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Sydney Opera House

  • Theatre
  • Sydney
Photograph: Hamilton Lund
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Time Out Says

One of the most photographed and famous (if controversial) performing arts venues in the world

This Australian icon sits on Bennelong Point and is Sydney’s premiere venue for classical and contemporary music, opera, theatre and dance. As peaceful as it looks now, the House had a controversial beginning: while it was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, by the time the building was completed in 1973 its architect had been fired.

Many have pondered the building’s design over the years, comparing it variously to shells, waves and even a family of swans. Utzon never revealed his vision, only that it involved spheres.

The Opera House offers different tours that allow you to get intimate with the building, including some hosted in different languages and full ‘experience' packages. If you don't feel like shelling out, it's still free to sit on the steps for a quick lunch and walk by the water and gaze in marvel at those 1,056,000 pearly, self-cleaning Swedish tiles.

Where to eat and drink near Sydney Opera House

For the ultimate Opera House dining experience, book a pre-theatre dinner at Bennelong, or just pop in for a drink and a snack at the raw and cultured bar. Check out the Opera Kitchen, a harbourfront dining area that features a host of Sydney food identities including John Susman. Meander around to Bulletin Place for cocktails. Later in the evening kick the glamour up a notch at Hemmesphere and enjoy matched cigars and more cocktails into the morning.

Backstage tour

With access into areas normally reserved for stars and their minders, this tour will have you treading the boards of its illustrious stages and sneaking into the dressing rooms of the Opera and Drama Theatres, Playhouse and The Studio, while you are regaled with the secrets and stories that go on behind the curtain. Or perhaps you want to take on the conductor's baton in the Opera Theatre orchestra pit? Do note, though, that the Concert Hall is currently closed for renewal works to improve theatre machinery, acoustics and accessibility, so no peeking in there. 

Backstage tours run daily at 7am and are $175, including a hearty breakfast served in the Green Room (the Green Room is not open on Sun or public holidays). Flat, enclosed rubber soled shoes must be worn. For safety reasons children 12 years and under are not permitted. Bookings essential. There are also junior tours of the Opera House for kids.

Details

Address:
Bennelong Point
Sydney
2000
Opening hours:
Box office: Mon-Sat 9am-8.30pm; Sun two hours prior to performance (in person only)

What's On

Badu Gili: Wonder Women

  • Digital and interactive

Every year since 2017, the Sydney Opera House’s gleaming sails have been transformed by light and sound into a celebration of the lore and artistry of First Nations people. During Badu Gili – which means ‘water light’ in Gadigal language – mesmerising projections undulate on the world-famous canvas, showcasing the work of Indigenous artists.  This year’s theme is 'Wonder Women'. Overseen by Coby Edgar, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, the dazzling array showcases the work and stories of six female First Nations artists, Marlene Gilson, Kaylene Whiskey, Sally Mulda, Judith Inkamala, Marlene Rubuntja and the late Aunty Elaine Russell. The traditional owners of Bennelong Point, the site of the Opera House, know it as Tubowgule, or ‘where the knowledge waters meet’. The glimmering spot has been a gathering place for community, ceremony and storytelling for thousands of years, long before the harbourside icon was erected. You’ll be able to watch the mesmerising, six-minute long animated light show daily from April 23 until the end of the year, kicking off at sunset, or around about 5.30pm, but check the Opera House website for more details. It’s funded by the NSW Government through the Culture Up Late initiative. Want more First Nations art? Check out Hayley Millar Baker's There We Were All in One Place.

Sydney Opera House Tour

  • Walks and tours

It’s a rare chance that you’ll have the opportunity to explore a completely empty Opera House theatre. On this tour, you’ll be able to visit all of the main theatres (dependant on if there are shows on) – from the majestic Concert Hall to the quaint Drama Theatre and, if you’re lucky, get a sneak peek of a rehearsal. You’ll walk along the outside of the Opera House, past roped off areas and learn all there is to know about Sydney’s famous House of art and culture. Discover what inspired the Danish architect Jorn Utzon to enter the international competition to design the Opera House; where his idea to create a sail-like building came from, and how and why the building was declared ‘unbuildable’ by engineers. Find out where the materials to build the Opera House came from and run your hands along a few of the million white ceramic tiles that make up the glistening exterior.   The tour goes for approximately one hour and there is plenty of time to take photos and revel in the beauty of this phenomenal building. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and, more importantly, come bearing a microphone and individual headsets so you don’t have to worry about being out of earshot for any important info.

Romeo and Juliet

  • Ballet

“Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow,” says Juliet Capulet to her star-crossed lover Romeo Montague before a plague on both their houses leads to you know what. It’s a story we know like the back of our hands yet never tire of reliving, whether it’s on the big screen care of Baz Luhrmann, or the return of the Australian Ballet’s most celebrated performances. John Cranko’s epic version of Shakespeare’s most heartfelt tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, is reimagined with Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo in the lead roles. It premiered in 1962, the year the Australian Ballet was founded. The company first performed it in 1974 but hasn't performed it since 2003. New artist director David Hallberg felt it was time to reignite their teenaged drama, as two powerful families go to war over the fierce-burning flames young love. Even the meddling of Stalin couldn’t crush Sergei Prokofiev’s sweeping score, a work so intricate that the Bolshoi Ballet’s dancers initially resisted too, pronouncing it ‘undanceable’. It’s unforgettable is what it is, and Jürgen Rose’s stunning set and costume design are sure to elevate this Verona-set melodrama even more. “As an audience member, the most touching aspect of Romeo and Juliet is the unfolding of the story in front of your very eyes,” Hallberg says. “I have danced performances of Romeo where the audience was with us in every scene. They become a part of the ballet. I lost myself through expressions of love, elation, veng

