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Sydney Opera House

  • Theatre
  • Sydney
Photograph: Hamilton Lund

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.


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

What’s on

Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly is Puccini’s heart-tugging 1904 opera about a former geisha who marries a philandering American naval officer who callously abandons her. Its big operatic banger is 'Un bel di vedremo' (‘One Beautiful Day’), Cio Cio San’s aria imagining the day her beloved Pinkerton will return – a piece brimming with optimism, but with an undertone of sadness that foreshadows the opera’s tragic conclusion.  One of the most powerful of all he-done-her-wrong tales, Madama Butterfly has made it into popular culture via contemporary musical Miss Saigon and the 1987 Hollywood phenomenon Fatal Attraction, in which a woman spurned after a one night stand takes a potent revenge. Both borrow plot and score snippets from Puccini.   This production of Madama Butterfly was directed by Australian dance legend Graeme Murphy and originally staged in 2019. It was one of the company’s first "digital" productions, using 12 massive high-definition LED panels that fly in and out of the space, spin around and feature custom-made animations and film content. Jennifer Irwin and Michael Scott-Mitchell designed a hyper-real vision of a timeless Japan, alongside digital artist Sean Nieuwenhuis, with references to shibari (Japanese bondage), Harajuku street fashion, Japanese minimalism, and American iconography including an ’80s perm and even a copy of Jackie O’s pink Chanel suit. In-demand South Korean soprano Sae Kyung Rim makes her Opera Australia debut in the title role, while Mexican-born tenor D

La Traviata

We challenge you to find a bigger tearjerker than this in the opera canon – it's not just the story (based on Alexandre Dumas' popular 1848 novel La Dame aux Camélias) about a courtesan who falls for a young admirer and sacrifices her chance at happiness for the greater good; it's also Verdi's romantic score. These are the reasons why we keep going back to Verdi's opera. This 'old faithful' production by director Elijah Moshinsky, with opulent 19th-century design, is also something that audiences keep returning to; it's never long out of circulation for Opera Australia. Home-grown talent Stacey Alleaume is rapidly gaining international recognition. Here, she reprises her role as Violetta after a stunning season in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. La Traviata returns to the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House from July 5-29, and October 22 to November 4. This opera is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Il Trovatore

  • Classical and opera

With a violent revenge plot to rival Game of Thrones and some of opera’s greatest hits in the score, Verdi’s Il Trovatore hits big. Like, sledgehammer big – like the sound of metal on metal to be heard in the opera’s famous ‘Anvil Chorus’. A huge popular success that was critically derided in its day, Il Trovatore has a melodramatic plot that needs some explanation. The trovatore or troubadour of the title is Manrico, an officer in a rebel army in 15th century Spain. Manrico is in love with Leonora, lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon – but the son of the Count di Luna loves her too.  Intriguingly, none of these figures is actually the opera’s most galvanising character. That would be Manrico’s mother, Azucena, who despises the Count because, years earlier, he burnt her mother at the stake for witchcraft. Worse, Azucena’s attempt at revenge caused the death of her own child. And she has a terrible secret about Manrico that will play out in the most disastrous way imaginable.Il Trovatore has it all: infanticide, filicide, suicide – all the cides. It’s famous for the way Verdi’s music keeps the action moving forward into a series of dramatic confrontations. Highlights include Leonora’s cavatina (a term for a short but impactful aria): ‘Tacea la notte placida’ and Manrico’s love ballad  ‘Ah sì, ben mio’. Quite possibly you already know them without realising it. Opera Australia is presenting a brand new digital staging by Italian director Davide Livermore in which impressi


  • Musicals

Practice your pop choreo and get ready to live out your teenage dream, the smash-hit musical sensation Fangirls is about to burst onto the Sydney Opera House stage.  Before Pixar’s latest feel-good tween romp Turning Red was celebrated for its unabashed embrace of teen girls and intensive boy band fanaticism, this poptastic Aussie musical was already celebrating the misunderstood power and passion of teenage fandom. Now Fangirls is back to win more hearts after previous sell-out seasons including a four-star run at Belvoir in 2019 and a national tour in 2021. Written by award-winning playwright, screenwriter and composer Yve Blake and directed by Paige Rattray (Death of a Salesman, Triple X), Fangirls follows the story of 14-year-old Edna who is enamoured with Harry, the lead singer of global boyband sensation True Connection. When the band announces an Australian tour, Edna’s smarts and commitment will be put to the ultimate test in the pursuit of meeting her crush. Rising star Manali Datar will take to the stage in the lead role of Edna after having previously appeared as Rose Granger-Weasley in the 2019 production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.Fangirls plays at the Sydney Opera House from July 28 to September 4, general public tickets go on sale from April 1 and you can get yours here. Want more? Check out the best things to do in Sydney this week.

