The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50

The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 at the Museum of Sydney celebrates five decades of extraordinary performances and unforgettable moments at the Sydney Opera House. This year, we commemorate 50 incredible years of this architectural marvel that has become Sydney’s great civic space and ‘the people’s house’.

Since its grand opening on 20 October 1973, the Opera House has stood as a beacon of artistic expression, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage. Its iconic silhouette has become a symbol of Sydney, and Australia.

Relive the magic of past performances and events and go behind the scenes to discover the remarkable stories that have shaped the Opera House from its very first year to now. View extraordinary costumes, posters and programs, rare archival records, architectural drawings, photographs and much more.

Explore the Opera House’s architectural details through a playful LEGO® model, test your design skills with our digital drafting table and conduct a virtual orchestra in Maestro, an interactive space where you'll collaborate in the creation of an audiovisual performance.

Artworks include a specially commissioned woven Opera House by master First Nations weavers Steven Russell and Phyllis Stewart that responds to the iconic shellwork of the Opera House created by renowned Bidjigal artist and elder Esme Timbery commissioned by the Opera House in 2002.

In addition to the exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, posters and photographs from 1973 and the early 2000s that reflect the extraordinary variety of local and international productions staged at the Opera House will be on display until 14 February 2024 in the Opera House’s Bennelong Passage and Box Office Lounge.

School holidays: During school holidays children can visit the exhibition and take part in our kids trail. Visit the information desk to pick up your worksheet. Happy exploring!

Free film screenings: Watch a selection of documentaries on the construction and history of the Opera House.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that The People’s House exhibition contains images, voices and names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings and text.

Visitors enjoying Maestro, an interactive space where light and sound respond to body movement, part of The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 exhibition.
Past event

The People’s House: Sunday Sessions

This summer, join us at the Museum of Sydney for a fun, creative and captivating series of monthly activations for the whole family

Past exhibition

  • 1 July 2023 – 3 March 2024

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A mannequin dressed in an elaborate Renaissance-style stage costume stands in a large Perspex-fronted display case . On the rear wall a small screen is showing a scene from the opera Lucrezia Borgia where Dame Joan Sutherland is wearing the same costume.

Dressing Joan Sutherland

One of the most spectacular costumes on display in the exhibition The People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 is an extraordinary Renaissance dress designed by Kristian Fredrikson and worn by Dame Joan Sutherland in the part of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia

A Sepik River mei mask

An eye-catching object in the People’s House: Sydney Opera House at 50 exhibition reveals an unexpected story of the opening ceremonies, of performance, and of international diplomacy

Kim Tao with her snow globe collection at the Caroline Simpson Library

An Opera House in every home

Instantly recognisable, the Opera House has been replicated across a vast array of forms and materials, from kitsch souvenirs and homewares to artworks and designer accessories

Harold Blair sings at a piano played by Marjorie Lawrence

Paving the way ... Harold Blair: The first Aboriginal opera singer

A short documentary that offers a glimpse into the life of Harold Blair, a world-renowned tenor, family man and political campaigner who sought social justice and human rights for Australia’s First Nations people

Todd Duncan (baritone) with Harold Blair, c.1950s

Harold Blair, trailblazer

Wulli Wulli tenor Harold Blair AM was Australia’s first professionally trained Aboriginal opera singer

The sacred veil, 2022. Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

The People’s House: audio interviews

Hear from former staff, creatives and performers about their most cherished memories of the iconic building

Sydney Opera House Barbie doll

An icon wearing an icon: Sydney Opera House Barbie

Stepping away from her signature pink, Barbie honours the Sydney Opera House with more subtle tones in her gown, that reflect the Opera House and its Harbourside location

An exhibition produced by Museums of History NSW in partnership with the Sydney Opera House and in collaboration with design and technology company Art Processors. This project is proudly supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW Blockbusters Funding initiative