- Associated Press - Monday, December 13, 2010

SYDNEY (AP) - Sydney swapped opera for Oprah Tuesday when the host brought thousands of screaming fans to the city’s landmark arts center to tape shows for her final series.

The interlocking shell-shaped roof of Sydney Opera House formed part of the backdrop to two shows, which are part of a week-long trip by Oprah Winfrey and 300 U.S. audience members billed as “Oprah’s Australian Adventure.”

At least three shows from the Australia trip will screen next year in the final series of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that is expected to be watched by millions of people in more than 100 countries.

The trip is being sponsored by the government body Tourism Australia and corporate partners, with officials saying state and federal governments have spent around $5 million on the trip. They say Australia will benefit from that investment many times from the positive publicity generated by Winfrey’s shows.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday ahead of the taping of the Opera House shows, Winfrey said she had wanted for years to come to Australia, which she described as a “magical, wondrous place.”

The first Sydney-filmed episode features appearances by Aussie actor Russell Crowe and rapper Jay-Z.

Some 300 U.S. audience members traveled throughout Australia for a week before Tuesday, and were given front row seats at the Opera House shows. Thousands of Australian fans who were randomly selected after applying for tickets also crowded the steps of the Opera House to see the taping.

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