The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50

Sydney-Opera-House-Architectural-Model-photo-by-Marinco-KojdanovskiThe Museum of Sydney invites locals and visitors to go behind the scenes of Sydney Opera House to explore five decades of this extraordinary architectural icon and its impact on the cultural and social life of Sydney and the nation in The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50.

Curated by the Museums of History NSW in partnership with the Sydney Opera House, the exhibition invites guests to relive the magic of the World Heritage-listed building’s early years and discover some of the remarkable stories that have shaped the Opera House, from its construction to today.

“We are delighted to help celebrate a milestone anniversary for this architectural masterpiece and beacon of artistic expression,” said Martyn Killion, Chief Operating Officer, Museums of History NSW.

Opened in 1973, the stunning Sydney Opera House, with its unmistakable silhouette, became an instant icon; a symbol of modern Australia that captured the imagination of the nation and is recognised all over the world.

The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 exhibition honours the incredible architectural achievement and showcases the broad range of productions, performances and events that have shaped the building into ‘the people’s house’ we know today.

On display are rare archival records, programs, posters, exquisite costumes, photographs, set boxes, architectural drawings, models, artworks and classic souvenirs.

“In a first for MHNSW, The People’s House brings material and memorabilia from our collection together with the collections of the NSW cultural institutions, the Opera House’s resident companies and Arts Centre Melbourne, who have generously contributed significant items to help bring this exhibition alive,” continued Killion.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the Museums of History NSW on this very special exhibition that uncovers some of the remarkable stories, unforgettable moments, and history-making events that have shaped the cultural life of Sydney and the nation for the past five decades. I hope people everywhere come along to view this interactive display during our 50th anniversary celebrations,” said Sydney Opera House Chief Customer Officer, Jade McKellar.

The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 exhibition themes include:

The first performances at the Opera House during its construction, from musical renditions amid the scaffolding to the acoustic sound tests in the Concert Hall.

Grand openings:
The long-anticipated Gala Opening on 28 September 1973 was the first in a series of celebrations. The opening festival began on 17 October, and on 20 October, to great fanfare and international attention, the Opera House was officially declared open by Queen Elizabeth II.

Act one:
A remarkable variety of productions and events took place in the Opera House’s first year that would set the stage for the next 50 years.

Resident companies:
Some of the key performances in the first decade of the Opera House were staged by five resident Companies specialising in music, dance, theatre, opera and puppetry. Today, the Opera House is home to eight resident companies.

Posters from 1973 to the early 2000s evoke the extraordinary variety of local and international productions and the performers who have taken their place in the spotlight.

An Opera House in every home:
Keepsakes and souvenirs of the Opera House show how we have brought the ‘people’s house’ into our own homes.

The great urban sculpture:
Celebrates the remarkable design, architecture, and engineering challenges of the Opera House. From its inception and construction in the late 1950s under the direction of Danish architect Jørn Utzon AC until his withdrawal in 1966 to Australian architect Peter Hall who completed the project in 1973, and more recent renovation and renewal projects.

The exhibition also features a specially commissioned woven Opera House by First Nations master weavers Steven Russell and Phyllis Stewart responding to the iconic Shellwork Sydney Opera House produced by renowned First Nations artist, Esme Timbery in 2002.

Visitors to The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 can explore the Opera House’s architecture through a playful LEGO® model, test their drawing skills on a digital drafting table, and find out what significant performances or events took place on a particular day in the last 50 years.

Visitors to the exhibition can also conduct a virtual orchestra in Maestro – an interactive space where people can collaborate in the creation of an audio-visual performance.

Celebrating five decades of performances and public celebrations, the Opera House and its forecourt is one of the nation’s great civic spaces – the people’s house. Come and discover the many wonders of this important part of our history.

The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50
Museum of Sydney, Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney
Exhibition continues to 3 March 2024
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details. Checkout the trailer here!

Image: Architectural model, Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon’s design for the major hall, 1964-1966. Powerhouse Collection. Gift of the Sydney Opera House Trust – photo by Marinco Kojdanovski