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Davis Hughes and Opera House

The Opera House
Scaffolding covers the outer shells of the opera house during the tiling stage in 1966
The Concert Hall the largest hall at the Sydney Opera House

But before Utzon got far, the entire opera house project ran into trouble. Government elections were held in 1965, and a new government was elected. The opera house project came under the control of a new government official, Davis Hughes. Hughes believed that the project was wasting money. He did not like Utzon’s designs. He also did not believe that the estimated schedules and budgets were correct. Hughes stopped paying Utzon. In 1966 Utzon was forced to resign.

The Opera Theatre

Utzon left Australia. Hughes appointed architect Peter Hall to take over the project. By January 1967, the outer shells were finished and tiled. But plans for the plywood ceilings were canceled. This left the problem of acoustics unsolved. Hall spent three months traveling to concert halls around the world to study the issue. Hall’s solution was to limit the type of performances held in the Major Hall and Minor Hall. The Major Hall would be used for concerts, and the Minor Hall would be used for opera. The theater would move into a smaller space inside the podium. Each hall could then be tailored for acoustics, audience size, and the amount of space needed for musicians.

Hall also changed Utzon’s plans for interior design. The seats in all the performance spaces have brightly colored upholstery. But the opera hall’s walls were painted black. Balcony boxes were formed from plain concrete. The foyer (common area in front) of the theater was closed in, without any natural light or views of the harbor. Putting Hall’s new plans into action took four years. The changes also resulted in cost increases. It became much more expensive than Utzon’s original plan.

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