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The Sydney Opera House inside

Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House

15 pieces of useful trivia about the beloved building

  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 233 designs were submitted for the Opera House international design competition held in 1956. Jørn Utzon from Denmark was announced the winner, receiving ₤5000 for his design.
  4. Construction was expected to take four years. It took 14 years. Work commenced in 1959 and involved 10,000 construction workers.
  5. 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.
  6. Sydney Opera House was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2007 
  7. There are more than 1 million roof tiles covering approximately 1.62 hectares sitting over the structure. They were made in Sweden.
  8. Seven A380s could sit wing-to-wing on the site.
  9. Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20th October, 1973. She has since visited four times, most recently in 2006.
  10. 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.
  11. Arnold Schwarzenegger (former actor and Governor of California) won his final Mr Olympia body building title in 1980 in the Concert Hall.
  12. 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.
  13. More than 10.9 million people visit the Opera House every year.
  14. Sydney 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.
  15. Each year, Lunar New Year is celebrated at the Opera House with sails lit in red, Lunar Lanterns and Mandarin tours. In 2019, some 25,000 people celebrated with us.

Our Story

The Sydney Opera House is the symbol of modern Australia. A World Heritage-listed masterpiece of “human creative genius,” it exists because a few brave people dared to think differently.

More interesting reading about the Opera House...


The story of the missing Attenborough Opera House film

Made, lost, then uncovered half a century later. This is the story of controversial film 'Autopsy on a Dream'.


Preserving the Grand Organ

Each of the 10,244 pipes will be cleaned by hand – it's a tricky job.


The moments that changed the Opera House forever

A look back at the history made on our stage.