Sydney Opera House, description and photo

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is an outstanding example of 20th century expressionist architecture. The building is a tourist brand of Australia and the cultural center of Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House is an outstanding architectural structure of the 20th century. It was nominated as a new wonder of the world and was among the finalists. Listed by UNESCO, it is a popular tourist attraction.

The Sydney Opera House is located in the local harbor at Bennelong Point. The building was built on 580 concrete piles driven into the bottom. Its length is 183 m, width – 118, and the occupied area – more than 21.5 thousand m 2 . The maximum height of the building is 67 m.

Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House refer not only to the history of construction and architectural implementation (we’ll talk about them below). No other theater in the repertoire has a work about it. Opera House’s The Eighth Wonder is the only precedent.

History of the Sydney Opera House

Sydney had no opera house at all until the mid-twentieth century. The guest conductor of the local symphony orchestra, Eugene Goossens, considered this situation unacceptable. The authorities of Sydney agreed with him, but did not have the funds to build. In 1954, they announced a donation drive that lasted two decades. During this period about 10,000,000 AUD were raised. The original reported cost of the structure of 70,000,000 AUD eventually turned out to be 10,000,000 AUD actually spent.

According to the terms of the tender, the theater was to be built in the limited area of Cape Bennelong. The 3,000-seat main hall of the projected building was reserved for the opera and ballet. A smaller hall with seating for 1200 spectators was to be used for chamber music and theatrical productions. The young Danish architect Jorn Utson was the winner among 233 competitors. His design resembled a multi-sail ship on the water surface surrounding the cape.

Work began in 1959 and lasted 14 years instead of the planned four, extending the date of construction until 1973. Delaying the deadline had both objective and subjective reasons. Among the first were the demands of the authorities to add two more auditoriums. And the original steam roof sheathing designed by Jorn Utson had acoustical deficiencies. It took the architect several years to find an alternative technical solution. The new vault turned out to be too heavy for the made foundation, and a new one had to be made.

The extra costs and delays in construction strained Utson’s relationship with the local authorities, and he left Sydney. In 1966, local architects continued construction. According to many experts, this had a negative effect on the interior of the building. The theater inside is significantly inferior to the stunning facade.

Sydney’s new building actually opened on September 28, 1973 with Sergei Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace. The official ceremony was held on October 20 with the British monarchess Elizabeth II, who is the formal head of Australia.

The architect of the Sydney Opera House was not present at the opening, and was not even mentioned. Nor is his name on the authors’ bronze plaque at the entrance. It is true that in the same year the local Institute of Architects awarded Jorn Utson a gold medal. In 2003 he received the Pritzker Prize, architects’ highest award, for his project.

In 1999, Jorn Utson designed the reconstruction of the Reception Hall, later renamed in his honor. Jörn’s son, the architect Jan Utson, supervised the work. And Jorn himself did not return to Sydney after 1966. He died in 2008 before he saw his famous creation. The floodlights illuminating the Sydney Opera House were turned off for an hour in memory of the great architect.

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Sydney Opera House its architect and architect

Opera houses are usually built in a classical style. In contrast, the Sydney Opera House is a shining example of expressionist architecture. The unique roof is realized in the form of sails of different sizes. Surrounded by water on three sides the building from a distance looks like a big multi-sail ship moored in the Sydney harbor. That’s how the architect saw the future theater. He said he wanted to take the audience away from the usual routine into a fantasy world of actors and musicians.

The area available for construction was limited. The projects rejected by the jury had the common disadvantage of being unwieldy. Jörn Utson solved the problem by shifting the attention to the architectural dominant feature – the roof. Its total diameter is 150 metres. The roof frame consists of two thousand concrete sections and weighs 30 tonnes. The two largest sails crown the two main halls, which were originally designed. Under the smallest sail is the Bennelong restaurant. The entire structure is attached by metal cables, with a total length of 350 km.

The uneven height of the roof originally caused problems with the acoustics. They were eliminated by a sound-reflecting ceiling with special gutters. The latter, in addition to their practical function, also performed an aesthetic one, emphasizing the arches of the stage.

