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A row of colourful posters


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.

Poster of black and white printed lettering 'Bring Utzon Back' in the shape of a sphere against another lettering of 'Bring Utzon Back'

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.

Poster of a figure in costume entering a mysterious black etched archway. Title text at top of poster reads 'Designing Minds'. Detailed text on the poster reads 'An exhibition of Australian film theatre and television design. Presented by the Designers Association in the Performing Arts in Association with the Sydney Opera House trust'. Dates of events and ticket prices listed.

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.  

Poster of an illustrated cartoon Santa with red and white coat holding huge gift back reading 'Christmas at the House', white deers looking over his shoulder

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.

Etched illustration of angel-like figures with title 'Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius'

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.

Poster with the names of many countries in coloured varied typography floating among stars above a red silhouette of the Sydney Opera House. The text reads '1981 Shell National Folkloric festival' in white on the sails

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.

Yellow blocky text 'Forbidden Fruit' on a white grainy painted background. A balley dancer stands upside-down against a start yellow ground

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.

A coloured Christmas tree made up of various Christmas items and green Sydney Opera House logo. Text reads 'Christmas at the Opera House 1987'

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.

Black and white printed poster. A long road leads to the white silhouette of the Sydney Opera House in the background. The text reads ' Great Australian Films selected by Ken G. Hall, Free - January + February 88, Forecourt, Opera House'

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.

Coloured multicoloured paint dripping from the Sydney Opera House sails and into the ocean. The text reads 'Where anything is possible'

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.

Cartoon Sydney Opera House in blue and yellow. Reflection on the bridge in the water looks like a smile, with the sails its hair. A large '20' made of shooting stars above.

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.

Text 'New Years Day Concert 1997' in spaced serif font over a painted cloudly pale blue sky

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.

Multicoloured vertical stripes, and at the bottom, 'Festival of Cultures, around the world in a week, 28 & 29 october 1995'

2000s

Babies & Family Proms (2004)

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

Man in yellow suit and fedora playing a ukulele on yellow background with playful musical notes. Title text reads 'Babies & Family Proms 2004' in bold scratchy text

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.

Madama Butterfly sings under falling red petals. Text reads 'Experience packages'

Message Sticks Indigenous Festival (2009)

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

Poster of two Indigenous children. Text in bold stencil font reads '10th Anniversary - Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival'

Asphalte (2010)

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

Shadowede dancers posing dramatically against a pale light red background. Text reads 'Spring Dance, Asphalte'

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.

Illustration of multicoloured fingers reaching over a pink head with an eye in a mouth decorated by a galaxy pattern, a large tongue heading out of the mouth and through the ears of the image. The text reads 'Vivid LIVE, 27 May - 5 June'

Festival of Dangerous Ideas (2011)

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

Bold black text on an orange poster. Main text reads 'Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2011'. The block text word cloud reads: Assange, Safran Foer, Is torture necessary! Slavoj Zizek, All Women are sluts, The media have no morals, gays & lesbians do not belong in the classroom

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.

An illustration in deep red, blue, black and pale brown of a woman's eye being formed by an exhaust cloud from an old American car

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.

A black dancer with feathers holds the head of another dancer. The letters "ITMOi" read vertically, transparent, down the centre of the poster. The other main text reads 'Akram Khan Company [IN THE MIND OF IGOR]'

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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