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The creative vision for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen has been revealed with the final ‘C’ of six giant letters spelling out ‘CARMEN’ now in place on the harbour-top opera stage. The spectacular Spain-Meets-Hollywood stage will set the scene for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen, which opens Friday 22 March for three weeks only.

The Hollywood-inspired Carmen letters measure a staggering 9 metres high and 25 metres wide. When the production opens next Friday 22 March, they will be spot-lit by lighting towers on and around the main stage during the production. The scaffolding supporting the letters doubles as a structure for the singers and dancers to climb and perform from during the show. The stage itself is 32 metres by 24 metres and resembles a round, blood-stained bullfighting ring. It sits on a platform supported by 16 pylons sunk into Sydney Harbour.

The Carmen letters will cut an imposing silhouette across Sydney Harbour for the duration of the production, 22 March – 12 April. It positively dwarfs Australian icons such as the Big Banana and Big Pineapple in scale!

The letters symbolise the glamorous, seductive facade of Carmen and will be seen in all their glossy glory by visitors looking across the harbour from the Sydney Opera House, by joggers around the Royal Botanic gardens, by commuters driving across the Harbour Bridge and those travelling by ferry (or cruise ship!) on Sydney Harbour. The audience will see the letters in reverse, signifying the seedy underworld in which the gypsies’ underhanded activities take place at the tobacco factory in Seville, Spain.

The Carmen set features other spectacular effects including a life-sized slaughtered bull (post bull-fight) and fireworks. Dancers will whirl about the stage in dazzling flamenco costumes, bringing colour and movement to the blood-red stage.

Some of the world’s best opera talents have converged in Sydney to perform in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen. Hailing from Sydney, Perth and Tasmania in Australia, from New York and Memphis in the USA and even from the Ukraine, this is a truly global cluster of opera stars.

When the show opens, they will have had just over four weeks to bring this brand new outdoor production to perfection, ahead of the opening night on Friday 22 March, when they will perform on Australia’s most unique opera stage atop the water of Sydney Harbour. A nightly audience of 3,000 seated at the edge of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney will enjoy tapas, paella, Spanish BBQ and cocktails in luxury, while they watch the drama of Carmen unfold beneath the stars.


SOCIAL SPY** The 2012 Helpmann Awards® at Sydney Opera House – Hugh Jackman attends as a surprise guest presenter

Celebrating excellence and achievement in live performance

42 Awards presented plus the prestigious JC Williamson AwardTM


Wow, where to even begin, what a truly amazing evening surrounded by such talent that you could only sit back and watch in awe! Sydney Social 101 has made no secret about our passion for live entertainment, we’ve even been lucky enough to be invited to watch La Traviata at the open air stage at Sydney’s Botanical Gardens amongst other amazing performances!


Sydney Social 101 is also going to watch Legally Blonde on the stage tomorrow night, the stars of which were also out in force at the Helpmann Awards last night!


Stars of Legally Blonde – Cameron Daddo and Lucy Durack Helpmann Awards Photo James Morgan

The 2012 Helpmann Awards® were presented last night, Monday 24 September from 8pm at the Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House.  Following the Awards Ceremony guests enjoyed an After Party at Marquee at The Star.


Surprise Guest Presenter: Hugh Jackman 2012 Helpmann Awards 2012 Photo James Morgan

I couldn’t actually believe it when surprise guest presenter, Hugh Jackman arrived to present the final award of the evening for Best Musical. We were also in the company of greatness, in the form of stunning Cate Blanchett!


Winner – Best Female Actress in a play – Cate Blanchett: Gross und Klein (Big and Small). Sydney Theatre Company – Photo James Morgan

The Helpmann Awards®, established in 2001 by Live Performance Australia (LPA), saw the presentation of awards in 42 categories.  In addition Katharine Brisbane AM, and the late Dr Jimmy Little AO were honoured as the recipients of the prestigious JC Williamson AwardTM that recognises their outstanding contribution to the Australian live performance industry. Dr Jimmy Little AO was truly an inspiration and the award was truly fitting as his colleagues and peers recognised his achievements in music and in life.


Bernadette Robinson Helpmann Photo James Morgan

Simon Burke was a great host of the Helpmann Awards, talented, humorous and humble. The evening included performances by the casts of Cirque du Soleil, The South Pacific Company, and The Chorus Line Company; Artistes from The Australian Ballet; from A Long Way to the Top – Marcia Hines, Jon Stevens, Brian Cadd, Doug Parkinson and Ian Moss; and Aston, Dan Sultan with a Tribute to Jimmy Little AO, and Bernadette Robinson. All of which left Sydney Social 101 speechless and in awe!