The top of the roof-sails were covered with white polished and cream matte azulejo tiles (Portuguese tiles). It was specially made for the theater. The edges are dominated by matte tiles and the center by shiny tiles, which created an iridescent effect. More than a million pieces of tile were required for the tiling, which covered a total area of 1.62 hectares. The mechanical method of laying made it possible to achieve a perfect evenness that was unattainable with manual tiling.

Although the sails of the roof appear white from a distance, they change color depending on the light. As the architect said, the sun and clouds will make the roof come alive and you never get tired of looking at it. He was right.

The Sydney Opera House inside

The functional purpose of the main halls has changed. The main hall, originally tasked with opera and ballet, has been re-purposed as a concert hall. The second hall in terms of size was turned into an opera hall. Currently the complex has six main rooms.

  • Concert Hall for 2679 spectators. One of the largest organs in the world is installed in it with 10 thousand pipes. The stage is 17*11 m and can be expanded with 85 front seats.
  • The Opera Theatre has a seating capacity of 1,547 spectators. Its tapestry curtain, called the “Solar”, is the largest on the planet.
  • The Drama Theatre with 544 seats is used for theater and dance performances. Its dark curtain tapestry is called the “Moonlight Tapestry.
  • The 398-seat Playhouse is home to chamber theater productions, lectures, and film screenings. The auditorium can be expanded in two stages, sacrificing 46 seats.
  • The Studio Hall, opened in 1999, can accommodate 364 lovers of avant-garde plays, contemporary music or corporate events.
  • Jorn Utson’s small auditorium is adorned by a wool tapestry in bright colors, woven from his sketch.
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The theater complex includes about a thousand different rooms. In addition to the halls, the building has rehearsal rooms, theater stages, a recording studio, stores, cafes, restaurants, and other numerous facilities. A person who does not know the layout of the theater, it is not difficult to get lost in it.

There is an anecdotal case of a novice courier delivering a parcel. He got lost in the rooms and ended up on stage during a performance. Fortunately, one of the actors was not confused and uttered: “The package was finally delivered!” The audience thought his line was part of the story.

Another comical incident occurred during a performance of Musorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov. Its scenery included real chickens. One of them flew from the stage onto the musician’s head. After that, a net was placed over the orchestra pit.

The Sydney Opera House at Bennelong point, Sydney NSW 2000, hosts about three thousand cultural events each year, with millions of spectators. Find out about the repertoire and book tickets on the official website.

300 thousand tourists annually visit the theater as part of organized excursions. They are held from 9 to 17 hours every day except Christmas and Good Friday, and last about an hour.

The cost of a typical tour – 35 AUD. Evening tours are also practiced, combined with a show, as well as dinner in a restaurant or cafe. For example, a guided tour and Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, well complemented by dinner at the Mozart Bistro.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Its masterpiece architecture combined with a vibrant performance space has become a hallmark of Australia.

It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. This makes the Sydney Opera House an outstanding example of architectural ensemble, exceptional for all civilization, an example of human creative genius.

The theater is located in the picturesque harbor of New South Wales, on Bennelong Point. The building is surrounded on three sides by water and stands on deeply driven piles.

Sydney Opera House repertoire

The Sydney Opera House hosts about 3,000 events a year. With a huge capacity, about 1.5 million people visit it during the same period.

Sydney Opera House

The selection of events here ranges from small to large – cabaret, comedy shows, opera, children’s shows and interactive, theater and dance productions, classical and contemporary music, films, performances and much more.

Sydney Opera House

Digital creative learning, a journey into the universe of Jorn Watson, an introduction to Australian history, exclusive performances by talented artists, artists, musicians – all this and many more opportunities are hiding within the walls of the building.

Sydney Opera House

There is a fascinating children’s program, where you can watch the development of the era of the dinosaurs or watch Simon Tedeschi perform as Mozart. Moreover, the theater provides social assistance and support for the visually and hearing impaired – subtitles and audio descriptions, sound enhancement systems, companion cards, the ability to bring guide dogs onto the premises, etc.

Tickets need to be booked in advance, as there are a lot of people wanting to get to the events.

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The Sydney Opera House is constantly changing, relentlessly following the trends of the progressive world. The theater itself creates these trends.

Sydney Opera House

Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Joan Sutherland, Oprah Winfrey, Jacqueline McKenzie and others have once performed here. The history of the theater continues to be made today.

Tours of the Sydney Opera House

There are 4 ways to visit the Opera House in Sydney.