Harlequinade

  • Ballet

Get ready for Christmas with a gorgeous all-ages show from the Australian Ballet in Harlequinade. It sprung from the mind of 19th-century choreographer Marius Petipa and shares more in common with his celebrated take on The Sleeping Beauty than it does the darker drama of his Swan Lake. A harlequin awakes from a 100-year snooze to find himself knee-deep in romantic drama. He wants to marry his lover, Columbine, but her father has other plans. A bit of a horror, he locks her up until he can hand her over to a richer man. Of course love conquers all, with a little help from a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust. Riccardo Drigo, conductor and composer at St Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet for two decades, created the magical score. Drawing on tradition, this production’s set and costume designer Robert Perdziola studied the originals, held in a St Petersburg museum. “At American Ballet Theatre in New York, Alexei Ratmansky and I brought the sad, languid clown Pierrot to life through the notations of Petipa’s ballet,” Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg says. “To resurrect from the archives a ballet by one of dance’s greatest creators was something I cherished, and I look forward to passing the experience on to the artists who will perform the role here in Australia.”

Grug

  • Comedy

Thanks to the Sydney Opera House, kids won’t miss out on all the fun of the Grand Unlock. Little rascal Grug will take to the stage just in time for Christmas – peak excitement overload for tiny tots. Starting life as the tip of a Burrawang tree that fell over and set him on his merry way, he’s had all sorts of magical adventures ever since, as lovingly brought to life in the whimsical picture books of children’s author Ted Prior. Fascinated by the world, Grug makes his way solving everyday problems without any fuss, which is the perfect lesson for kids who have spent way too much time indoors of late and may benefit from some gentle reassurance that things are going to be alright. That includes creating his own dance move ‘The Grug’ when instructions are a bit too complicated. And when cheeky snails gobble all his cabbages, he’s such a good egg he just plants more for everyone. Presented in conjunction with Windmill Theatre Company productions, they have been touring Grug shows for over a decade now. So trust us, it’s the perfect summer fun for families looking to encourage a new generation of theatre lovers. Looking for more ideas? Here's our guide to what to do this week.

Hannah Gadsby: Body of Work

  • Stand Up

Hot on the heels of the global success of her seminal masterworks, Nannette and Douglas, Hannah Gadsby, one of Australia's biggest and best comedic exports (slash art historians), is returning to Sydney in December with a brand new live comedy show at the Sydney Opera House. Her 2018 breakout blockbuster Nanette was supposed to be Gadsby's stand-up swansong, the comic vowing before its premiere at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival that the show would be her last. However, its seismic impact, which led to Nanette touring all over the world, as well as it being picked up by Netflix, put Gadsby's retirement on indefinite hold.  The Emmy and Peabody award-winning comedian was flooded with global offers to perform, and the follow-up to Nanette, named after her beloved dog Douglas, only cemented her position in the firmament of worldwide comedy megastars. However, the events of 2020 had other plans for Gadsby's ascendent career. As the world locked down and theatres were shuttered, she was forced to return home to Australia and began thinking about a new stand-up show. This box-fresh material is now ready to roll, with Body of Work premiering in Canberra before heading on to Sydney in December 2021 as part of a national tour. Gadsby is famously guarded about the contents of her new shows, and beyond it being entirely original and born of her contemplations on the pandemic, not much is known about what Body of Work will actually be about. For those who know Gadsby's cereb

Six the Musical

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Musicals

After becoming a surprise West End hit and making its sold-out Australian premiere at the Sydney Opera House in January 2020 – crowned with a four-star review from Time Out – Six the Musical is back in town just in time for summer. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, telling the story of the six ill-fated wives of Henry VIII. The premise of the show is sort of hilarious: all six wives are members of a pop band that is trying to decide who should be the lead singer. It's basically a pop concert in which all six spouses compete to determine who had the worst time with the infamous Tudor king, and who should therefore be the Beyoncé of the sextet. Together, they're a little bit Spice Girls, a little bit Destiny's Child, and a little bit Little Mix, with a set of songs inspired by the pop bangers of today. The musical was penned by young Brits Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, and they wrote the show while they were studying at Cambridge. The original soundtrack has become a hit, having garnered more than 200 million streams worldwide since its release. As Time Out reviewer Ben Neutze said: “The success of Six lies in how well it sets its own parameters (one of which is a brisk and breathless 75-minute running time) and establishes its revue-style of storytelling… Its strongest message is in the way it fills the stage with brilliant women (including a super tight band of three) and allows the six wives to recla

The Phantom of the Opera

  • Musicals

We've spoken about ghosts at the Sydney Opera House before, and the lights left on to keep them company. But now the greatest phantom of them all is set to haunt the iconic white sails. Opera Australia (OA), in association with The Really Useful Group, will strike up the discordant organ to announce, with a caped flourish, the arrival of arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber's most famous musical. Postponed, The Phantom of the Opera will now open at the Opera House on August 19, 2022. It's not to be confused with the Handa on the Harbour production also happening next year. They are two separate stagings with different cast and crew, though OA are invovled in both, not unlike their dual productions of West Side Story a few years back. The Opera House version will star Josh Piterman in the title role (and ghoulish half face mask). The Aussie star recently brought The Music of the Night to the West End, playing the Phantom in London right up until that production was forced to shut down. “Words cannot describe how I feel about being cast in this Sydney Opera House season,” Piterman says. "The role of the Phantom has truly been a lifelong dream of mine and donning the mask on the West End stage in such a legendary production was magical in every way. Experiencing the global effects of [lockdown], especially on the theatre industry over the past year, has been difficult for so many. Which makes it an even bigger honour to now be able to play the Phantom at home, helping to resurrect our i

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