The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It was conceived and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, opening in 1973 after a long gestation that had begun with his competition-winning design in 1957. Joseph Cahill's New South Wales Government gave the go-ahead for work to begin in 1958. The government's bold decision to select Utzon's design is often overshadowed by the scandal that followed.
The Sydney Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007. It is one of the 20th century's most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world. The Sydney Opera House is on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It sits at the northeastern tip of the Sydney central business district (the CBD), surrounded on three sides by the harbour (Sydney Cove and Farm Cove) and inland by the Royal Botanic Gardens. Contrary to its name, the building houses multiple performance venues.
The Sydney Opera House is among the busiest performing arts centres in the world, hosting over 1,500 performances each year attended by some 1.2 million people. It provides a venue for many performing-arts companies, including the four key resident companies Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and presents a wide range of productions on its own account. It is also one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, with more than seven million people visiting the site each year, 300,000 of whom take a guided tour. Description
The Sydney Opera House is a modern expressionist design, with a series of large precast concrete "shells", each composed of sections of a sphere of 75.2 metres (246 ft 8.6 in) radius, forming the roofs of the structure, set on a monumental podium.
The building covers 1.8 hectares (4.4 acres) of land and is 183 m (600 ft) long and 120 m (394 ft) wide at its widest point. It is supported on 588 concrete piers sunk as much as 25 m (82 ft) below sea level. Although the roof structures of the Sydney Opera House are commonly referred to as "shells" (as they are in this article), they are in fact not shells in a strictly structural sense, but are instead precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs.
The shells are covered in a subtle chevron pattern with 1,056,006 glossy white- and matte-cream-coloured Swedish-made tiles from Höganäs AB, a factory that generally produced stoneware tiles for the paper-mill industry. Though, from a distance, the shells appear a uniform white.
Apart from the tile of the shells and the glass curtain walls of the foyer spaces, the building's exterior is largely clad with aggregate panels composed of pink granite quarried at Tarana. Significant interior surface treatments also include off-form concrete, Australian white birch plywood supplied from Wauchope in northern New South Wales, and brush box glulam. Of the two larger spaces, the Concert Hall is located within the western group of shells, and the Joan Sutherland Theatre within the eastern group.
The scale of the shells was chosen to reflect the internal height requirements, with low entrance spaces, rising over the seating areas and up to the high stage towers. The smaller venues (the Drama Theatre, the Playhouse, and The Studio) are located within the podium, beneath the Concert Hall. A smaller group of shells set to the western side of the Monumental Steps houses the Bennelong Restaurant. The podium is surrounded by substantial open public spaces, of which the large stone-paved forecourt area with the adjacent monumental steps is also regularly used as a performance space. Opening
The Opera House was formally opened by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, on 20 October 1973. A large crowd attended. The architect, Jørn Utzon, was not invited to the ceremony, nor was his name mentioned. The opening was televised and included fireworks and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Performance firsts
During the construction of the Opera House, lunchtime performances were often arranged for the workers, with Paul Robeson the first artist to perform at the (unfinished) Opera House in 1960. Various performances were presented in the finished building prior to the official opening: -The first solo piano recital was in the Concert Hall on 10 April 1973, played by Romola Costantino to an invited audience.
-The first opera performed was Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace, in what was then known as the Opera Theatre on 28 September 1973, conducted by the Australian Opera's Music Director, Edward Downes. (It had been intended that Peter Sculthorpe's work Rites of Passage would have this honour, but it was not ready on time. Rites of Passage was premiered almost exactly a year later, on 27 September 1974)
-The first evening performance of an opera was Larry Sitsky's The Fall of the House of Usher, conducted by Rex Hobcroft. -The first public concert in the Concert Hall took place on 29 September 1973. It was an all-Wagner orchestral concert performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Mackerras and with Birgit Nilsson as the soprano soloist. The first music played was the Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The concert closed with the Immolation Scene. -The first lieder recital was given by Birgit Nilsson on 6 October 1973, accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons.
After the opening: -The first violin and piano recital was given by Wanda Wiłkomirska, also with Geoffrey Parsons. -The first vocalist to perform at the Opera House was American singer Dick Roman. Reconciliation with Utzon
Beginning in the late 1990s, the Sydney Opera House Trust began to communicate with Jørn Utzon in an attempt to effect a reconciliation and to secure his involvement in future changes to the building. In 1999, he was appointed by the Trust as a design consultant for future work. In 2004, the first interior space rebuilt to an Utzon design was opened, and renamed "The Utzon Room" in his honour. In April 2007, he proposed a major reconstruction of the Opera Theatre, as it was then known. Utzon died on 29 November 2008.
A state memorial service, attended by Utzon's son Jan and daughter Lin, celebrating the creative genius of Jørn Utzon was held in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on 25 March 2009 featuring performances, readings and recollections from prominent figures in the Australian performing arts scene. On 17 November 2009, Sydney Opera House officially opened the refurbished Western Foyers and Accessibility improvements, the largest building project completed since Jørn Utzon was re-engaged in 1999.
Designed by Utzon and his son Jan, in collaboration with Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker, the project has transformed the Western Foyers into a stylish and functional space providing patrons with additional amenities including new ticketing, toilet and cloaking facilities. Importantly, new escalators and a public lift have vastly improved access for less mobile visitors, people with a disability and families with prams. On the same day, Louise Sauvage was announced as Sydney Opera House's inaugural accessibility ambassador. In this role Louise Sauvage will provide advice on the implementation of Sydney Opera House's Access Strategic Plan with a view to further improving access for people with disabilities. Sport
For the 2000 Summer Olympics, the venue served as the focal point for the triathlon events. The event had a 1.5 km (0.93 mi) swimming loop at Farm Cove, along with competitions in the neighbouring Royal Botanical Gardens for the cycling and running portions of the event.