“It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having: the minute you round the corner and see the Opera House, it just lifts you. It’s a building designed to inspire. Those shapes seem to go on forever.”
After retiring from a successful career as a radio and television presenter, Bruce Barnett became restless. When he saw a job advertisement for tour guides at the Sydney Opera House, he put his hand up immediately. “The Opera House draws people inexorably to it, and I was no exception,” says Bruce. “There’s something magical about the place. To this day, I look at it and think, ‘Wow.’
Bruce is one of more than 70 guides who show 564,000 visitors around the Opera House each year. “There’s an enormous diversity of people who work here,” says Bruce, “from students to retirees.” Like Bruce, most of the guides have a background in public speaking – some are former actors while others are lawyers in training – and many are bilingual.
Bruce describes the standard Sydney Opera House Tour as a kaleidoscope of facts and ideas. “We cover everything from engineering to architecture to science, and much more besides,” he says. “The range of topics often takes visitors by surprise.”
Also on offer is the Sydney Opera House’s glamorous A Taste of Opera private tour, which includes a glimpse of the icon’s performance venues plus an exclusive private recital of famous arias by a world-class opera singer. Bruce says many of the participants find the event deeply moving. “It’s not uncommon that someone will burst into tears,” he says.
Cultural Attractions of Australia is pleased to present this series of the stories behind the storytellers who have enriched the experiences of countless visitors to our iconic attractions whilst their doors are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Image credits: Daniel Boud and Jaimi Joy.