‘A glorious anomaly’: would the Sydney Opera House be built today?

Why does the Opera House remain an anomaly in Australia's cultural infrastructure landscape? And would it be built today?
Opera House. Image is a panel of four women: Julia Zemiro, Helen Pitt, Yumi Stynes (with her arms raised in the air) and Wendy Harmer at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Jaimi Joy.

Today (20 October) marks 50 years since Queen Elizabeth II opened the Sydney Opera House in 1973. By all accounts, the construction of the Opera House was an unlikely miracle made possible by four premiers, two architects, almost two decades and $102 million (approximately $1 billion in current terms). 

The Opera House was Australia’s first crowd-sourced cultural space, partly funded by the Sydney Opera House Lottery, which raised $102 million (and sold 86.7 million tickets) between 1957 and 1986. Many Australians would be surprised to learn that it was largely funded by gambling. As was the case with Tasmania’s Mona (Museum of Old and New Art), built on founder David Walsh’s winnings in the early 2000s.

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Madeleine is the General Manager of Darlinghurst Theatre Company and the co-founder of LGBTQIA+ theatre company Fruit Box Theatre in Eora, Sydney. She is admitted to practice law and has worked in commercial law and federal government. She has previously written for Reuters, the International Press Institute and the European Journalism Centre. *All views expressed on ArtsHub are her own.