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Posters from the Sydney Opera House's design archives

Opera House posters: best of the decade, 1960s to now

Five decades of Australian art and ideas in graphic design

Stephanie Moscovis, Ali Boschen

A few weeks ago we gave you a taste of some of the posters from our unopened archives.

Here are 20 more from the last five decades that have inspired the imagination of our audiences of all ages. Explore these moments from an exhibition for theatre design, to the Sydney Opera House’s twentieth birthday.

1960-70s

Bring Utzon Back (1969)

This was a poster used by protesters lobbying for the return of Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. The designer uses a late 60s ‘flower power’ type treatment, indicative of youth culture at the time.

Designing Minds (1978)

The Designing Minds exhibition poster takes us into the surreal world of film, television and theatre design. The poster for this event, held in the Sydney Opera House Exhibition Hall, entices us through a mysterious archway and into the mind of the designer.

Christmas at the House (1978)

Santa and his reindeers were ready and waiting with a sack of gifts. The use of negative space allows the designer to cram in the long list of performers and activities for the festivities.  

Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (1979)

As the blackness of the poster envelopes, angelic figures appear as the focal point of this work. The Dream of Gerontius was Elgar’s choral masterpiece and tells of an old man’s journey to the gates of judgment after he departs this world.

1980s

Folkloric Festival (1981)

Bold contrasts and the scattering of multicolour type over the sails is used to represent the diversity of the Folkloric Festival. Running through the 70s and 80s, this festival celebrated traditional cultures from across the world on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt.

Forbidden Fruit (1982)

Presented by the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, this performance produced by the Aurore Puppet Theatre was innovative for its time. Based on Goblin Market, a poem by Christina Rossetti, this play took us through a surreal world of puppetry. In this poster we see a figure tethered to the fate of the forbidden fruit in a sparse landscape, adding to dramatisation and suspense.

Christmas at the Opera House (1987)

This colourful collage of bows, tinsel, holly and toys shaped into a Christmas tree. Joyous and bright, this family affair in the Concert Hall was a yearly event filled with carols, and of course, Santa.

Great Australian Films (1988)

The Monumental Steps is filled with onlooking eyes as a spool of film reel leads guides our view up to the sails. This charming design speaks to much of the Australiana aesthetics of the time and leaves the viewer curious for more. Though no films have been named on the poster, the season’s curator was Kenneth George Hall AO OBE, one of Australia’s greatest film producers and the first Australian to win an Academy Award.

1990s

Where anything is possible (1993)

Celebrating 20 years of the Opera House in full multicolour, a celebratory portrayal of the House mimicking blown-out birthday candles melting into the harbour.

The Sydney Opera House – Celebrating 20 years (1993)

A face in the reflection in Sydney Harbour. Twenty years on this poster shows the Sydney Opera House has found its identity. The sails of the House have been playfully made into a face with a big Harbour Bridge grin.

New Years Day Concert (1997)

A tranquil image to represent the start of a new year with justified type spaced out to reflect the calming nature of the concert.

Festival of Cultures (1997)

A multicoloured pattern dominates this poster to reflect the diversity of cultures the audience could experience at this festival of food, crafts and entertainment.

2000s

Babies & Family Proms (2004)

Fun, energetic and characterful typography with an upbeat yellow background for a family event.

Experience Packages (2009)

As well as holding productions, the Opera House has a wide range of experience packages including pre-theatre dining, backstage tours and private Opera experiences.

Message Sticks Indigenous Festival (2009)

13 cinematic works of drama, documentary, comedy and shorts from Indigenous filmmakers.

Asphalte (2010)

Hip-hop dance piece created by Pierre Rigal, the poster artwork captures the five illuminated dancer’s form and energy.

Vivid LIVE (2011)

An annual festival celebrating contemporary music, the poster artwork is based on the festival theme of synaesthesia by design studio La Boca.

Festival of Dangerous Ideas (2011)

A disruptive festival that encourages debate and critical thinking. The poster artwork focuses on the message through bold typography.

Calexico (2013)

The indie rock band performed in the Concert Hall, with poster artwork by the Sydney based illustration and design studio We Buy Your Kids.

In the Mind of Igor (2015)

An innovative contemporary dance performance reinterpreted 100 years after the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, poster artwork by Sydney Opera House Creative Studio.

Next time you cruise past a JCDecaux bus shelter or billboard, look up and take a moment to appreciate the art on the wall.

Since 2008, JCDecaux has been a proud Partner of the Sydney Opera House in displaying the designs and artworks promoting performances, festivals and events.

Bringing our stages to your sofa, our new digital program comes to you weekly from our House to yours. See the program.

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