Sydney is the global box office hit no-one knows about. Ticket sales are booming and moves are afoot to make our arts community a global star attraction.
Thankfully, there were no ghosts, and while the music was haunting, the only chandelier that crashed to the ground was the glass prop hanging from the ceiling above the stage.
It was a brilliant show, with fine performances from local artists Josh Piterman in the lead role of the Phantom, Amy Manford as the ingenue Christine Daae and Blake Bowden as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny.
Cameron Mackintosh’s re-imagined production has already toured the US for seven years after a sell-out season in the UK. But this Australian version has hit new heights. It’s received rave reviews and standing ovations.
It’s a world-class performance – but sadly, the world is unlikely to hear about it.
Theatre and the arts have been enjoying a strong renaissance post-pandemic, with Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Capitol Theatre, Bangarra Dance’s SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert and an opera season bigger than Die Meistersinger, the world’s longest opera at six hours.
Opera Australia’s artistic director, Lyndon Terracini, announced this week that ticket sales have exceeded pre-pandemic levels and his next season – his final with the company – features Adriana Lecouvreur with Ermonela Jaho and Michael Fabiano, as well as two concert performances of La Gioconda, featuring tenor superstar Jonas Kaufmann.
Renowned Australian soprano Jessica Pratt will appear in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, taking each of the four soprano roles in the manner made famous by Joan Sutherland. Sydney will also see the return of Madama Butterfly on the Sydney Harbour stage and a new production, called Chorus!, that is designed to showcase the Opera Australia Chorus.
This amazing line-up would excite visits from overseas visitors keen to see big names perform on the Sydney stage – if only they knew about it.
But, according to Business Sydney, our marketing is so stuck in the rut of using icons like the Harbour Bridge, Bondi and the image of the Opera House that culture rarely gets a look in.
“Every great global city needs a vibrant arts and culture sector to complement the other ingredients that go into making a city liveable for residents and attractive to international tourists, talent and investment,” said Business Sydney Executive Director Paul Nicolaou.
“Sydney had a thriving, if somewhat undervalued arts and culture scene prior to COVID-19, and now has a great opportunity to capitalise on us leading the way in vaccination and reopening to establish the harbour city as the cultural capital of the nation and the Asia-Pacific region.”
The organisation is pushing for the establishment of a cultural precinct, working with a collaborative group consisting of members of the cultural, entertainment and business sectors, and government.
“The Sydney Arts Precinct is a pivotal opportunity to establish Sydney as Australia’s Cultural Capital and a leader in Southeast Asia, implementing a visionary cultural destination strategy to realise significant long-term economic and social benefits to the city, state and country,” said Mr Nicolaou.
The question now is whether the many players, from Destination New South Wales to Tourism Australia, can be weaned off the obvious but familiar images of our city and be persuaded, instead, to promote Sydney’s brilliantly talented – but under-supported – arts community.
* The Phantom of the Opera is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW and runs until October 16, when it moves to Melbourne. Visit sydneyoperahouse.com to book.