The Sydney Opera House celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, having opened its doors in 1973 under the watchful guidance of architect Peter Hall. The anniversary has been marked by a 50-day festival held by the Opera House, celebrating the wide array of cultural delights that the landmark has offered during its half-century lifespan.
However, while many Aussies consider it to be an architectural and cultural icon — adorning postcards, tea towels and all the other kitschy souvenirs you can imagine for decades — its uniquely revered place in the Australian consciousness has, sadly, not been a universal phenomenon.
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While the Opera House’s stages and seats have been graced by many a famous face over the years, some have been less fond of eh venue than others. Here is our rundown of some of the funniest insults ever levelled at Sydney’s most famous venue by some of its most famous visitors, gathered with the help of our friends at Australian Kitsch…
Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage)
Beginning with an Aussie icon, comedian Barry Humphries, most well-known for his inimitable alter ego Dame Edna Everage, made a jab at the opera house that was really a sneaky sideswipe at the cultural diet of his fellow Australians…
“A building to house an art form that most Australians had never seen, and cared even less about…”Barry Humphries
An icon in her own right, Bette Davis was a towering star during the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, known for her unsympathetic and cutting characters. She lived up to her reputation when she walked onto the stage of the Opera House in 1975, making the following short but not-so-sweet statement in an ironic callback to her role in Beyond The Forest:
“What a dump!”Bette Davis
The eldest son of English novelist and world-renowned curmudgeon Evelyn Waugh, Auberon took to The Spectator to make some less-than-savoury remarks about Sydney’s newest architectural marvel.
Beginning by saying that “Australians have convinced themselves their Opera House is beautiful [but] it is not beautiful nor is it ugly”, he rounds it out in eloquent if savage style:
“It is merely absurd. It is a harmless little joke about modern architecture rather than an example of a real thing.”Auberon Waugh
Few names are as synonymous with the world of theatre as Noel Coward, the playwright, director, actor, and singer known for his wit and flamboyance. Embodying the twentieth-century theatrical establishment, his characteristically comic dig at the Opera House’s design was thoroughly on-brand if utterly damning…
“Like a pack of nuns in a rugby scrum.”Noel Coward
If Noel Coward was an emblem of twentieth-century theatre, then John Malkovich is a giant of twenty-first-century film and theatre. Therefore, it came as a particularly unwelcome surprise when he came out swinging about the Opera House’s internal design after an opera he staged there in 2011 absolutely bombed:
“It’s lovely to drive by on a motor boat and it has a very nice crew, and very capable, but the acoustics are hideous… For a catholicity of reasons, it’s not the wisest place to put on anything … with the possible exception of maybe a circus.”John Malkovich
So, there you have it folks. If you’ve always felt obliged to revere the Opera House’s eccentric design, this is your sign to let loose; if it’s alright for the celebs, its alright for you too.