Option 1: Walk along the building along the waterfront with camera in hand. Explore from all angles the non-trivial facades and walk into the theater lobby. It’s free and available for everyone.

Option 2. Buy tickets to a performance, event, show.

Or participate in the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. Include watching fireworks and a concert, a visit to the Sydney Theater, and a sumptuous dinner and buffet.

Sydney Opera House

Option 3. Visit the Bennelong Restaurant and Bar inside the building.

Option 4. Take a tour arranged by the theater itself.

The tours are offered in English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, and North Chinese.

There is plenty to choose from:

  • The Sydney Opera House Tour includes an introduction to the history of the theater and a walk through its endless labyrinths. Duration is one hour and tickets start at $43.
  • The Backstage Tour includes a behind-the-scenes tour and breakfast. Duration – about 2.5 hours, ticket price – from $175.
  • The Tour and Tasting Plate offers an opportunity not only to experience the atmosphere and secrets of the Opera House, but also to taste the best local cuisine. The duration is about 1 hour and the ticket price is from $82.80.
  • Tour and Dine is similar to the previous tour with the difference being that after learning about the history, guests will go to the Opera Bar for dinner. Duration – about 1 hour, ticket price – from $80.
  • Junior Adventure Tour is a youth adventure tour filled with interactive activities, games, and unusual facts about theater. Duration – 1 hour, ticket price from $21.
  • The Sydney Opera House Access Tour is designed for visitors with disabilities. Duration – 1 hour, ticket price – from $43.

Reservations for the tour can be made on the Sydney Opera House’s official website.

Buy tickets

What’s inside the Sydney Opera House building

The theater is home to the Australian Opera Company, the Sydney Theatre Company, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The Opera House contains 5 theater halls, 5 rehearsal rooms, many administrative offices, hallways and lounges, restaurants, bars and gift stores. In all, there are 800 rooms with 2,200 doors leading to them.


The Concert Hall and Opera House, with their ceilings formed by the two largest arches of “sails”, the Drama Theater, the Music Hall and the Studio Theater are a list of the five theatrical halls. Their total capacity is 5,532 seats.

Concert Hall

In addition to productions, the services of the Sydney Theater are also used for weddings, lectures, parties, conferences and other cultural events. Small recording, exhibition and reception rooms are provided for these purposes.

Sydney Opera House

In contrast to the exterior, which is made in natural colors, the interior of the rooms is striking with a bright color scheme in the “space-age Gothic” style. Interestingly, the prosceniums of the Drama Theater and Opera House are decorated with tapestry works of John Coburn.


Special attention should be paid to the excellent gastronomic establishments for spectators and tourists.

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“Opera Kitchen” is the perfect place to enjoy Asian dishes with seafood and burgers. Famous for its excellent cocktail list. Open 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sydney Opera House

“Bennelong Restaurant and Bar is a cozy place with an interior more like a cathedral or miniature theater. Here you should try Australian cuisine and wine for a late dinner. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to p.m. (Mon – Wed) or 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to p.m. (Thu – Sat).

Sydney Opera House

“Portside Sydney Opera House is a modern Australian restaurant with a casual atmosphere. Offers lunch, late dinner and children’s menu. The opening hours are from 11:30 until the evening every day.

Sydney Opera House

The beginning of history

The idea for the Opera Theatre first came from Eugene Hussain, principal conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. At the time there were no buildings suitable for opera productions.

The Australian authorities supported Husein’s idea, and a competition was soon announced for the right to design the theater. Among more than two hundred works by architects from all over the world, the jury chose the project of the young Jorn Watson.

The architect of the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Watson The Danish architect, in addition to the Sydney Opera House, designed the Kuwaiti National Assembly building. Recipient of the Wolf, Sonning and Pritzker Prizes, honorary companion of the Order of Australia. After leaving Australia, he never returned there, and consequently never got to see the completed and completed opera house.

Watson’s work was amazing from an artistic point of view, but completely unsupported from an engineering point of view. The architect himself did not expect to be chosen. The drawings were “raw”, it was difficult to even approximately determine the necessary costs of the project.

One of Jorn Watson's original competition drawings

The construction of the Opera House in Sydney

Four years and seven million dollars – that’s what the government gave the young architect for the construction of the Opera House. To keep within these figures was unrealistic.

