Illuminated Sydney
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Illuminated Sydney

The iconic Opera House in Sydney is as emblematic to the city, as Eiffel Tower is to Paris and Empire State Building to New York.

travel Updated: Jul 04, 2011 15:30 IST

The iconic Opera House in Sydney is as emblematic to the city, as Eiffel Tower is to Paris and Empire State Building to New York. A masterpiece of late modern style by Danish Architect Jørn Utzon, it pushed engineering to new limits. Recognised as one of the great wondrous buildings of the 20th century, it's famed throughout the world as a symbol not only for a city, but for the whole country and continent. Unquestionably it's the first port of call for most visitors , who are charmed by Utzon's creation, a key feature of which is the roof or the "sails", graciously responding to the quaint setting of Sydney Harbour. 

Even if you have not visited Sydney, you must have seen an image of this architectural marvel somewhere. Now just close your eyes and imagine how scenic it will look, when its sails are illuminated with "cutting edge" lighting effects.

"Simply mesmerising is the best two words to describe the feeling", says Rohit Gupta from Delhi, who with family is standing at the water front overlooking the Opera House. Holidaying down under, they consider themselves extremely lucky to be present in the sea edged metropolis during its two-week annual lighting festival, officially known as Vivid Sydney, when awe-inspiring edifices like the Opera House turn dream-like under lights.

"Daytime we are visiting Sydney's galleries, museums and beaches and after sundown participating in this festival has been great", says Rohit while getting some free LED balloons for his kids.

Now in its third year, Vivid Sydney has become southern hemisphere's largest festival of light. Scheduled annually at the start of winter around May/June, it's an unique event inspiring locals and tourists from other parts of Australia and overseas to stay outside after dark, beat the cold chill and enjoy with friends and family a glittering look of the harbour-city, quite different to its day time appearance. Associated with the festival are an incredible package of street shows, public talks, debates, night markets, food carnival and galore of music performances by local and international artists.

Last year Macquarie Street one of Sydney's most prestigious roadways, connecting the 19th century built St Mary's Cathedral at one end to the harbour side on the other, was the centrepiece of Vivid Sydney. Several ceremonial addresses flanking the promenade, such as the Barracks Museum, State Parliament House, State Library, Mint, Palace Garden Gate and Sydney Conservation of Music, all of which command tourist attention throughout the year, were rendered in dramatic exposure of lights, giving the famed street a colourful dazzling gaze. However the most amazing feature of the lighting was commemorating Australia's well known visionary leader, Lachlan Macquarie's 200th anniversary as State Governor, with colourful illustrations of his legacies on the walls of those architectural gems. Over 300000 visitors trundled Sydney to watch the grand spectacle, combined with narration and special sound effects, some remarking not to have experienced anything like that before in their life.

This year the show features over 40 light installations at several key locations around the bustling harbour side, the most momentous being the three-dimensional projections at Opera House and the 1845 built Customs House.

The challenge of lighting Utzon's uniquely shaped sails was assigned to French collective Superbien, who are world famous for their sumptuous lighting creations. They engineered a changing panorama of colour on the facades, describing colourful interpretation of sea life with jellyfish and other marine creatures wriggling across.

Such sensuous and superlative is the beauty that myriad keen photographers with their camera on tripods are patiently snapping shot after shot for hours, perhaps trying to capture every visual mood of the changing vista.

The scene is no different in front of the Customs House where the lighting effects are turning the exterior once into glass, then mercury paper, water and finally disappearing completely before coming again in a, dazzling projection display, mastered by Electric Canvas from Australia.

The Fire Dance is something that needs special mention. With forty fire-jets from the harbour throwing giant flames into the air, it's not only a grand spectacle to watch, but also a novel way to share a warm feeling on a wintery night.

Wandering from one site to the other with people of all age, I am sensationalised by the carnival type atmosphere filled with noise, music and laughter. It reminds me of Diwali Mela in India.

Getting There - You have many options, but most convenient is to take Singapore Airlines ( which fly from several Indian city's to Sydney with stopovers possible in Singapore.

Getting Around - Sydney operates a very efficient train, bus and ferry network system that takes you from the central business district to various suburbs.

First Published: Jul 04, 2011 15:30 IST