Sydney’s Opera House is 40

By | Category: Travel destinations

As one Australian attraction suffers in the bush fires, another celebrates its fortieth anniversary. The Sydney Opera House was officially opened by the Queen on this day in 1973.

This iconic building – and yes, it does carry than overused tag – is one that is automatically associated with Australia and Sydney in particular. With the Harbour Bridge, koalas, kangaroos, Uluru and maybe a Bondi Beach lifesaver, these are things you automatically connect with the country. It’s on everybody’s to-do list when they go to Sydney though far fewer go inside.

And – to be honest – inside is a bit of a disappointment. It has none of the grandeur the outside has. I have been told the acoustics aren’t particularly fantastic and for many years it was difficult to stop the rain leaking in. It isn’t just used for opera; there are concerts and my sister had her high school prize day held there back in the mid-seventies.

But it is the outside that it is striking. Seeing it from the ferries passing by, watching it as you go over the harbour bridge or gazing at it from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair or Beulah Street Wharf on the north shore of the harbour, the only word for the building is magnificent. As an architectural achievement, Joern Utzon – the Danish architect who designed it – should be proud.

Less proud were Sydneysiders who, in the early days, faced a jump in the bill from less than $A10 million to more than $A100 million. There were arguments galore between the government and the architect, the architect and the builders and people themselves who still argue as to what the roof is supposed to portray.

The actor, Robert Morley, said it reminded him of four angry sharks and two retreating; Noel Coward thought it a hanger or a chain store and the pianist, Pavel Serebryakov, thought it looked like an upside-down ship’s keel. The opera singer, Dame Joan Hammond, said anyone connected with it should be ashamed and the actor, Sir Tyrone Guthrie called it an expensive knick-knack. Built in a country where its then leading opera star, Dame Nellie Melba (she of the toast fame) advised another opera star to “just sing ’em muck” would an opera house attract people?

Today it is that rarest of things – a truly iconic building that has to be seen by every visitor.

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