The Sydney Opera House formally opened by Elizabeth II

October 20, 2018

On 20 October 1973, the Sydney Opera House was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II with the televised ceremony involving a large crowd, fireworks and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

The Opera House – which takes up the whole of Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour, between Sydney Cove (where Captain and Governor Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet settled) and Farm Cove – is one of Australia’s most distinctive, iconic and renowned landmarks.

With more than eight million visitors each year, it is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions. The complex comprises multiple performance venues which host more than 1,500 performances each year – whether operatic, theatrical or orchestral – which are enjoyed by over a 1.2 million people annually.

Despite its many cost and scheduling overruns (see More Information below), design & construction missteps, cul-de-sacs and mounting political tensions, the Opera House eventually opened and has since endeared itself to Australia and the world, with its significant gestational controversies increasingly becoming a distant memory.

Celebrate the anniversary of the opening of Sydney’s iconic Opera House by:

  • if you are in/near Sydney, visiting the Opera House for a guided tour and/or enjoying a fine classical or cultural performance there
  • planning a visit to Sydney and its Opera House for a tour, fine performance or just to take in its ambience, city- and seascape
  • watching a documentary on the Opera House
  • viewing some of these clips on the Opera House
  • as one of the world's most iconic landmarks, watching a film featuring the Opera House such as Mission: Impossible II, Finding Nemo, Independence Day: Resurgence, X-Men: Apocalypse or Pacific Rim: Uprising
  • listening to some classical music or your favourite symphony
  • exploring further the basic facts and context behind this now iconic and world-renowned venue and structure, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, proud Aussies and those that appreciate/treasure fine music, theatre and performances unique to Western culture and tradition.

More Information:

The Sydney Opera House's long gestation began with planning in the 1940s to host large theatrical productions, which the then-used Sydney Town Hall was too small and modest for.

The mid-1950s saw an international design competition for the proposed new venue launched by the NSW government and won by Danish architect, Jorn Utzon. 

Construction began in March 1959 after the demolition of the Fort Macquarie Tram Depot previously occupying the site.

In 1966 Utzon resigned and departed the country before the project was complete. 

Construction was expected to take four years and cost $7 million but it instead took 14 years, 10,000 construction workers and cost $102 million, largely paid for by a State Lottery.

Many seemed to conveniently overlook this latter fact recently when mass-hyperventilation broke out about the sails of the Opera House being again used for light shows, causes and advertising. In 2018 confected outrage spilled out over the Opera House's sails being used to promote Racing NSW’s Everest horse race – an event from a gambling-related industry, an activity that largely funded the Opera House.


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