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Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House

  1. Sydney Opera House sits on Bennelong Point. Bennelong Point was named after Woollarawarre Bennelong, a senior Eora man at the time of the arrival of British colonisers in Australia in 1788.  In 1871 Bennelong Point was developed into a fort and then in 1902 a tram shed was built.

  2. The Gadigal people of the Eora nation originally inhabited Bennelong Point. The Aboriginal name for the Point was Tubowgule.

  3. 233 designs were submitted for the Opera House international design competition held in 1956. In January 1957, Jørn Utzon from Denmark was announced the winner, receiving ₤5000 for his design.

  4. The original cost estimate to build Sydney Opera House was $7 million. The final cost was $102 million and it was largely paid for by a State Lottery.

  5. Construction was expected to take four years. It took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers.

  6. Paul Robeson was the first person to perform at Sydney Opera House. In 1960, he climbed the scaffolding and sang Ol’ Man River to the construction workers as they ate lunch.

  7. In May 2003, Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize, the highest award in international architecture.

  8. In 2003, Sydney Opera House was included on the State Heritage Register; in 2005 on the National Heritage List, and on July 2007, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

  9. 6,223 sq metres of topaz-coloured glass – a shade unique to Sydney Opera House - were used. It was made to order by Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel in France.

  10. There are more than 1 million roof tiles covering approximately 1.62 hectares sitting over the structure. They were made by a Swedish tile company, Höganas.

  11. The top the of highest sail is nine metres higher than the roadway on the harbour bridge, and is 67 metres above sea-level, the equivalent of a 22-storey building.

  12. Seven A380s could sit wing-to-wing on the site.

  13. Sydney Opera House was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 20th October, 1973. She has since visited four times, most recently in 2006.

  14. There are seven performance venues at Sydney Opera House – the Concert Hall, the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Playhouse, Drama Theatre, The Studio, the Utzon Room and the Forecourt.

  15. The Forecourt has the largest capacity of any Opera House venue. International stars including Jamiroquai, Florence + The Machine, The National and Sting have performed there.

  16. The biggest crowd to ever attend a performance at Sydney Opera House was in 1996 for the 'Farewell to the World' outdoor concert by the band Crowded House. It was televised around the world. Twenty years later, Crowded House returned to the Opera House with an encore performance on the Forecourt.

  17. The Concert Hall is the largest internal venue, with 2,679 seats.

  18. The Concert Hall Grand Organ is believed to be the largest mechanical organ in the world, with 10,154 pipes ranging in size from as small as a drinking straw to as large as a telegraph pole. It took 10 years to complete.

  19. In 2011, the Concert Hall lights were upgraded to 100% LED bulbs. These last 50,000 hours without needing to be changed (compared with 1,000 for the old bulbs) and use 75% less power.

  20. When the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is on stage in the Concert Hall, the temperature must be 22.5 degrees to ensure the instruments stay in tune. Temperature and humidity are critical to musical instruments.

  21. Arnold Schwarzenegger (former actor and now Governor of California) won his final Mr Olympia body building title in 1980 in the Concert Hall.

  22. A net was installed above the orchestra pit in the Joan Sutherland Theatre during the 1980s following an incident during the opera Boris Godunov. The opera featured live chickens and one bird walked off the stage and landed on top of a cellist.

  23. Unlike most theatres, scenery and props for the Joan Sutherland Theatre are stored two levels below. They are brought up from the scenery dock on ground level up to the Opera Theatre stage by two mechanical stage lifts.

  24. The Joan Sutherland Theatre has 75 different fly lines above the stage that are used to hang scenery and curtains.

  25. Every day, a stage hand working in the Joan Sutherland Theatre walks an average of 18,681 steps or 13 kilometres.

  26. Sydney Opera House is open to the public 363 days a year – closing only on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Staff work every day of the year, 24/7.

  27. The Playhouse was originally used as a cinema and in the late 1970s was a popular venue for surfing movies.

  28. An opera called The Eighth Wonder was written about dramatic story of the Sydney Opera House and premiered in the Joan Sutherland Theatre in 1995. The production was performed again in 2016 on the steps of the Opera House as outdoor spectacular Sydney Opera House the Opera.

  29. The Utzon Room is the first Utzon-designed interior at Sydney Opera House. The refurbishment of the Western Foyer realised Jørn Utzon’s vision of connecting the Playhouse, Drama Theatre and the Studio to the glorious harbour setting.

  30. It took four weavers more than 8 months to create the Utzon Room tapestry, called Homage to CPE Bach. If unravelled, the wool would stretch 4,500 kilometres.

  31. The annual Vivid LIVE festivals in 2015 and 2016 were carbon neutral, with all events including the centrepiece Lighting the Sails powered entirely by renewable energy.

  32. More than 8.2 million people visit the Opera House every year.

  33. The Opera House hosts more than 2,000 performances attended by more than 1.5 million people every year.

  34. In 2015, Sydney Opera House philanthropists helped acquire a tapestry by Le Corbusier which was originally commissioned by architect Jørn Utzon to hang in the Sydney Opera House.  It is now on display in the Western Foyers.

  35. Natural and eco-friendly cleaning methods are used at the Opera House, including olive oil for the bronze and baking soda for the concrete.

  36. The Opera House is cooled using seawater taken directly from the harbour. The system circulates cold water from the harbour through 35 kilometres of pipes to power both the heating and air conditioning in the building.

  37. In 2015 the Opera House achieved a 4 star Green Star-Performance rating from the Green Building Council of Australia – one of a select few World Heritage buildings to achieve green certification globally.

  38. In 2016 the Opera House unveiled working designs for its Renewal: the largest program of upgrades to the Opera House since it opened in 1973. Projects include upgrading the acoustics of the Concert Hall, transforming office space into a Creative Learning Centre, building a premium Function Centre and improving accessibility.

  39. In 2017, the Opera House's Theatre Machinery Project will upgrade critical equipment and systems in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, with the latest technology replacing original machinery that is more than 40 years old.

  40. Each year, Chinese New Year is celebrated at the Opera House with sails lit in red, Lunar Lanterns, Mandarin Tours and other special activations on site. In 2016, some 22,000 people celebrated with us.

  41. You can take an Opera House tour in seven different languages: English, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, German, French or Spanish
The Opera House hosts more than 2000 performances attended by more than 1.5 million people every year
Tubowgule
Ever since it was a place for ceremony, gathering and celebration in Aboriginal Australia, Tubowgule has always reflected the society tucked in around Sydney Cove.

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