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Remembering Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The world has lost a towering symbol of humanity, stoicism and grace with the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sydney Opera House

Her Late Majesty was the longest-serving monarch in British history, and a model of strength and stability through seven decades of sweeping social change. Her devotion to a life of public service inspired millions.

Two decades ago, as she stood in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House, the Queen promised to remain true to the interests of Australia and Australians. “That is my duty,” she said. “That is my duty. It is also my privilege and my pleasure.”

At the Opera House, we were honoured by her presence at our most important moments, and we celebrate her contribution to the life and culture of Australia.

On 3 February 1954, when the newly crowned Monarch made her first visit to Australia, the prospect of a cultural centre somewhere in Sydney was little more than a thought-bubble among a small group of Australians. It wasn’t until later that year that the then-Premier, Joe Cahill, convened a public meeting about an opera house that would “help to develop and mould a better, more enlightened community”.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attending the opening of Sydney Opera House on 20 October, 1973

On 20 October 1973, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and then Premier, Sir Robert Askin, visited Bennelong Point to officially open the new Opera House. Standing in the wind, she congratulated the people of Sydney and Australia for this “remarkable addition to its architecture and to its cultural and community life.”

While acknowledging the long-running debates surrounding its construction, the Queen said the building had captured the imagination of the world. “The human spirit,” she said, “must sometimes take wings or sails, and create something that is not just utilitarian or commonplace.”

In March 2000, just months after Australia held a republic referendum, she kicked off a two-week tour of Australia with another visit to the Opera House. The building, she said, was “recognised and acknowledged everywhere as a symbol of Australia's determination to make its mark in the world as such a lively, distinctive and innovative nation.” In her speech, she reflected on her relationship to the country, saying she had felt part of this “rugged, honest, creative land” since stepping ashore in 1954.

In 2006, she returned to the Opera House to open our new colonnade, describing it as a happy occasion “rich in associations, memories and symbolism.” She said the new addition set the seal on a historic partnership between Jorn Utzon, the government and the people of NSW. “It confirms that the Opera House is not something sacred but a living structure, a vibrant and evolving place that meets the needs of its users and reflects the wishes of the people,” she said.

The Queen meets local dignitaries on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 2006

As we prepare to celebrate 50 years of the Opera House, we express our gratitude to Her Late Majesty for her life of service and offer our condolences to the Royal Family.

The Sydney Opera House has captured the imagination of the world.

Queen Elizabeth II opening the Sydney Opera House, 1973

Lighting of the Sails in commemoration

9 – 10 September 2022

The Opera House sails will be lit to recognise Her Majesty's contribution to the life and culture of Australia. 

The lighting of the Sydney Opera House sails will take place over two days from Friday 9 September 7.30pm to midnight and Saturday 10 September - 6.30pm to midnight.

Streamread & listen to more at the Opera House