Lisa McCune Eddie Perfect Kate Ceberano Teddy Tahu Rhodes Photo Lightbox Photography

Award Presenters included Amanda Bishop, Blake Bowden, Bille Brown AM, Bryan Brown AM, Darcey Bussell CBE, Daniel Carter, Kate Ceberano, Gerry Connolly, Li Cunxin, Cameron Daddo, Lucy Durack, Marta Dusseldorp, Amanda Harrison, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Genevieve Lemon, Matt Lee, David McAllister AM, Lisa McCune, Rob Mills, Simon Phillips, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Leo Schofield AM, The Hon. George Souris, Stuart Wagstaff AM, and John Waters.


Amanda Pelman and Brian Cadd Helpmann Awards Photo Credit Lightbox Photography

The Awards Ceremony was Produced by Jon Nicholls and Directed by Stuart Maunder.


President of Live Performance Australia, Andrew Kay, said “We’re delighted to be presenting our 12th anniversary Helpmann Awards®, live from the Sydney Opera House this evening.


Bryan Brown and Matilda Brown Photo James Morgan

The Helpmann Awards® are a celebration of the very best in live performance in Australia.  They also serve as a reminder of the central place live performance takes in the lives of so many Australians, whether it be a child attending a live concert for the very first time, a young Australian attending a concert by their favourite band or comedian, or one of the millions of Australians who attend our major musicals or performances by our extraordinary performing arts companies.


Live performance engages and entertains audiences across the breadth of Australia from the smallest rural community to the largest city.  And the strength of the industry is evidenced in the extraordinary list of outstanding Helpmann nominees we honour tonight.”


NSW Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Arts, George Souris, congratulated the winners of this year’s Helpmann Awards®.


“It has been a tremendous year for live entertainment in Australia, particularly NSW  with our dream run of major musical premieres.  The extraordinary talent of our vibrant live performance industry continues to shine both on stage and behind the scenes,” Mr Souris said.


“I am a fan of live performance and greatly admire the artistic brilliance and creativity celebrated through the Helpmann Awards® held in our global city of Sydney, the live performance capital of Australia.


“The Helpmanns are the premier awards event for the live performance industry, highlighting the significant contribution the sector makes to our State and country.”


The Helpmann Awards® will be broadcast exclusively live on Tuesday 25 September at 8.30pm on Australia’s arts and entertainment channel STUDIO – channel 132 on Foxtel.

A Gala Night for the Live Entertainment Industry – The 2012 Helpmann Awards®

Celebrating excellence and achievement in live performance

Monday 24 September, Sydney Opera House at 8pm


Sydney Social 101 is a big fan of live entertainment – whether it be theatre, live contemporary dance, the ballet, the opera or a musical – you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be an enjoyable experience for all involved! This particular event strikes a chord as it recognises those who make the industry what it is today!

The 2012 Helpmann Awards® Ceremony will be held tonight, Monday 24 September at 8pm at Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, whilst the After Party will be held at Marquee at The Star.  Acclaimed performer Simon Burke will Host the Awards Ceremony.


The Ceremony will include performances by the casts of Cirque du Soleil, The South Pacific Company, and The Chorus Line Company; Artistes from The Australian Ballet; from A Long Way to the TopMarcia Hines, Jon Stevens, Brian Cadd, Doug Parkinson and Ian Moss; and Aston, Dan Sultan with a Tribute to Jimmy Little AO, and Bernadette Robinson.


Presenters and guests at the Ceremony will include Benedict Andrews, Trevor Ashley, Hilary Bell, Amanda Bishop, Blake Bowden, Bille Brown AM, Bryan Brown AM, Darcey Bussell CBE, Mitchell Butel, Francine Cain, Paul Capsis, Daniel Carter, Kate Ceberano, Anita Louise Combe, Gerry Connolly, Li Cunxin, Cameron Daddo, Lucy Durack, Marta Dusseldorp, Stephan Elliott, Michael Gudinski, Andrew Hallsworth, Amanda Harrison, Brent Hill, Bob Hornery, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Akira Isogawa, Debora Krizak, Tim Lawson, Amy Lehpamer, Genevieve Lemon, Matt Lee, Emma Matthews, David McAllister AM, Lisa McCune, Rob Mills, Tara Morice, Robyn Nevin, Simon Phillips, Pamela Rabe, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Leo Schofield AM, The Hon. George Souris, Sam Strong, Lyndon Terracini, Stuart Wagstaff AM, and John Waters.


Katharine Brisbane AM will be presented with the prestigious JC Williamson AwardTM, recognising her outstanding contribution to the Australian live performance industry.


The JC Williamson Award™ for co-recipient Dr Jimmy Little AO will be presented to his Manager, Graham Budstrup and his neice, Esther Cohen.


The Helpmann Awards®will be broadcast exclusively the following night on Australia’s arts and entertainment channel STUDIOchannel 132 on Foxtel.  See the full ceremony recorded live on Tuesday 25 September at 8.30pm.


