Sydney Opera House celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2023

February 17, 2023

The Sydney Opera House, located on Bennelong Point, is Australia’s most important building and an iconic global landmark. The building is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

Photo: Andrew Isaacson/Eastside FM

Jørn Utzon was an unknown Danish Architect in January 1957.

Then he won an international competition for designing a National Opera House to be located at Sydney’s Bennelong Point.

The Sydney Opera House was completed on Oct. 20, 1973 after being under construction for 14 years. It helped transform Australia’s image and became the nation’s most distinguished landmark.

For the last 50 years, the Sydney Opera House has become a symbol of modern Australia and heavily engaged the entire community. It is the most famous and busiest performing arts centre, and the number one tourist destination in the country.

The prominent centre is having a year-long celebration to commemorate the opening of the building and celebrate its past, present and future.

The celebration started back on Oct. 19 when the film “From the Sails: Light Years” was shown on the sails for 12 consecutive nights. The film depicts the history and all the guests that have stepped inside the Opera House over the years. 

The 50th Anniversary festivities will be highlighted by Ascent, a triple bill performance presented by the Sydney Dance Company from March 15 to March 16. Jonas Kaufmann, a world leading tenor, will perform concerts at the house from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12.

Blak & Deadly: The First Nations Gala Concert will take place at the Opera House on March 2 as part of Sydney’s WorldPride Celebration. 

The house over the years has hosted numerous symphony orchestra concerts, choir performances, dance shows, operas, ballets and so much more.

The first performance at the venue occurred 13 years before the building officially opened when American singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson climbed up the scaffolding and sang his hit, “Ol’ Man River” to the construction workers. 

The Opera House had almost 11 million site visitors a year and hosted over 1,800 performances including from global artists Sting, Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. About 1.4 million people attend performances yearly.

Arnold Schwarzenegger won his final Mr. Olympia body-building title in the house’s Concert Hall in 1980 and Pope John Paul II spoke at a ceremony in the same hall in 1986.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela delivered a speech about forgiveness to 40,000 spectators on the Opera House steps after spending 27 years in prison.

More recently, Oprah Winfrey filmed two episodes of her four episode series: “Ultimate Australian Adventure” at the site in 2010, in front of a live audience and with Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Olivia Newton John.

The house has gone through a “Decade of Renewal” since their 40th Anniversary celebration in 2013. The website said the NSW Government funded their renovation project which was worth almost $300 million with the goal of opening up more to the community.  The Opera House during that time period developed a new Centre for Creativity and upgraded their Joan Sutherland Theatre and Concert Hall.

La Bohème is one of many opera shows performed at the Sydney Opera House. The venue is a symbol of modern Australia and has transformed the city for the last 50 years.

Photo: Andrew Isaacson/Eastside FM

The Opera House has been a leader within the arts and culture industry and an advocate for positive change. The website said the building over the years has “championed environmental sustainability, creativity, diversity, cultural rights and respect for heritage.”

In 2019, they were the first major arts institution in Australia to commit itself to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which help address inequality, education and climate change

Jess Miller, former City of Sydney Councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor, said arts and culture is one of the most essential things for sustainability and a brighter future, and without that creative process or vision, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and give up.

“Places like the Opera House, that give everyone an opportunity to come together and really dream about how we get ourselves out of this mess, are of critical importance,” Miller said. “Without them we’d be a lot sadder, and probably nowhere near as excited about the opportunities that we currently have to reimagine what the world could be.”

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