Out There!

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There’s no better venue for a concert than in God’s own cathedrals – anywhere in the world, writes Travel Editor Susie Boswell.

On the eve of the FIFA World Cup final in Rome in 1990, an outdoor concert was held that was to spark countless other open-air events at remarkable venues around the globe over the next two decades.

Outdoor entertainment was hardly new, especially in Italy where for centuries citizens had taken advantage of balmy summer days and nights to enjoy gathering for spectacles – beginning way back at the ancient Colosseum, with the battles between lions and gladiators. Even earlier, the Greeks had long held the Olympic games in open-air stadiums, drawing crowds today’s promoters would envy.

But the FIFA celebration event marked the debut of The Three Tenors, who went on to popularise classical opera to wide international audiences and boost the popularity of outdoor venues. Italy’s Luciano Pavarotti and his Spanish confreres Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras were a remarkable trio that – two decades after Woodstock’s audience of a half-million concertgoers established the outdoor pop concert as a modern phenomenon – appealed to a mixed mass demographic. Equally alluring as the artists was the venue: the historic Baths of Caracalla – an imposing stone cathedral weathered and decayed into ruins over the years … to become even more majestic in its archaeological decadence. Lit up at night, the amphitheatre is especially breathtaking.The overwhelming popularity of the tenors’ Caracalla concert entrenched the modern notion of the venue as an equal “star of the show”.

I have to say that of all forms of entertainment, I most enjoy movies, concerts, films, markets – anything – staged in the open air. Memorable occasions include watching movies seated in a canvas deckchair on a Bora Bora atoll – the “screen” a bed-sheet slung between two palms – and at cinemas open to tropical skies in Darwin and Broome. But for me, Sydney in summer does it best. There are numerous open-air cinemas at scenic spots, from Farm Cove on the edge of the Botanic Gardens to Centennial Park and more, with tickets at modest prices. Outdoor events are the hallmark of the annual Sydney Festival every January: concerts, bands, performance art – many of them free. The standouts are the Domain concerts, like last week’s Sydney Symphony.

In recent years, promoters have got on board with Taronga Zoo at Mosman and established the Twilight at Taronga concerts, extending Sydney’s open-air summer season right through into April, to take us up to Easter. With their magnificent setting overlooking Middle Harbour and the lights of the city, this venue and these events have become my favourite. For us county folk, they offer an affordable, memorable experience.

The remaining program is: Abba tribute Bjorn Again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday February 4, 5 and 6; Broadway and West End musical star Caroline O’Connor Fri-Sat Feb 11-12; ’80s hits by Culture Club, the B52s, Duran Duran, Pseudo Echo and The Bangles Fri-Sat 18-19 Feb; Salute to Van Morrison Fri-Sat 25-26 Feb; Stones tribute Sat 5 Mar; Forever (Neil) Diamond Fri-Sat 11-12 Mar; Cliff Richard & Dusty Springfield Fri-Sat 18-19 Mar; tribute to Fleetwood Mac Fri-Sat 25-26; and James Morrison Fri-Sat 1-2 April. Take a picnic and wine.

See twilightattaronga.com.au. For packages at Rydges North Sydney from $344 a couple including two concert tickets and transfers, room, parking, breakfast.

Call 1800 446 383 or visit twilightaccommodation.com.

traveleditor@live.com.au

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