The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, Australia. It is one of the 20th century’s most famous and distinctive buildings.
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the building was formally opened on 20 October 1973 after a gestation beginning with Utzon’s 1957 selection as winner of an international design competition. The government of New South Wales, led by the premier, Joseph Cahill, authorised work to begin in 1958 with Utzon directing construction. The government’s decision to build Utzon’s design is often overshadowed by circumstances that followed, including cost and scheduling overruns as well as the architect’s ultimate resignation.
The building and its surrounds occupy the whole of Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, between Sydney Cove and Farm Cove, adjacent to the Sydney central business district and the Royal Botanic Gardens, and close by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Though its name suggests a single venue, the building comprises multiple performance venues which together are among the busiest performing arts centres – hosting well over 1,500 performances annually, attended by more than 1.2 million people. Performances are presented by numerous performing artists, including four resident companies: Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, more than eight million people visit the site annually, and approximately 350,000 visitors take a guided tour of the building each year. The building is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, an agency of the New South Wales State Government.
On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” Expert evaluation report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, 2007.
Fusing ancient and modernist influences, the sculptural elegance of the Sydney Opera House has made it one of the most recognisable buildings of the twentieth century, synonymous with inspiration and creativity. As Pritzker Prize judge, Frank Gehry, said when awarding architecture’s highest award in 2003: “[Jørn] Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology… a building that changed the image of an entire country.”
Built to “help mould a better and more enlightened community,” in the words of then New South Wales Premier Joseph Cahill, Sydney Opera House has, since opening in 1973, been home to many of the world’s greatest artists and performances and a meeting place for matters of local and international significance. Today it is one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres and Australia’s number one destination, presenting uniquely diverse experiences to more than 8.2 million visitors, 363 days a year.
Those experiences range from the work of seven flagship performing arts companies – Opera Australia, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Theatre Company, The Australian Ballet, Bell Shakespeare and Bangarra Dance Theatre – to burgeoning contemporary music, talks-and-ideas and children’s programming, and award-winning restaurants and bars.
As the Opera House approaches its 45th Anniversary in 2018, a year that also marks the centenary of architect Jørn Utzon’s birth, a suite of projects is underway to renew the building for future generations of artists, audiences and visitors. As part of this Renewal, the Opera House is committed to bringing the vision and ambition that inspired its creation to all that it does. Google Cultural Institute provides an unparalleled opportunity to share the many facets of the Opera House, past, present and future, with people wherever they are.