restaurants and enjoyed gourmet meals. I loved the bookshops and the zoo while a ferry trip to Manly was always fun. I saw Patrick in a later visit. But then he was killed in an accident. Sydney lost its appeal.
Anne won a raffle years later – a trip to Sydney to hear Pavarotti sing. That was stupendous. And we did our homework food-wise. A highlight was a visit to Tetsuya’s restaurant in an outer suburb. Even then he had a great reputation. I remember I had ox-tail. Now Tetsuya runs a large restaurant in the centre of the city – it used to be run by Suntory, I’d taken Anne there for her first Japanese meal during the early visit. We enjoyed the two events. But our overall mood was one of sadness, of promise unfulfilled. I'm pleased we had the opportunity - it gave a sense of the closing of a chapter.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago