Sydney Opera House: Acoustic upgrade for the Concert Hall

Completion of the renovation work in the World Heritage Building – opening concert on 21.07.2022

The Sydney Opera House has carried out a 10-year program of works to improve and modernize the building for future generations. This included an acoustic upgrade to two of its largest venues, the Concert Hall and the Joan Sutherland Theatre.

© Müller-BBM | Sydney Opera House.

Following a competitive tender process, the Opera House appointed MÜLLER-BBM’s Munich acoustic office to carry out acoustic upgrades to both venues. The acoustic upgrades to the Joan Sutherland Theatre, the opera hall in the Opera House, took place in 2017, and the Opera House carried out extensive upgrades to the Concert Hall from 2020 to 2022.

Since the opening of the hall in 1973, many have criticized the acoustics in the Concert Hall. This was largely due to the size of the hall with almost 2,700 seats and its unusual room geometry dictated by the outer building shells. The aim of the renewal upgrades to the Concert Hall was to find and implement a solution to improve the acoustics in the venue. Acoustic measures developed by MÜLLER-BBM which were tested and prototyped included specially designed, movable acoustic reflectors above the stage and along the side walls, new stage risers and new timber box fronts with diffusive patterns – altogether improving the spatial and temporal distribution of the sound energy on stage and in the auditorium. Melbourne-based architectural firm ARM was responsible for the architectural design of the measures in coordination with preservationists, heritage experts and a committee of outstanding Australian architects.

The changeover times between acoustic mode and pop concerts now are considerably shortened by sophisticated acoustic measures which provide the possibility to avoid reflections and to reduce the reverberation time at the touch of a button.

On 21.07.2022, the Concert Hall reopened with a gala concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under new chief conductor Simone Young. The concert program consisted of a commissioned composition by the didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton and Gustav Mahler's monumental resurrection symphony. Feedback from the musicians and the audience was overwhelmingly positive and now the Sydney Opera House has a Concert Hall that rivals some of the world's acoustically important halls.

© Müller-BBM | Rehearsal for the gala concert at the Sydney Opera House.

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