Five things you didn't know about The Joan

Want to know more about Penrith’s premier performance venue?

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, or as we affectionately like to call it ‘The Joan’ showcases the best of Australian and international fine music, contemporary music; all kinds of drama, dance, installations, mixed media, ideas, circus and song. Phew. If you think that’s a lot, well that’s only just the start. There’s so much you still don’t know about ‘The Joan‘ and the Great Dame it’s been named after. We’ve mined the archives to come up with some fascinating facts for your reading pleasure.

The Joan1. A BICENTENNIAL PROJECT

Australia's Bicentennial was an opportunity to recognise and celebrate all aspects of the nation's life and heritage and this important event was the catalyst for a great diversity of projects and events at national, state and local levels. To commemorate the Bicentenary of Australia, a number of landmark buildings and monuments were constructed across the country. The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre was one of them and opened as a Bicentennial project in March 1990.

2. THE SAME ARCHITECT DESIGNED THE SYDNEY FOOTBALL STADIUM

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre is arguably one of Penrith’s finest buildings. It was designed by acclaimed Australian architect Phillip Coxwho has a pretty impressive resume; he also designed the old Sydney Football Stadium (and his firm is now designing the new Sydney Football Stadium), the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Melbourne Park Tennis Centre and King Street Wharf at Darling Harbour to name a few.

Inside the joan3. THERE’S NOT ONE, BUT THREE PERFORMANCE SPACES

When the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre opened in 1990 it initially housed the Penrith Conservatorium of Music, the Richard Bonynge Concert Hall (660 seats) and the Allan Mullins Studio (90 seats). In 2006 the Centre received a $14 million building upgrade to include a third performance space - the 375 seat Q Theatre; a large atrium foyer and extended Conservatorium facilities, which now boast 27 teaching rooms

4. DAME JOAN VISITED PENRITH TO OPEN THE VENUE

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre is the only public performing arts centre in the world that acclaimed Australian operatic singer Dame Joan Sutherland allowed to use her name. The Centre was officially opened in 1990 with a community celebration and a Gala Concert performance by Dame Joan Sutherland accompanied by her husband Richard Bonynge. Dame Joan returned to visit the Centre four times including for the 10th Birthday celebration in February 2000.

5. MORE THAN JUST A GRAND PIANO

In 1987, in a controversial move, Penrith Council purchased an Imperial Bosendorfer grand piano for The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. This purchase stretched the building’s budget but was considered a very worthwhile investment. At the time, the Imperial Bosendorfer was the biggest grand piano in the world, and the only one of its kind in Australia. Described by world-renowned pianist Julian Gargiulo as the Ferrari of pianos, it was also the piano Australian concert pianist David Helfgott chose to record his album on.  


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