Deejay x Dancer

If you thought the Sydney Opera House was a rarefied hall that only staged classical ballet and opera, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the SOH of today – a dynamic, welcoming space that’s a home for our city’s diverse cultural talents. This month its intimate Studio venue will light up for Deejay x Dancer – an explosively energetic show in which Sydney-based choreographer Nick Power (Two Crews, Between Tiny Cities) pays tribute to hip hop’s origins.  Drawing inspiration from the legendary block parties of 1970s New York, world champion turntablist DJ Total Eclipse (a veteran who’s toured with AB Original and Funkoars) will bring the beats as three of Australia’s most respected breakers throw it down. Those dancers are Hybrid Formz Crew member Anastasios Repousi; Jackson Garcia, member of breaking crews Skill at Will and Team Cream; and Demi Sorono of So You Think You Can Dance fame. Audiences will be treated to a demonstration of the intricate interplay between dancer and the decks as embodied in a thrilling call-and-response showdown. In the heartracing heat of the moment the two will improvise and riff off each other, merging old and new influences in boundary-pushing performances. The show will highlight the forged-in-fire connection between these two traditional hip-hop forms, as well as the skill and playfulness of artists at the pinnacle of their game.  This uplifting and unforgettable show is part of the Sydney Opera House’s Contemporary Performance program and com

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


  • Talks and discussions

After two years of being resigned to a fully virtual program, Antidote festival is back in IRL action in 2022, taking place on site at the Sydney Opera House as well as online on Sunday, September 11.  The festival of ideas, art and change will feature 17 talks, conversations and panels, four workshops and an art activation. Antidote aims to create a vigorous platform to confront the challenges of a changing world, to find solace and strength in collective purpose, and to mark and celebrate cultural and social transformation. This year’s program features a line-up of international and Australian writers, artists, scientists, thought leaders and pop-culture change makers. There’s Jenny Slate – the actress, comedian and author behind Marcel the Shell with Shoes On whom you may have spotted in Parks and Recreation, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Girls, and her Netflix special Stage Fright – in a conversation that will find the laughter and joy in our sometimes weird lives. In The Evil in Us All prolific theatre, film and television actor Brian Cox (Succession) will delve into his unmatched ability to bring characters to life that carry rage, fury and frightening acts of cruelty within themselves. Jarvis Cocker, legendary founder and frontman of British pop-rock band Pulp, will open his attic to reveal some of the unique objects he’s collected over the years and the intriguing stories behind them in a livestreamed chat titled Good Pop, Bad Pop. From the local contingent, form

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 this September, due to popular demand, to bring back her latest live comedy show at the Sydney Opera House. Body of Work premiered in Sydney in December 2021 as part of a national tour, and now she's doing the rounds again, hot on the heels of dropping a new book, Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation. Having skyrocketed for her affecting, dark and honest storytelling, Gadsby felt like she owed us more of a feel-good show this time around, "a bit of ta-dah" – a love story, even. 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 s


  • Circuses

Sydney is making a habit of picking up experiences that are named for and styled like hotels, but which are not in fact hotels at all. First it was the announcement of the candyland of ‘challenge rooms’ at Hijinx Hotel in Alexandria, and now the Sydney Opera House is tucking in with L’Hôtel. Featuring the crème de la crème of cabaret, burlesque, aerial and circus, it’s an extravagant take on the classic dinner theatre experience, which promises to fully immerse its audience in a world of French intrigue as they dine amongst the action. And while you can’t stay for the night, this show, which made its world premiere with a sold out season at Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2021, is certainly ringing our bell.  In the hotel lobby, audiences meet the captivating characters who call L’Hôtel home and follow them behind closed doors for jaw-dropping performances. Throughout the show, G.H. Mumm Champagne and a selection of fine French food is deftly delivered by the L'Hôtel’s wait staff ensemble. Director Craig Ilott puts Sydney’s enfant terrible prince of pop Brendan Maclean (Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby) back in the centre of the action after the pair also worked together on the disco-inferno cabaret Velvet. The international cast also includes Parisian-based jazz singer and chanteuse Caroline Nin (France); Cirque du Soleil alumna, award-winning contemporary circus artist and innovator Masha Terentieva (Russia) and loads of other hot talents.  Ooh la la! Looks like Moulin Rouge! T


  • Classical and opera

Yes, the King of the Huns. This early Verdi opera, which premiered when the composer was just 32 years old in 1846, is about that Attila, and this is the first time it's being performed in Australia. Postponed two years due to Covid, this production directed by Davide Livermore is an Opera Australia co-production with the famous La Scala opera in Italy and was a tremendous success at its Milan premiere. The plot concerns Attila the Hun’s invasion of Italy in the 5th century. Ezio, a Roman general, offers Italy’s empires in exchange for his country’s freedom. Attila will not negotiate, so Ezio plots Attila’s downfall with Foresto, a young knight whose fiancée, Odabella, is among Attila’s slaves. Feisty Odabella already has a plan to kill the Hun: he is transfixed by her beauty and courage, and has foolishly let down his guard. This production, designed by Giò Forma with costumes by Gianluca Falaschi, relocates the action to fascist Italy during the 1930s, with opulent sets and the use of projections along with two live horses.  Ukrainian bass Taras Berezhansky stars as Attila alongside Australian opera star Natalie Aroyan as Odabella, Diego Torres as Foresto and Marco Vratogna as the Roman general, Ezio. They'll be conducted by Andrea Battistoni.

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