A Night at the Opera NYE

Wow what a day! It seemed as if our whole stay in Sydney had been building up to New Year’s Eve. We were both a bit nervous… There had been notices everywhere since we arrived saying the city centre would be closed to traffic on NYE and urging everyone to use public transport. We knew there would be lots of extra buses… but we couldn’t help wondering how it would work out in practice….

Our bus journey ino the centre late afternoon was straightforward and once there we’d decided to suss out our bus-stop for the return. There were stewards everywhere to help and direct people. Everyone was in a good mood and smiling and the sun was shining. For those of us with Opera tickets there were signs and later a couple of check points and you couldn’t go wrong.

It had been exciting enough seeing the iconic Opera House ‘in the flesh’ for the first time when we took the ferry into the city, but to attend a performance there was a real thrill. We saw ‘The Merry Widow’ with the young Australian star, Danielle de Niese, in the lead role of Hanna. She – and all the other performers – were excellent singers, actors and dances. ‘The Merry Widow’ is a silly story of course, and some of the lyrics seemed bizarre.. (I’m not an opera buff so don’t know if there is more sophistication in the original German??) Anyway we – and everyone else – loved it and it suited all the high spirits on NYE.

There were two intervals and the first coincided with the 9 o’clock fireworks: an event specifically for children and families – what a great idea. We made our way to one of the balconies to watch. It was brilliant and we wondered how they’d top that later!

We’d booked tickets for the post opera party so we could watch the main firework event from one of the balconies. We took our glass of Champagne onto the well-packed narrow balcony and waited for the countdown to midnight. Below us Colin Hay from Men at Work was singing ‘Land Down Under’. Magic.

In all directions along the harbour everything was sparkling. All the boats were illumined with fairy lights. Every apartment across the water had its lights on, the Harbour Bridge glowed blue or green or yellow or sparkled. We all joined in the 10 second countdown and then it started: some colossal cracks and bangs – so close they seemed to hit your chest! – then a tremendous explosion of colour. We watched in awe for the next 10 or 15 minutes – it was totally mesmerising. We’d never seen a spectacle like it.

Leaving the venue we needn’t have worried about the crowds and the possibility of being stranded in Sydney City centre all night… The movement of people was so well organised – we could walk briskly down Maquerie Street with the hundreds of others. The alcohol ban in the city centre made such a difference: everyone was in a good mood but there was no rowdiness or nasty behaviour. Gradually the crowd thinned a little as we got closer to our designated bus stop where stewards were directing people. When the bus arrived after just a few minutes there was no pushing or shoving and we weren’t even packed like sardines – amazingly everyone got a seat! We were home by 1.30am.

An unforgettably brilliant finale to our stay in Sydney.