Written by Caroline Baum
Opera is all about illusion: the illusion that singing is as normal as talking, that love conquers all, that death is romantic. Normally the illusion is short-lived, but at Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, the escapism continues during interval and beyond thanks to a glamorous bespoke concept for pre- and post-show dining and socialising.
Opera Australia’s Lyndon Terracini’s brief to award winning concept designer Ross Wallace for the premium Platinum Lounge was simple: make patrons feel as if they were guests in the tragic heroine Violetta’s opulent salon, in an atmosphere of elegant seduction with a hint of decadence.
A luscious excess of plush red velvet guarantees an intimate experience, creating private spaces in which to gossip, flirt, eat and drink. Gilded frames and strands of faceted and coloured crystals reprise the designs of the opera’s stage and chandelier. In this jewel-like setting, against the backdrop of the sparkling cityscape, multiple award-winning catering company Fresh Catering will offer menus that celebrate the best Australian produce and the culinary traditions of Italy complemented by wine sponsor Howard Park’s crystalline Mad Fish Veras Cuvee.
Beyond the privileged sanctuary of the Platinum Lounge, the Botanic Gardens will be lit to enhance the majesty beauty of the Morton Bay Figs and create the festive atmosphere of a midsummer garden party. Other food and beverage outlets will offer pizza, beer, oysters and champagne. For those who prefer more laid back style, picnic hampers are another option. Mobile confectionary trolleys will also offer a range of traditional Italian sweets for a taste of la dolce vita.
Even for a seasoned events man like Wallace, who has created the concepts for the Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Eve party at Bennelong Point and many other gala occasions, the scale of Opera on the Harbour presents new challenges; juggling specialists sub-contractors including furniture suppliers, printers, carpet sellers, topiarists and turf layers, marquee riggers and yes, upscale deluxe Portaloo facilities that would not seem out of place in a five-star hotel. His signature motif of Violetta’s favourite flower, the fragile but exquisite camellia will be applied in a contemporary design on all public signage: to find your way around the site, you simply need to follow the flower.