The Opera House has always been an Australian icon, and a worldwide recognizable building. In spite of that, some facts about it are not so commonly known.
In 1956, the New South Wales Government held an international design competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney. The requirements were for two performance halls – one for opera and one for symphony concerts.
Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s design was chosen from 233 entries. Allegedly, it was rescued from a pile of discarded submissions. He won £5,000 (about $140,000 in today’s money) and the chance to create one of the world’s most beloved buildings.
The Cost And Time
The original estimate for the construction of the Opera House was $7 million, which is not so much considering you’re building an entire building.
It sounded too good to be true, and it was. The final costs came to a staggering $102 million which is 14.5 times the original budget.
Something similar happened with the estimated time of built.
With a crew of 10,000 construction workers, it was estimated that it would take just four years to build the Sydney Opera House. The House was finally opened in 1973, 14 years after construction began.
The Sydney Opera House contains seven performance venues: The Concert Hall, home of the Sydney Symphony and the Sydney Opera House Grand Organ; The Opera Theatre, home of Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet; The Drama Theatre, home to the Sydney Theatre Company; The Playhouse; The Studio; The Utzon Room; The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue; The Concert Hall is the largest, with 2,679 seats.
The Concert Hall Grand Organ took ten years to build and it’s the largest mechanical organ in the world with 10,154 pipes. Paul Leroy Robeson, an African American bass-baritone concert singer, was the first person to perform at the House in 1960.
He climbed the scaffolding while the construction crew at lunch and sang Ol’ Man River and Joe Hill. Following the performance he signed many of the workers’ hard hats.
A net was installed in the 1980sabove the orchestra pit in the Opera Theatre after a live chicken walked off the stage during a performance of Boris Godunov and landed on a cellist! Yes, that happened.