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Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - the guide

Everything you need to know about Sydney's annual harbourside spectacular – and how to do it like a boss.

HOSH 2012 La Traviata (Photograph: Lisa Tomasetti)
Photograph: Lisa Tomasetti

La Traviata (2012)

HOSH 2013 Carmen (Photograph: James Morgan)
Photograph: James Morgan

Carmen (2013)

HOSH 2014 Madama Butterfly (Photograph: James Morgan)
Photograph: James Morgan

Madama Butterfly (2014)

HOSH 2015 Aida (Photograph: Daniel Boud)
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Aida (2015)

HOSH 2016 Turandot (Photograph: Hamilton Lund)
Photograph: Hamilton Lund

Turandot (2016)

Anyone who says they go to the opera for the sound quality is lying; if you want the ultimate version of any given opera, you sit at home with your Bose headphones and your imagination. But if you want the spectacle and emotion of the opera, head to Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (HOSH), Opera Australia's now-annual outdoor production at Mrs Macquarie's Point.

Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini wanted to make opera a populist form again – and he has abundantly succeeded with Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. The recipe is simple but brilliant: take one stunning outdoor location with a world-class view, add spectacular, over-the-top set design, razzle-dazzle costumes, dance routines and acrobatics; into this mix, drop one high-drama opera classic, and a couple of international star leads. Finish with a dash of fireworks, and serve in possibly the best, balmy summer Sydney has to offer.

The result is the perfect potion – the glitzy visuals and hyperactive energy of a Broadway musical mixed with world-class opera. Even better, the themed food and drinks menu, consumed while overlooking the harbour as dusk falls, renders your purchase a bona fide experience, and worth the hefty price.


Wear: Something fancy AND warm, and bring something waterproof (see below); consider comfortable shoes because there are quite a lot of stairs you have to traverse in order to navigate the site! And there will be a ten minute walk towards Hyde Park, if you don't find a cab at the end of the night.

Eat: There are lots of food options on site, from the three-course Platinum Club option to quick fixes from the canteen. Beware: our cheese plate went soggy during Act 1 – so eat it quick or skip it. 

Drink: Champagne! It's the opera. No really, drink whatever you want – but we love that they have coffee on site. Operas are long.

Turn up: by 7pm latest for a 7.30pm performance. As mentioned, the site is not quite as straightforward as the Joan Sutherland Theatre (Opera Australia's usual home) – and you want to have time to queue for a glass of bubbles and find your seat.

What if it rains? THE SHOW GOES ON. Really. Unless there are electrical storms or extremely high winds and/or rain. You won't be able to put up an umbrella (for obvious reasons), so wear something waterproof or buy a $5 biodegradable poncho on site. They do wipe down the seats for you on arrival, we noted.

Can I Insta this? Yes you can – but photography of any kind is prohibited during the performances, so limit those stage shots to pre- and post-show or during the interval.

HOSH 2017: Carmen



In our 5-star review of Gale Edwards' 2013 production we described it as "the perfect potion – the glitzy visuals and hyperactive energy of a Broadway musical mixed with world-class opera." No wonder it's making a comeback.

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Mrs Macquaries Point , Sydney Friday March 24 2017 - Sunday April 23 2017

Top of the HOSH: a hit list of operas

HOSH 2016: Turandot

We said: "There’s nothing wrong with having a winning formula – but this production often feels more like a congruence of ingredients than a fully satisfying dish."

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HOSH 2015: Aida

We said: "A full frontal assault on the senses: the sea breeze; the skyline, the stars, a crescent moon; the glittering, kaleidoscope spectacle."

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By: Dee Jefferson

HOSH 2014: Madama Butterfly

We said: "…a world-beating triumph, surely one of the most spectacular outdoor operas ever staged anywhere."

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By: Jason Catlett

HOSH 2013: Carmen

We said: "The perfect potion – the glitzy visuals and hyperactive energy of a Broadway musical mixed with world-class opera."

Read more
By: Dee Jefferson

HOSH 2012: La Traviata

We said. "The sliver of moon peeping through the clouds during Violetta’s ‘e strano!’ aria is about as good as 'atmosphere' gets."

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By: Dee Jefferson