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Sydney Opera House's Ange Sullivan installs a ghost light
Photograph: Daniel BoudSydney Opera House's Ange Sullivan installs a ghost light

The ghost lights are out and the Sydney Opera House is back

The stellar summer season kicks of with a new production of hit musical Rent

Stephen A Russell

It was a monumental moment. For months the Sydney Opera House’s stages have lain mostly dormant, eerily lit by the old theatrical tradition of ghost lights. But now those spooky beacons have been put out, ready for the house lights to come back up, blazing bright. The great sails of Bennelong Point will welcome audiences back to bums on seats, kicking off a sparkling summer season with smash-hit musical Rent.

Unused in the iconic venue since the ‘70s, head of lighting Ange Sullivan brought them back to mark the months in the wilderness when theatres across Australia had to close their doors during the Great Vanishing. “As a demographic, we are quite superstitious,” she told us at the time. “A lot of people believe that every theatre has ghosts that come out and play at night. If we leave a light on for them, then they won’t bump into the scenery or our props and move them around.”

They were every bit as important as a safety precaution as they were for supernatural crowd control, she said. “The idea is that the last person out and the first person in could see the edge of the stage and not fall into the orchestra pit. Which is really good, really safety conscious. We like that. We opted for pendant lights, so someone can't just accidentally kick it off the stage.”

When we got back in touch, Sullivan added, “Turning off the ghost lights means Sydney Opera House is coming back to life and will be open again to the people of Australia. It means our people are back at work doing what we love and do well, creating and putting on shows. Mostly, it represents massive hope. The whole country has undertaken a mammoth effort to get this under control, and by us switching off the ghost lights and opening up again it feels like we’re acknowledging everyone’s hard work and helping bring everyone back together.

Love theatre? Check out Act 1 of STC’s 2021 season.

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