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Overview

The Sydney Opera House has been home to thousands of inspiring performances over more than 40 years. But the star turn remains the building itself.

The Gadigal knew the land on which the Opera House now stands as Tubowgule – ‘where the knowledge waters meet’ – a reference to the magical energy created where the fresh and salt streams collide.

That energy is built into the fabric of Jørn Utzon’s World Heritage-listed ‘masterpiece of human creative genius’ and into the magic that infuses it every day.

More than 1.5 million people see over 2000 performances each year. Another 400,000 take a tour to see first-hand how the magic happens. Millions more visit award-winning restaurants and bars, or take a digital tour, attend a digital classroom or experience a livestream.

Since opening its doors in 1973, the Opera House has become the symbol of modern Australia and the country’s premier tourist destination, with an iconic or national-identity value that Deloitte Access Economics has estimated at $4.6 billion.

Now, this wonder of 20th century architecture needs to be renewed for the 21st century.

The first stage of Opera House Renewal comprises a series of projects that will replace technology and machinery that has reached the end of its working life, open new areas to the public and ensure the Opera House is properly equipped to welcome as many people in as many ways as possible.

Ensuring the Opera House continues to live, in Utzon’s words, “at the edge of the possible.”

This wonder of the 20th century is being renewed for the 21st

 

The projects enabled by a $202 million commitment from the NSW Government include:

  • Concert Hall upgrades to improve acoustics, accessibility, stage and backstage areas, and replace worn-out theatre systems. It is the most significant work undertaken in the Concert Hall since the Opera House opened;
  • A new Creative Learning Centre will provide children and young people with a dedicated space to experiment and learn in a building that embodies creativity and innovation;
  • Entry and Foyers upgrades will transform the area under the Monumental Steps, which Utzon envisioned as another foyer, into a vibrant, welcoming, car-free entrance and meeting place. It will also upgrade the main box office foyer, adding seating, improving accessibility and streamlining functions; and
  • A new Function Centre worthy of the Opera House will be created within the building envelope to celebrate significant events and mark important occasions – from weddings and intimate gatherings to community and government events.

A further $26 million investment from the NSW Government will allow for upgrades to the acoustics in the Joan Sutherland Theatre as well as improvements to accessibility, functionality and safety.

Together with the self-funded upgrade of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, which was announced in 2015, these projects constitute the first stage of Renewal – the biggest upgrade to the Opera House since it opened and with a total value of $273 million.

The first stage of Opera House Renewal reflects three themes:

  • Responding to the great love people have expressed towards this magnificent building, by opening more of it to the public and ensuring all upgraded Opera House spaces are more welcoming and accessible, including for people with disability;
  • Replacing technical systems and equipment that have reached the end of their working life; and
  • Taking every opportunity to respect the heritage and integrity of the Opera House, in accordance with the Utzon Design Principles, our Conservation Management Plan and in consultation with the Eminent Architects Panel and Conservation Council.

While some areas will need to be temporarily closed during these staged, prioritised Renewal works, which are expected to be completed by early 2021, the Opera House will remain open and operating throughout. Construction will be carefully managed to minimise disruption and be as efficient as possible. We have six internal performance venues, so shows will go on and our restaurants, events and tours will continue. 

We invite you to explore working designs for the Stage 1 projects and discover how Renewal will ensure the Opera House continues to live, in Utzon’s words, “at the edge of the possible”.

Download the Overview fact sheet

Proudly funded by the NSW Government