Sydney Opera House



The landmark Sydney Opera House replaced a series of tram sheds that had occupied the site at Bennelong Point, just up from Circular Quay, for the best part of sixty years.


It was suggested in the 1950's by resident conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, that Sydney deserved a concert and opera hall and a competition for the design of the new complex was launched.




The winner of the 1957 competition was the Danish architect Joern Utzon, who had submitted a groundbreaking design, inspired by palm fronds, which was to cause controversy right up until the day the complex opened.


Because of the unique design, the building process was long and fraught with difficulties. Utzon even had to contend with a fundamental change in his brief. During construction, which began under protest from him in 1959, he was told that the Opera House would have to contain four halls instead of the original two. The plinth on which the House stands took 4 years to complete, only then could the real work of building Sydney's opera house begin.


Distressed at what he saw as intolerable obstacles being put in his way, Utzon walked out on the construction of his vision in 1966, and it was left to others to design and build the interior, which lacks the kudos of Utzon's dramatic outer shell.


Producers also complained that the interior design was too restrictive for staging full-scale operas.


The building eventually opened to the public in 1973, 14 years after it was started. Costs had spiralled massively from $AUS 7 million to $AUS 102 million, and public hostility to the project had grown accordingly.


Fortunately, the iconic status that it went on to earn, turned the tide and now Sydneysiders are ferociously protective of their landmark, to the point of campaigning for the demolition of the "Toaster" which was in front of it in the late 1990s, blocking the view from Circular Quay.


Utzon has recently been re-united with his masterpiece, following his appointment as Design Consultant to the Sydney Opera House.


The complex is home to two main auditoriums; the Opera Theatre (the smaller of the two larger "sails") and a Concert Hall. There is also a Drama Theatre, Studio and Playhouse, making it Sydney's most comprehensive cultural centre.


Unlike some opera venues around the world, the Sydney Opera House is accessible in both price and attitude for most people. At a typical performance, you are just as likely to be sat next to someone wearing denim jeans as you are someone dressed up in a dinner jacket and bow-tie. The Sydney Opera House is aware that many people find opera difficult to follow, so you can ask for a seat which allows you to view the "surtitles" that scroll across the top of the stage during foreign language performances. Purists shouldn't worry however - there are plenty of seats where the surtitles are not visible.


The Opera Hall is also home to ballet and contemporary dance performances, with seating for 1547 people.


The larger 2679 seater Concert Hall is home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and if you are on a tight budget, can't get seats at the one of the operas, or just aren't keen on the arias and oratorios, then a concert from this world class orchestra will be just as rewarding. Lined with white birchwood, the ceiling towers 25 metres above the stage, making for an enjoyable visual, as well as acoustical, spectacle.


Two further performance areas are designed with drama in mind. The Drama Theatre seats 544 people in a revolutionary design which seeks to keep a constant temperature in the theatre, without the incumbent noise of air-conditioning marring your enjoyment of the performance. The Playhouse venue is more intimate still, with 398 seats in front of a stage, which regularly plays host to the Sydney Theatre Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company.


A measure of the House's acceptance of contemporary culture was shown recently with the opening of the Studio, which was marked by performances from bands nurtured by the ABC's national rock and youth network Triple J (105.7FM). The Sydney Opera House was also home to the legendary al-fresco free farewell concert by Aussie/Kiwi group Crowded House in the mid-1990s, an event that people still recall with great fondness across the city.


If you don't have enough time to go to one of the concerts, then you should certainly consider taking one of the daily "Front Of House Tours" of the building. The hour long tours take place between 9am and 4pm daily, and begin every half an hour at the Guided Tours Office on the Lower Concourse. Steps are involved in the tour, though tours for people with disabilities can be arranged.


Another option is to  take a guided tour, enjoy some jazz and blues and check out the charming Opera House Markets at the base of the world famous steps. It is all part of a long running series of activities which take place every Sunday. Check with the Box Office for details.


Getting to the Sydney Opera House is easy. Take a bus, City Circle train or ferry to Circular Quay, and follow the path which runs to the right as you look at the Bridge. The Sydney Opera House is behind the ugly "Toaster" which somehow managed to get planning approval.




The Essential Tour - A 1hr audio/visual tour inside Sydney Opera House departs daily between 9am - 5pm.

Adults: $35 / Online: $27.50

Concession: $24.50 / Online: $20.30 (Australian seniors, pensioners, students and children U16)

Family: $74 (2 adults + 2 Children) Extra Child: $10

For further details or bookings please visit 



Asian Spotlight Tours - A 1/2hr tour inside the shells of Sydney Opera House run daily in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean (regularly during the day)

Adults: $20

Concession: $14 (Australian seniors, pensioners, students and children U16)

Family: $51 ($10.50 for additional child)

For further details or bookings please visit 



Backstage Tours - A 2hr tour with exclusive backstage access in Sydney Opera House theatres which includes a full breakfast. Departs daily at 7am

$150 per person (Tours are limited to 8 people - Bookings are essential)

For further details or bookings please visit or contact +61 2 9250 7250



High Tea The combination of an opera recital, fine cuisine and the ambience of a World Heritage listed building has created a High Tea experience worthy of a standing ovation.

$145 per person (Bookings are essential).

Please visit or contact +61 2 9250 7250









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