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Interesting Facts about the Sydney Opera House

It might be one of the most recognised buildings in the world but just how much do you know about the Sydney Opera House?  

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House is home to four performance companies, 2 bars, several restaurants and probably the best location in Australia. Its architectural significance is undisputed but few know very much about it.  

So if facts and figures about the building intrigue read on then try out the little quiz to see how much you have learnt.

10 Quick Facts about the Sydney Opera House

Visiting with family and friends? Throw in a couple of these facts and impress them with your research skills.

  • The design of the Opera House was chosen via an international competition that attracted over 230 entries from 32 countries
  • The cost of building the Opera House was mostly funded by a lottery. It cost 102 million dollars to complete the building
  • The sails are made of 1,056,006 self-cleaning white and cream Swedish tiles.
  • Over 2500 performances are held at the Sydney Opera House each year.
  • The Concert Hall can seat 2679 people and houses the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world.
  • The Opera House sits on Bennelong Point. Bennelong was an Aboriginal who was befriended by Governor Macquarie
  • The Opera House took 16 years to build
  • The first performance was by Paul Robeson who sang Old Man River to workers on the construction site
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the stage in the concert hall for a Mr World competition in 1980.
  • The Sydney Opera House covers 1.8 hectares

Who designed the Sydney Opera House?

One clue, he was not an Aussie

Utzon Opera House Quote

The architect behind this amazing building was 38-year-old Danish architect Jorn Utzon. Chosen from over 230 entries, his drawings won him £5000 and the position managing the project. The building went over schedule and budget, and after the NSW government had stopped payments due to these issues, Jorn resigned as chief architect and left the country shortly after. Sadly he never returned to see the completed building, and much of the interior was not completed to his original design specifications although in recent years work has begun to rectify this.

Read more about Jorn Utzon and the Sydney Opera House and view the original drawings of the Sydney Opera House submitted by Jorn at the NSW State Record digital gallery.

What is the Sydney Opera House used for?

The Opera House is home to the five theatres, rehearsal studios, two main halls, four restaurants, six bars and a souvenir shop. In total, close to 1000 rooms are located inside the shell and underground.  

You can watch everything from a classical ballet performance to a fun circus show, drama, musicals, everything from symphony to cabaret, talks, exhibitions and eisteddfods

Sydney Opera House Concert Hall
Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

The following companies regularly perform here;

  • Australian Chamber Orchestra
  • Bangarra Dance Theatre
  • Bell Shakespeare
  • Opera Australia
  • Sydney Philharmonia Choirs
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra
  • Sydney Theatre Company
  • The Australian Ballet

When is the best time to visit the Sydney Opera House?

Sydney Opera House Vivid
Opera House sails lit up in Vivid

Anytime!  For tours, I suggest going in the morning, however, the very very best time to see it is during the VIVID Sydney festival held each May/June. Sydney City Council stages this most photogenic event and the Opera House plays the starring role.

Other key buildings across the city are also covered in amazing light displays. Each year has a different theme and artist.

Guided Tours

Joining a guided tour is one of the best ways to learn more about how the Opera House was designed and built.

Northern Foyer Sydney Opera House Purple Carpet
Northern Foyer Sydney Opera House Purple Carpet

There are two main types of tours of the Opera House available.

The “Essentials” tour – This is the standard one hour tour that covers the main public areas of the building.

The “Backstage” tour – A 2-hour tour that goes beyond the public areas and includes the stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms, backstage areas, the green room and a delicious breakfast.

Tours are also offered in Mandarin

Read my tips on how to choose the best Opera House tour for you for more help deciding.

Close up view of Sydney Opera House tiles
Close up of the Opera House tiles

Sydney Opera House Trivia Quiz

So if you have been paying attention hopefully you will be able to answer these questions

How much do you know about the Sydney Opera House?
The answers are at the very bottom of the article

1. What was the nationality of the designer of the Sydney Opera House?

A. Aboriginal
B. Swedish
C. American
D. Danish

2. Who officially opened the building?

A. The Australian Prime Minister
B. Oprah Winfrey
C. Queen Elizabeth II
D. King George IV

3. What is the name of the point where the Sydney Opera House stands?

A. Bangaroo
B. Bennelong
C. Dawes
D. Blues

4. How much did it cost to build?

A. 5.2 million
B. 10.2 million
C. 102 million
D. 200 million

5. How many years did they take to build?

A. 5 years
B. 8 years
C. 14 years
D. 17 years

Have you visited the Sydney Opera House? Share your tips with a comment 🙂

Quiz Answers
1. D, 2.A, 3.B, 4.C, 5.C

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