Tickets are on sale to the general public and can be purchased from the Sydney Opera House Box Office 02 9250 7777 or


This will be the 12th presentation of the Helpmann Awards®, the pinnacle industry event for Australia’s live performance industry, which annually attracts over 17 million people to shows across the nation with revenues of over $A1.3 billion.

The giant, glittering La Traviata chandelier floats across Sydney Harbour and onto the stage!



From 24 March, 2012


Whilst having a glass of wine with one of my dear friends recently in Bondi FM, my friend and I came across a booklet describing a glittering production to arrive on Australian shores, La Traviata. Only this event has a twist, no, it wasn’t confined the walls of the Sydney Opera House, it was be staged outside at the stunning Mrs Macquarie’s Point!


As preparations begin for the stage extravaganza, Sydneysiders today had a sight to behold, as a giant 9m x 9m glittering chandelier made of Swarovski Elements crystals, floats across Sydney Harbour today by barge and onto the purpose-built 25-metre stage at the Royal Botanic Gardens, for HANDA Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata, which opens next Saturday 24 March for an exclusive three-week season.

Rehearsals move to the site this weekend, and will be underway on the purpose-built 25-metre stage and the 9 metre chandelier ahead of Opening Night. Starring in this production are sopranos Emma Matthews and Rachelle Durkin who will alternate in the role of Violetta, international tenors Gianluca Terranova and Ji-Min Park who alternate in the role of Alfredo as well as opera favourites, Jonathan Summers and Warwick Fyfe.


Internationally-acclaimed director Francesca Zambello has been appointed Stage Director of this production.  Her career has spanned theatre, music theatre, film and opera and has ranged from Aladdin at Disneyland and The Little Mermaid on Broadway, to War and Peace for Paris Opera and Carmen for Opera Australia.  She is a multi-award winner with three Olivier Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, two French Grand Prix des Critiques, and a Helpmann.


Audiences will watch HANDA Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata from a luxurious 3,000 seat grandstand erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens, on the water’s edge.  The seating grandstand will have large and expansive hospitality areas at either end.  The northern end being three-tiered with catering outlets on each level; the southern end two tiered with the top deck nestling beneath a canopy of trees.


The stage is set

Australia’s most accomplished and daring Set Designer Brian Thomson is busy supervising constructing of the set. His previous projects include Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Opera Australia’s 2011 hit La Boheme, the Sydney Olympic and Melbourne Commonwealth Games ceremonies and New Year’s Eve events. Under his watchful eye, the pylons on which the set rests, have been sunk into the harbour bed and the massive stage structure has been built atop this, by ESS Australia.


Thomson’s minimal but striking stage design will be dominated by the giant chandelier measuring 9-metres x 9-metres, that will sparkle with 10,000 Swarovski Elements crystals symbolizing the world of Verdi’s much-loved opera with its glittering Parisian salons. This giant crystal-adorned La Traviata Chandelier was made in Melbourne with finishing touches done in a warehouse on the water’s edge in Sydney, and floated by barge under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, past the Sydney Opera House, and onto the site at the Royal Botanic Gardens!

lt weighs 3.5tonnes and measures 9metres in height and 9metres in width.  The La Traviata Chandelier made with Swarovski Elements took 720 man hours to manufacture and 240 man hours to assemble. Along with the beautiful 10,000 Swarovski Elements crystals the La Traviata Chandelier contains 1,025 crystal shapes, 23,104 facets, 24 moving lights and 3,000 LED lights.


Let the show commence! (I can't wait!)

The chandelier will be suspended from a 26-metre crane, blackened out so that it is invisible against the night sky.  At the end of La Traviata’s Act I, Violetta, after singing the famous aria Sempre Libera, will ascend with the chandelier in a capsule as fireworks explode all around.


Tess Schofield has designed the 1950’s inspired costumes, including Mardi-Gras themed outfits for the masked ball in Act II, which will see guests arriving by motorboat. The set design is complemented by a sophisticated lighting design by John Rayment which will create the atmosphere of changing scenes through colour, dazzling light displays and fireworks. The choreographer for this unique production, will be esteemed Melbourne choreographer Stephen Baynes.


The site has been designed by Ross Wallace to include five distinct dining experiences, with catering at each level delivered by fresh CATERING. Options range from individual hampers (including a glass of sparking wine) through to fine dining in The Platinum Lounge.


The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra will be conducted by Opera Australia favourite, Brian Castles-Onion from a water-tight sound studio built beneath the stage.


Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director of Opera Australia said in a recent interview “Everyone loves to look at the outside of the Sydney Opera House, so why not have that as the backdrop of a wonderful production?  It is one of the most beautiful views in the world.”


Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata is Opera Australia’s most ambitious project to date. The NSW Government through Destination NSW is a foundation partner in this spectacular new global event for Sydney.


Book now to avoid disappointment


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