James McCarthy, review, Limelight Magazine, Jan/Feb 2018, p 110.
Christine Yeats, review, Independent Scholars of Australia Bulletin (NSW), March 2018.
‘On 28 February 1966 Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House, resigned from his position and two months later he flew out of Sydney – never to return to Australia. Anne Watson’s book deals with the period following Utzon’s departure, culminating in the completion of the Opera House. The book is the result of “an almost ten-year journey of research and writing”. Originally a doctoral thesis, it has metamorphosed into a highly readable publication that will appeal to all who have marvelled at the beauty and grandeur of the World Heritage listed Sydney Opera House.
Peter Hall stepped into what Watson describes as ‘the perilous void’ created by Utzon’s departure in April 1966. He was part of the consortium of Hall, Todd and Littlemore, appointed by the Government to finish the building. The inclusion of Peter Hall’s name in the book’s title is quite deliberate on the part of Watson. The book is a well-informed analysis of the challenges that the consortium overcame to complete the building and, most importantly, a tribute to the late Peter Hall.
While the Opera House project may have been a poisoned chalice for both Utzon and Hall, Utzon emerged as the “misunderstood creative genius” but the same cannot be said of Hall. The role he played in bringing the Opera House project to fruition brought him little recognition in his later career. Rather, he became the target of “continuing vilification”, making it indeed a poisoned chalice.
Despite the attention Watson gives to Hall, and his treatment by those both inside and outside the profession, she provides a balanced account of the post Utzon construction phase of the Sydney Opera House. The book offers an informed insight into the history of this extraordinary building. The well-chosen images help in understanding the solutions developed to overcome the challenges posed by the original design. Each chapter has endnotes and, there is a substantial bibliography as well as an index and list of the image credits.
Anne Watson is to be congratulated for The Poisoned Chalice: Peter Hall and the Sydney Opera House. It is a landmark publication.’