Starts & High Points

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House has been a House of high points - from classical and contemporary music to historic meetings and moments. This selection reflects the sheer diversity of performances and events at Sydney Opera House down the decades.

The Opera House sails were lit purple in his honour, the concourse screens one long homage. There was never any doubt that Prince Rogers Nelson’s performances at the Sydney Opera House in February were an historic occasion. Bathed in the prismatic light of the Concert Hall stage, the great man turned a back catalogue that had defined the times into a one long only-here, only-now riff as part of his Piano & A Microphone tour. The atmosphere was electric, the reception rapturous. And when it was over, Prince returned the love. ‏@prince: "I think @SydOperaHouse Loves its new resident..." @Prince3EG: "NOT AS MUCH AS PRINCE LOVES THE OPERA HOUSE! THANKUMADLY." The Sydney Opera House joins with Prince fans everywhere in mourning the passing of a great artist.
Australian indie-psychedelic rock band Tame Impala perform to a packed Forecourt celebrating the release of their Grammy Award-winning album Currents (2015). The studio project of Perth-born multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, Tame Impala have emerged as one of Australia’s most renowned contemporary music acts, recognised for their dreamy melodies and Parker’s falsetto – a voice compared to John Lennon by Lennon’s son Sean. Sydney Opera House first showcased the band at Vivid LIVE 2011 in the intimate setting of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, only to have them return with the grand gesture of a Forecourt concert.
Indie rock legends The National make their Sydney Opera House debut, playing to more than 10,000 fans in two sold-out shows on the Forecourt that were live streamed around the world via YouTube. The National join other Australian and international stars who have performed live and been broadcast online from the Opera House’s only outdoor performance venue, including perennially popular rock band Crowded House, British star and former Police frontman Sting, Britain’s indie darlings Florence + The Machine, electronica musician Chet Faker and Australian indie-psychedelia outfit Tame Impala.
This performance marks the  groundbreaking world-wide launch of Australian artist Gotye’s third album, Making Mirrors, which would go on on to win the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and spawn the hit Somebody that I Used to Know, a number one hit in 24 countries and the highest selling single in Australian history..The two sold-out Concert Hall performances featured a 10-piece mini-orchestra and were the centrepiece of the second GRAPHIC festival, which has commissioned and presented artists ranging from Art Spiegelman to Shaun Tan as part of the Opera House’s commitment to being a catalyst for the creation of new work of scale and ambition.For Gotye: An Animated Album preview, the Sydney Opera House commissioned some of Australia’s most talented animators to bring the album to life, including Rubber House, Lucinda Schreiber, Mechanical Apple and PictureDRIFT.  This bespoke visual content was subsequently performed around the world as Gotye’s standard global live show.
Lauded as the one of the greatest orchestras in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra gives its first performance at the Sydney Opera House. Under the baton of chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle, who would return to the Opera House five years later to conduct the Australian World Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performed work by Haydn, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Mahler.
Internationally renowned musician, vocalist, beatboxer and comedian Reggie Watts waits backstage to perform as part of the inaugural Luminous festival. Curated by legendary British musical innovator Brian Eno, Luminous included performances from electropop outfit Ladytron, jazz improvisers The Necks, techno-musician Karl Hyde, experimental rockers Battles and innovative Jamaican producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. Luminous evolved into Vivid LIVE, the Sydney Opera House’s annual celebration of contemporary music, featuring newly commissioned works, world premieres and appearances from musical greats from around the world.
Visionary filmmaker and director Baz Luhrmann stages his production of La bohème in the Opera Theatre, reimagining Puccini’s opera in 1950s Paris and providing a taste of the colour, wit and spectacle to come in Luhrmann’s Red Curtain film trilogy. Starring David Hobson as Rodolfo and Cheryl Barker as Mimi, the production was later staged on Broadway in 2002.
In one of Sydney Opera House’s most cherished and important moments, Nelson Mandela addresses a huge crowd from the top of the Monumental Steps shortly after his release from prison.
Legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald signing the wall backstage at the Sydney Opera House.
In August 1977 singer, actor, dancer and comedian Sammy Davis Jnr performed two shows in the Concert Hall. Throughout its history, the Sydney Opera House, in addition to its role as a home to the traditional arts, has had a strong commitment to programming the greatest musical talent of the day, from Sammy Davis Jnr, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald - within its first decade - to Kraftwerk, The Cure, Prince, New Order and Patti Smith.
The Opera House’s first public performance, a production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace, is given by the Australian Opera in the Opera Theatre on Friday 28 September 1973. The inaugural presentation in the Concert Hall the following night is a Wagnerian program by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Mackerras and featuring renowned Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson.
Credits: Story

Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team


Sydney Opera House Wolanski Archive Collection

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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