Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron has received congratulatory wishes from all over the world, including a letter from His Majesty King Charles III, ahead of the World Heritage-listed building’s 50th anniversary today.
“Since its opening in 1973 by my beloved mother, the Sydney Opera House has stood as a continuing legacy for Australians, profoundly influencing contemporary arts and culture, both locally and internationally, and having global recognition as a symbol of modern Australia,” the letter from Buckingham Palace said.
“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to you all for a most memorable and successful celebration,” King Charles III wrote in a letter to Herron, staff and Sydney Opera House volunteers.
On this day in 1973, Queen Elizabeth II opened the building, by cutting 16 bright red ribbons which hung from the two front shells which were attached to four tug boats.
Half a century later, celebrations include an Open House weekend with over 37,000 visitors expected to tour the building on Saturday and Sunday, with Jan and Lin Utzon, the eldest children of the building’s Danish designer Jørn Utzon here for some of the festivities.
“We consider it the 66th anniversary, that’s how long the Sydney Opera House has existed in our family,” Jan Utzon said this week.
His sister Lin, this week spoke of the euphoria in their home the January day in 1957, when a Sydney Morning Herald reporter rang their Hellebaek home, just north of Copenhagen, with the news their father had won the international design competition for the Sydney Opera House.
“When you think of the bureaucracy surrounding architecture now it is hard to believe, but when dad came on his first visit here I remember him telling us that [then-NSW premier Joe] Cahill asked him, ‘Can you do it?’ And dad said ‘yes’, and he said ‘ok go ahead’,” Lin Utzon said.
Celebrations start on Friday with a lunch for employees, with five staff members who were on staff 50 years ago during the opening celebrations honoured, including Ivan Ginovic, who has baked a 50th birthday cake for the party.
Armenian-born Ginovic, 67, now a theatre manager has worked at Australia’s most famous building since 1972, a year before the official opening.
As a fireman, Ginovic was on duty on the opening night in 1973, and was privileged to see his first opera, War and Peace, from the wings of the Opera Hall (now known as the Joan Sutherland Theatre).
On Friday, a gold party for 400 VIPs will take place inside the building, while outside at 8pm, there will be an audio-visual laser show, which uses high-powered beams across the water to trace the geometry and architecture of the building. The display, called ICONs, will take place on Saturday and Sunday night too.
On Friday night Bark of Millions, a world premiere rock concert celebrating queerness by American actor and performance artist Taylor Mac and composer Matt Ray, will appear in the Concert Hall Friday night.
Indigenous singer Emma Donovan will make her headline debut in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, singing in front of John Coburn’s Curtain of the Sun, which was commissioned for the 1973 opening. Tickets are available still online for both performances.
The first allocation of tickets are sold out for the Open House Weekend tours, but more tickets are due to be released on Friday.
The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50, the free exhibition at the Museum of Sydney of some of the remarkable stories that have shaped the Opera House, continues until November 12.
Source: vema.com.au, www.smh.com.au