Sydney Opera House History

The Sydney Opera House is a marvel of modern architecture and an Australian landmark. 

And the history of Sydney Opera House is fascinating since it covers several decades of planning, determination, construction, and controversy. 

Here are some key points about the history behind Sydney Opera House.

Idea and Planning Phase

Idea and Planning Phase
Image: Smh.com.au

The idea for a major performing arts center in Sydney was first proposed in the 1940s.

In 1955, the New South Wales Government appointed an international design competition for the building’s design. 

The competition attracted over 200 entries from architects all over the world. In 1957, Danish architect Jorn Utzon emerged victorious in the competition.

Construction Phase

Many individuals felt that the Opera House’s architecture was too modern and futuristic for Sydney, a traditional city, leading to an initial debate. 

However, construction started in 1959 after the project had received support from the government and the general population, and it took over 14 years to complete. 

Many technical and financial difficulties hampered the construction process, leading Utzon to resign in 1966.

Finally, its designers completed the Sydney Opera House, and Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated it in 1973.

At that time, this opera hall cost $100 million AUD, ten times its original budget.

Today, the Opera House represents the pinnacle of human creativity and engineering, standing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It represents Australian culture and identity.

Sydney Opera House Architecture History and Design

The structural design of the Sydney Opera House is a striking combination of modernist and expressionist architectural styles.

The sail-like roof, made up of one million tiles, is the most distinctive feature of the building. 

The natural environment and landscape of Sydney Harbor inspired the artist’s imagination.

He designed the Sydney Opera House with flowing lines representing the sea and wind.

The interior consists of several performance spaces, including the Opera theater, Playhouse, Concert hall, and Drama Theatre, as well as several restaurants, bars, and other facilities.

Impact and Legacy

Impact and Legacy
Image: Forbes.com

The Sydney Opera House is known worldwide as one of the most stunning examples of contemporary architecture and a global symbol of Australian culture.

The venue hosts numerous performances and events like concerts, ballets, operas, theatrical productions, sporting events, and political rallies throughout the year.

However, the construction wasn’t smooth sailing. There was criticism and controversy, particularly related to the construction cost and how Utzon was treated then.

Nevertheless, despite all the challenges, the Opera House Sydney stands as an iconic emblem of Australia, serving as a tribute to the power of imaginative design and construction.

Take a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House and discover the rich history, captivating stories, and enchanting allure of the iconic Opera House through the eyes of experts. 
Or opt for the Sydney Opera House guided architectural tour, which will give you insight into how Jorn Utzon created this cutting-edge masterpiece.
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Sydney Opera House facts

  • Bennelong Point, where Sydney Opera House is situated, was named after Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior Eora man when British colonizers arrived in Australia in 1788.
  • Every year more than 10.9 million people visit the Opera House.
  • The estimated cost of constructing the Opera House was seven million dollars, and the actual price was $102 million, primarily paid for by a State Lottery.
  • Jørn Utzon from Denmark won the Opera House international design competition in 1956 out of 233 designs submitted, receiving ₤5000 for his innovative and visionary approach.
  • Although it was supposed to take only four years to complete, the construction of the Opera House took 14 years and involved the hard work of 10,000 people. 
  • In 1960, Robeson took center stage delivering the first-ever performance at the Sydney Opera House.
  • He climbed the building’s scaffolding to sing “Ol’ Man River” to the construction workers when they were having their lunch.
  • Sydney Opera House was inaugurated on 20th October 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II, and she has visited the site four times, with her most recent visit in 2006.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor and actor of California, won his last Mr. Olympia bodybuilding title in 1980 at the concert hall.
  • In 2007, the Sydney Opera House was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list for its architectural and exceptional cultural significance.
  • The Opera House celebrates Lunar New Year each year by lighting its sails in red, displaying Lunar Lanterns, and offering Mandarin tours. In 2019, approximately 25,000 people joined the celebration.
  • The roof of the Opera House is an impressive feature covering approximately 1.62 hectares, with more than one million tiles manufactured in Sweden.
  •  A seven A380 airplane could sit wing on wing on the Sydney Opera House site.
  • The temperature in the Concert Hall during Sydney Symphony Orchestra performances must be at 22.5 degrees to ensure instrument tuning. Humidity and temperature play crucial roles in musical instruments.
  • To power the heating and air conditioning systems of the Sydney Opera House, a network of 35 kilometers of pipes circulates cold seawater directly from the harbor, which effectively cools the building.
  • The safety net was installed above the orchestra pit in the Joan Sutherland Theatre during the 1980s following an incident in which a live chicken walked off the stage during a performance of Boris Godunov and landed on a cellist.


What is the history of the Sydney Opera House?

The inauguration of the Sydney Opera House was in 1973. It is a remarkable masterpiece of architecture of the 20th century that blends multiple strands of innovation and creativity in structural design and architectural form.

Who built the Sydney Opera House and when?

The Danish architect Jørn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House, but an architectural team led by Peter Hall completed it.

On 20th October 1973, Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the house after a gestation beginning with Utzon’s selection as a winner of an international design competition in 1975.

How much did it cost to build the Sydney Opera House?

The original estimated cost to build the Sydney Opera House was seven million dollars, and scheduled to open on Australian Day, 1963.

It was eventually completed 10 years later after receiving numerous criticisms and delays, with a final cost of $120 million- almost 14 times the original budget. 

What is the purpose of the Sydney Opera House?

The Sydney Opera House is designed as a multipurpose performing arts venue that hosts various cultural events, including classical events, Opera, dance, theater and conferences. 

Its Concert Hall is the largest and can seat over 2,500 people, and the Opera Theatre, on the other hand, has a seating capacity of over 1,500. 

Who created the Sydney Opera House?

Like many architects, John Utzon participated in the Sydney Opera House design competition to exercise his ideas and was surprised to learn that he had won.

Jorn Utzon was born in Copenhagen in 1918 and grew up in the immediate aftermath of the First World War.

What inspired the design of the Sydney Opera House?

The architect Jørn Utzon cited birds, clouds, walnuts, and trees, i.e., nature, as influences behind the design of the Sydney Opera House.

While the building’s sail-like roof evokes the image of a ship, it presented a major challenge during construction, as engineers initially deemed it “unbuildable” due to its unique design.



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Know More About Sydney Opera House Tickets

Opera ticket Sydney: This ticket gives you entry to the featured performance of the day, ensuring a delightful evening immersed in the captivating world of opera.

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