Sydney Opera House denies safety risks
7th Jun 2010
Officials at Sydney Opera House (SOH) have strongly denied claims by an Australian newspaper that artists’ safety is being endangered by ageing stage equipment. The reports come as the opera house is preparing for a refit costing up to AU$800m (€548m).
On 31 May, the Sydney Daily Telegraph quoted a report by engineering consultants Marshall Day Entertech – the acousticians for the recently opened Guangzhou Opera House in China. The report alleged that SOH’s error log had ‘far more incidents and disruption than one would expect", and that its flying system was ‘non-compliant with international codes’. It also warned that any malfunction could cause ‘multiple fatalities’.
‘There is a real risk to persons on stage or being carried on the flying system from a malfunction or fault with this installation and a similar, although lesser, potential risk when people are carried on the transport elevator,’ the report stated. The Telegraph recently claimed that the theatre’s infrastructure would cost $50m to renew – an outlay it could ill afford.
SOH chief executive Richard Evans quickly fired back in a statement claiming the opera ‘has a $30m annual plant and equipment maintenance program, widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world’. The statement sought to reassure actors and staff in that
‘Occupational health and safety is a priority, and performer safety is paramount’. It also dismissed the accusation that a financial crisis jeopardized SOH’s normal operations, and added, ‘All risks associated with on-stage activity are closely monitored in order to provide a safe working environment for all performers and technicians.’
As well as including a full technical and stage refit, the $800m renovation would comprise a total refurbishment of the Opera Theatre, which would finally correspond to the design of original SOH architect Jørn Utzon. Last year, Opera Australia chief executive Adrian Collette told Gig the company would be out of the opera house for three to four years, if the plan gets the go-ahead.