Queen Elizabeth II opens Sydney Opera House 20th October, 1973

Queen Elizabeth II opens Sydney Opera House 20th October, 1973NFSA Films YouTube

Watch this incredible footage of the late Queen Elizabeth II opening the Sydney Opera House in Australia on 20 October 1973.

Fifty years ago this week, the official opening of The Sydney Opera House by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took place. Today, the Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and is considered a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and then Premier, Sir Robert Askin, visited Bennelong Point to officially open the new Opera House. Standing in the wind, she congratulated the people of Sydney and Australia for this “remarkable addition to its architecture and to its cultural and community life.”

While acknowledging the long-running debates surrounding its construction - the original build estimate was $7 million, yet the final cost was $102 million - the Queen said the Opera House had captured the imagination of the world. “The human spirit,” she said, “must sometimes take wings or sails, and create something that is not just utilitarian or commonplace.”

Her Majesty would go on to visit the Opera House four more times, most recently in 2006.

This footage from the Film Australia Collection captures a glimpse of what the atmosphere was like on that historic day:

Brief history of the Sydney Opera House

In 1955 an international design competition was launched for the Sydney Opera House and received 233 entries, representing architects from 32 countries.

Jørn Utzon from Denmark was announced the winner, receiving ₤5000 for his design.

Construction was expected to take four years. It eventually took a total of 14 years to build and involved 10,000 construction workers.

On 28 September 1973, almost a month before its official opening by Her Majesty the Queen, the curtain in the Opera Hall rose on its first production: Prokofiev’s epic War and Peace, performed by the Australian Opera. 

The Sydney Opera House was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2007.