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Thursday, 24 June, 1999, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Sydney's opera rebellion
Sydney Opera house
Sydney Opera House attracts thousands of visitors each year
By the BBC's Michael Peschardt

It may be Australia's most recognisable landmark, but the Sydney Opera House is facing an internal rebellion.

Members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra are threatening to boycott the concert hall because they claim the acoustics are not doing justice to their music.

According to the musicians who play here, the opera house may look great but it sounds dreadful.

They say the building is so badly designed that at least 40% of their music is lost to the audience, muffled by a series of rumbles and echoes.

Ado De Waart
Edo de Waart: Concert hall has the accoustics of a car park
The orchestra's conductor, Edo de Waart, claims that the concert hall has all the acoustics of a car park.

"There's no clarity. It sounds barren, it's like you're in a barn, it's ugly, concrete walls, a cold and not alive sound," he says.

The musicians even claim that the problem is so bad that they can't even hear each other play when they are on stage.

The poorly designed acoustics of the Opera House are a result of major construction problems.

When the opera house was being built the project went so seriously over budget that work was suspended and the architect left the country.

Sydney Opera House
The poor sound is a result of design problems
So much money had been spent on the exterior that there was little left for the inside, so the local council - more used to overseeing parks and roads - finished off the job.

The musicians say they can hear the council's handiwork in every note and are now proposing to walk out.

"I really felt we were getting nowhere," says Ado De Waart. "And at a certain point all that is left is to just act like a bull in a china shop, say 'this doesn't work' and try to finally shame someone into doing something."

The Sydney Opera House management has tried to quell the rumblings by putting up sound deflectors in the ceilings but the orchestra say they just look like toilet seats and don't help at all.

They say the hall is too long and too narrow but a new cantilever ceiling would at least help the problem.

The musicians are quick to defend the aesthetics of the building.

In terms of the location they say it's the finest place in the world to attend a concert but the sad truth is that for the moment the Sydney Opera House should be seen and not heard.

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