Firstly, no one had any experience in creating a “sail” roof. It took only six years to develop the schemes and search for a workable solution. The final design was in the form of sphere sections. This opened a whole range of possibilities in the design and management of the geometric shapes of the building.

Sydney Opera House

Secondly, the non-standard roof caused a lot of problems with the acoustics of the hall. It was necessary to additionally make a sound-reflecting ceiling with special gutters.

Thirdly, the government interfered with the construction, demanding that additional halls be added and controlling the process in every way possible.

The original budget was greatly exceeded. This did not please the local authorities. Jorn Watson was accused of unprofessionalism and suspended from the project. Peter Hall took over as the new architect.

The Sydney Theatre became an expression of expressionist views, a place of “celebration of culture” and reverence for tradition, ahead of its time.

Sydney Opera House

14 years and $102 million – that’s how long it actually took to build the Sydney Opera House.

Opening of

On October 20, 1973, the grand opening of the Sydney Opera House took place. The lavish ceremony was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

The test performance featured Donald Smith, Elizabeth Fretwell, and members of the National Training Orchestra.

Architecture in numbers.

  • 22,000 square meters is the area of the opera house.
  • 67 meters is the height of the building’s roof.
  • 1,056,006 ceramic tiles were needed for the roof to make it appear perfectly smooth.
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Sydney Opera House

  • 6,225 square meters is the area of the entire glass facade in the theater.
  • 25,000 people – the city’s population, whose energy consumption is equal to that of the Sydney Opera House.
  • 202 million dollars – that’s the estimated cost of auditorium upgrades and major renovations to replace outdated technology, according to a series of projects submitted by the theater in 2016.

Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House

  1. The image of the Sydney Opera House was used as the basis for the official logo of the 2000 Olympic Games. The theater was also included in the route along which the torch was carried.
  2. Jorn Watson himself said that the architecture of the theater had nothing to do with shipbuilding (sails). He compared the structure to a peeled orange, the peel of which looks like parts of a spherical surface.
  3. The first production at the Opera House was Prokofiev’s War and Peace.
  4. The Concert Hall is home to the largest organ in the world. It has five manual keyboards and 10 154 pipes.
  5. Sydney theater has long been popularized. For example, it appears in “Godzilla Final Wars” and in the final scene of “Finding Nemo,” “Sunshine.” Lego produced a special “Sydney Opera House” constructor with 2,989 parts. And the Fugo Games team developed an entire game dedicated to the theater, WORDS OF WONDERS.
  6. Some modern buildings have been inspired by the architecture of the Sydney Opera House, including the Auditorio de Tenerife and the City of Arts and Sciences in Spain and the Lotus Temple in India.
  7. The color of the roof doesn’t just come in white and beige and milk colors. Often in the evening include bright lights, and the building turns into a shimmering stone or becomes a screen to reflect video art and vivid compositions.

How to get to the Opera House

The Opera House building in Sydney is a six-minute walk from Circular Quay station, an international passenger port and transportation hub. There are several ferry docks, bus stops and a train station.

By train (T).

You can get to Circular Quay station on the T2 Inner West & Leppington Line, T3 Bankstown Line, T8 Airport & South Line trains.

The train station is open 24 hours a day.

By ferry (F)

Getting by ferry can be much more interesting, such as F1 from Manly, F2 from Taronga Zoo, F3 from Parramatta River, F5 from Neutral Bay, F6 from Mosman Bay, F7 from Double Bay, F8 from Cockatoo Island.

Or disembark en route “Watsons Bay to Pyrmont Bay” or “Pyrmont Bay to Watsons Bay” from F4 at Circular Quay.

Tickets must be purchased at the kiosks at the marina. There are also sea cabs available.

Circular Quay

By bus (B).

Bus #304, 373, 374, 377, 507, 515, 518, 520, M52 go to the “Stand A” stop.

To “Stand D” – №333, 333N, 392, 394, 396, 397, 399, L94, X94, X97. There are also free buses for seniors and less mobile customers – schedule.

By cab

Cabs in Sydney can be booked in advance or caught on the street simply by raising your hand. Well-known companies are Sydney Shuttle Taxi Cab, Sydney Maxi Taxis.

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