Sydney Opera House
Good for: theatre, Photography, architecture, views, live music
Lonely Planet review for Sydney Opera House
Overcome with admiration for the Sydney Opera House, notable architect Louis Kahn said, ‘The sun did not know how beautiful its light was until it was reflected off this building.’ Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s competition-winning 1956 design is Australia’s most recognisable icon. It’s mused to have drawn inspiration from orange segments, palm fronds and Maya temples, and has been poetically likened to a typewriter stuffed with scallop shells and the sexual congress of turtles. While viewed from any angle it’s architecturally orgasmic, the ferry view approaching Circular Quay is hard to beat.
The predicted four-year construction started in 1959. After a tumultuous clash of egos, delays, politicking, death and cost blowouts, Utzon quit in disgust in 1966. The Opera House finally opened in 1973. Unembittered, Utzon and his son Jan were commissioned for renovations in 2004, but Utzon died in 2008 having never seen his finished masterpiece in the flesh.
Inside are six auditoriums where dance, concerts, opera and theatre are staged, plus the left-of-centre Studio for emerging artists. The acoustics are superb; the internal aesthetics like the belly of a whale. Most events (2400 of them annually!) sell out quickly, but partial-view tickets are often available on short notice. The free monthly What’s On brochure has upcoming listings, including info on Kids at the House – a pint-sized entertainment program with music, drama and dance (including introductory ballet with Australian Ballet dancers).
One-hour guided tours depart half-hourly (you’ll save a few bucks if you book online). Tours employ archival video footage to help tell the story of the iconic building’s construction. A highlight is the Utzon Room, the only part of the House to have an interior designed by the great man himself. For a more in-depth nosy around, the two-hour early-morning backstage tour includes the Green Room and stars’ dressing rooms.
Disabled access is pretty good, although some sections require staff assistance (call in advance).