The Arts at the Heart of Penrith

The Heart of the Arts in Penrith

From the Archives


The Joan officially opened 30 years ago

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre opened as a Bicentennial Project 30 years ago in 1990. The official opening took place on 14 August.

The Joan’s lovely and grand concert hall that can sit 550 people is also named after Richard Bonynge – the Richard Bonynge Concert Hall, and our beautiful foyer is named the Malcolm Borland Foyer.

Caption (Left to Right): Alderman Dr Malcolm Borland, Richard Bonynge and Dame Joan Sutherland inspecting the construction of our theatre

The beginnings of
the Q Theatre

The Q Theatre began in 1963 when actor Doreen Warburton gathered a group of actors including Ben Gabriel (later Warburton’s life partner), Edward Hepple, Robert McDarra, Terry McDermott and Walter Sullivan to form a theatre company.

Originally, they produced lunchtime performances in a comfortable 250-seat theatrette of the AMP Building at Circular Quay. In 1976 the Q closed the lunchtime theatre in Sydney and set about creating a fully professional theatre organisation in Penrith.

It officially opened on Railway and Belmore Streets, Penrith on 30 March 1977 with the contemporary hit musical Lock Up Your Daughters.

The Q Theatre moved to The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in October 2005.

Caption: Doreen Warburton cutting the ribbon to open the Q Theatre at the Railway Institute Building

The day we received
our name

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*. During the opening of the centre, Dame Joan performed Arne’s When Dasies Pied and Tosti’s Serenata, accompanied by her husband Richard Bonygne. After two encore performances, the pair received a standing ovation. This auspicious event also marked the last recital of Dame Joan’s career.

*The Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House was named after Dame Joan’s death, it was known as the Opera Theatre until 2012.

Caption (Left to Right): Richard Bonygne and Dame Joan Sutherland on stage following their performance on Opening Night

The Joan was designed by an acclaimed Australian architect

Arguably one of Penrith’s finest buildings, the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre was designed by the acclaimed Australian architect Philip Cox. His impressive resume also includes the design of the old Sydney Football Stadium (and the new Sydney Football Stadium), the Australian Maritime Museum, the Melbourne Park Tennis Centre and King Street Wharf at Darling Harbour.

Caption: The construction site of the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. Image courtesy of Penrith City Library

The Gift of Music

To commemorate the Bicentenary of Australia, a number of landmark buildings and monuments were constructed around the country including the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre.

The Dedication Ceremony for The Joan took place on Saturday 3 December, 1988. The official proceedings included an introduction by Alderman and Chairman of the Board, Dr Malcolm Borland, an address by Member for Penrith Guy Matheson and an official dedication by the Mayor of the City of Penrith, Alderman Kevin Dwyer. This was followed by site inspections and a luncheon at the Log Cabin Motor Inn, Penrith.

The program for this special event stated, “There could be no better Bicentennial gift to the community than the gift of music. Council is proud to dedicate the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre to the community and to excellence in the arts.”

Caption (The Official Party of the Ceremony, Left to  Right): Mrs Matheson, Margaret Dwyer, Mayor Kevin Dwyer, Robyn Borland, Alderman Malcolm Borland and Guy Matheson, Member for Penrith