“Everyone’s Invited”: Sydney's Iconic Opera House Turns 50 - Hope 103.2

“Everyone’s Invited”: Sydney’s Iconic Opera House Turns 50

The world-famous sails celebrate a golden milestone in style – with a weekend-long party and free events for all.

By Mike CrooksFriday 20 Oct 2023CultureReading Time: 3 minutes

On its 50th birthday, the Sydney Opera House is throwing open its doors.

For the first time in eight years, the iconic world-heritage listed building is holding an open day, inviting members of the public to a behind-the-scenes peek inside the entertainment hub.

“The Opera House has been a place for culture, creativity, community and connection since it first opened in 1973,” Sydney Opera House Director of Programming Fiona Winning said in a statement.

“So it’s only fitting that to mark the culmination of our year-long 50th anniversary, we’re throwing open the doors so that tens of thousands of people can explore and experience the magic of one of the most celebrated buildings in the world.”

Open days

This open weekend, which runs October 21-22, will welcome “thousands of visitors behind-the-scenes to experience and celebrate five extraordinary decades of creativity,” said an Opera House statement.

Those lucky enough to get inside will have access to the building’s seven theatres.

There will also be performances by local artists, special exhibits and First Nations dance performances.

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Laser show

Other birthday celebrations kick off on Friday evening, with ICON – a laser show created by artist Robin Fox.

The audio-visual event can be seen at the Opera House site as well as from other points around the harbour.

Party time

The Opera House Bar is also hosting a “Gold Party” and the lower concourse will be decorated as a “golden paradise”.

“Enjoy roving entertainment all weekend long, with live performances, sip on our specially crafted gold glitzy cocktails, not just drinks but works of art,” an Opera House bar statement read.

“And it wouldn’t be an Opera Bar party without a gold-themed bespoke menu, a culinary masterpiece that’s visually stunning and bursting with flavour.”

Entry is free and the party begins at 4pm each day from Friday to Sunday.

Month-long festival

But that’s not all. The Opera House’s 50th Birthday Festival is a month-long celebration that will include music, dance, theatre, art and free community events.

Highlights include:

  • Whispers: a public artwork by artist Megan Cope (27 September–31 October).
  • Emma Donovan: The ARIA-nominated artist brings her “fusion of classic soul, roots and Indigenous songcraft” to the House (October 20).
  • Message in a Bottle – a new dance-theatre performance set to the music of Sting (October 25– 29).


The idea of a “National Opera House” at Sydney’s Bennelong Point was first proposed in 1955 and the NSW Government launched an international competition to find a design for the project.

Then unknown Danish architect Jørn Utzon won the competition with a concept “which is capable of becoming one of the great buildings of the world,” the competition assessors wrote in their report.

“Because of its very originality, it is clearly a controversial design. We are however, absolutely convinced of its merits.”

Construction began on March 2, 1959. Seven years later, Mr Utzon resigned from the project over disagreements with the NSW Government. Newcastle-born architect Peter Hall took over the project. Mr Utzon died in 2008, having never returned to Australia to see his masterpiece completed.

Queen Elizabeth II opened the Sydney Opera House on October 20, 1973, declaring that the building “has captured the imagination of the world… The human spirit must sometimes take wings or sails and create something that is not just utilitarian or commonplace.”

For more information on the Opera House’s 50th birthday, visit here.

Feature image: Canva Pro