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Sydney Opera House 50th Birthday Festival

  • Things to do
  1. Sydney Opera House open day
    Photograph: SOH/Anna Kucera
  2. People milling about between the Sydney Opera House sails
    Photograph: Anna Kucera | Previous Sydney Opera House Open Day | October 2015

Time Out says

The Sydney Opera House turns 50 this year and is throwing an epic birthday bash to celebrate

Sydney’s favourite house is turning the big five-oh this October, and they’ve just announced the program for their month-long birthday extravaganza. From September 28 to October 31, there’ll be free community events, world premieres, contemporary performances, family-friendly shows and stunning public art at and around the Sydney Opera House.

The festival will launch with immersive sculptures by Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, who’s using tens of thousands of kinyingarra (oyster in Jandai language) shells to create a thought-provoking public artwork that will “connect the Opera House with Land, Sky and Sea Country through a First Nations lens”.

For one day only, a giant 66-metre-long bright yellow catwalk will be stretched across the full length of the Opera House Forecourt for What Is the City but the People? (Sun Oct 1, from 4pm– setting the stage for a unique living portrait of Sydney’s diverse people, featuring everyone from stonemasons to cosplayers, to Big Issue vendors and celebrity chefs. Participants will strut their stuff against a backdrop of live music, large-scale projected text and photographs. Sounds like a great big party to us!

The Opera House will also open its doors to the public for its first open day in eight years, welcoming thousands of visitors behind-the-scenes for the Open House Weekend, which involves two big days of FREE events on October 21 and 22. Visitors will get unprecedented access to the Opera House’s seven performance spaces, including the world-famous Concert Hall, roving performances by local artists, special exhibits by the Opera House’s resident companies, First Nations dance performances by Bangarra Dance Theatre and Mornington Island Dancers, and technical demonstrations by the Opera House’s production team. Entry is free but you must register for tickets to secure entry. The Opera House’s harbourside dining venues, Opera Bar and House Canteen, will also join the birthday celebrations with a special Gold Party from Oct 20-22.

It wouldn't be a celebration at the Opera House without some kind of art being projected on the sails. On the Opera House’s actual birthday, Friday Oct 20, a newly commissioned three-night audio-visual laser show by visionary artist Robin Fox called ICON will light up the sails and the harbour, with high-powered beams dancing across the water to trace the geometry and architecture of Australia’s most famous building.

Among dozens of other festivities, there will be performances by world-renowned chamber orchestra Academy of St Martin in the Fields; shows by ARIA-nominated Gumbaynggirr and Yamatji singer-songwriter Emma Donovan; a farewell performance by Australian indie-rock trio Camp Cope; and Message In A Bottle (Oct 25-29), a hip hop and contemporary dance-theatre work featuring music by StingJan and Lin Utzon will also be travelling from Denmark so you can hear them reflect on the legacy of their father, Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. 

We're particulary looking forward to Taylor Mac and Matt Ray's Bark of Millions (Oct 20), an epic world-premiere celebration of queerness that combines an electrifying collision of performance, live music, and drag spectacle.

That’s just a tiny glimpse into the diverse celebrations on the cards. To find out more about the Opera House’s 50th Birthday Festival events, head over here.


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Alannah Le Cross
Written by
Alannah Le Cross


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