Sydney Opera House — The Opera (The Eighth Wonder)

IFAC Handa presents

Sydney Opera House — The Opera (The Eighth Wonder)

Forecourt, Sydney Opera House


The story of the Sydney Opera House has more twists and turns than most operas: this is a tale you couldn’t make up. The architect walked out. The Premier died. The costs ballooned and the fate of one of the world’s most iconic buildings hung in the balance.

From the producers of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, this is an outdoor opera experience in an exciting new setting. Enter a nostalgic Australian wonderland of Hills Hoists and cricket pitches, settle into your seat, enjoy a glass of wine from one of the many bars, and gaze up at the Sydney Opera House, the stunning backdrop for The Eighth Wonder — our first silent opera.

The 100-metre wide steps of the Sydney Opera House will transform into an opera stage for the first time ever, harnessing cutting-edge technology to deliver a story that shaped the cultural landscape of Australia. Platforms will glide across the steps, delivering the fast-paced action. Giant screens will unfurl to display historic photos and giant glowing balls of paper, projections and lighting effects will complete the son et lumière spectacle.

The chorus and orchestra will perform live, with the sound transmitted to the audience through state-of-the-art Audio Technica headphones: you'll be cocooned in a world of pure sound.

The Eighth Wonder is a quintessentially Australian story, revealing the hopes and dreams, triumphs and failures of the artists, politicians and people of the time. Charting the dramatic creation of the world’s most famous building, scenes span from Mexico to Denmark to the Royal Yacht to a Sydney backyard.

A dozen of Australia’s finest young singers will play more than forty characters between them. Everyone who played a part in the building of the Sydney Opera House is a character in the opera, from the NSW Premier to a government engineer to a Sydney socialite. Gerry Connolly will play the Queen. This is Sydney’s story writ large, with as much behind-closed-doors scheming as you’d expect from a story about NSW.

150 aspiring architects from the UNSW Built Environment will contribute to the outdoor spectacle, creating a number of visual art installations for the site, including a 3D-printed bar table, Hills Hoists, as well as an exhibition of Max Dupain’s iconic photographs of the construction of the Sydney Opera House. 


A city's icon.
An architect's dream.
A political battleground.

The story

The Premier had a vision for an opera house. The architect had a dream of a building unlike any other. The young soprano had a great talent and a big choice ahead of her. This is a story of a building — but few buildings in the world catch so many personalities, so many agendas and so many dreams in its sails.

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Dining and drinks

There are five pop-up bar and restaurant areas on the Forecourt of Sydney Opera House, exclusively for Sydney Opera House — The Opera, open from 5pm.

Groups of people sitting at
         bar tables whilst a crowd stands in the background.

Composer Alan John
Librettist Dennis Watkins
& Alan John
Conductor Anthony Legge
Director David Freeman
Set & Costume Designer Dan Potra
Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest
Video Designer Marco Devetak
Choreograher Andrew Hallsworth
Sound Designer Tony David Cray
The Architect Adam Frandsen
Alexandra Mason Stacey Alleaume
The Premier Martin Buckingham
Stephen Goldring / Worker Michael Petruccelli
Politician / Reporter Samuel Dundas
The Engineer David Greco
The Maestro Adrian Tamburini
Ken Mason / Art Lover / Aide de Camp David Parkin
Sky / Aunt Olive / Socialite Eva Kong
Earth / Aunt Jean / Miss Hodges Anna Yun
Eileen Mason Rebecca Currier
The Queen Gerry Connolly
Madame Magna / Socialite Jermaine Chau
Writer / Juror / Reporter Simon Meadows
Daughter / Clare Goldring / Socialite Zoe Drummond
Foreman / Music Lover Nicholas Jones

Opera Australia Chorus

Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra

Running time: approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one interval.

Strategic Partners
         Now & Destination NSW logos

Foundation Partner


City Partner

City of Sydney logo

Venue Partner

Sydney Opera House logo

 Principal Patrons

Simon and Catriona Mordant

Production Patrons

The Board of Opera Australia
Marcus and Caroline Blackmore
Michael and Shanny Crouch

Opera Australia Principal Partner

Mazda logo

Opera Australia Government Partners

Australia Council

 Opera Australia thanks its event partners


Act 1

Scene 1: Parliament House 1955

The spirits of the Earth and Sky reveal that mankind is torn between the earth we know and the sky we've seen while, in Sydney, Australia, The Premier has decided, against the wishes of his cabinet, to build an opera house. He wants to find a great architect who will realise his vision.

Scene 2: Mexico 1956

On a pyramid in Mexico, an Aztec Warrior is sacrificed and The Architect is inspired to create a wonderful building.

Scene 3: The Conservatorium 1957

In the Conservatorium of Music, Madame Magda wants her talented young student, Alexandra Mason, to take a scholarship to Zürich but her boyfriend, Stephen Goldring, wants her to stay with him and wait for the new opera house. The Maestro wants them both to be part of the exciting times ahead.

Scene 4: Art Gallery 1957

At the Art Gallery, The Premier and The Chief Juror announce the winner of the competition to design the new building. Socialites, politicians, reporters, and art and music lovers work themselves into a frenzy of disapproval.

Scene 5: Denmark 1957

In a winter forest in Denmark, The Architect's Daughter brings him the news he has won and shares his excitement about living in a new world. On a summer beach in Sydney, Stephen captures Alex's heart in spite of her longing to be somewhere else. In the autumn of their years, Magda and the Maestro have a more realistic view of the world.

Scene 6: Construction Site 1958

The old buildings are being torn down at the site for the new opera house. The Premier warns The Engineer they must begin construction even though the plans for the building aren't complete.

Dedication Day 1959

The Premier assures the VIPs assembled for the dedication ceremony that the opera house is purely non-political, while The Architect tries to communicate his vision. Construction begins. As the workers drive deep into the earth, The Premier collapses in pain, leaving The Architect without his greatest ally.

Scene 7: Backyard 1962

In the backyard of the Mason's suburban house in Rockdale, Alexandra's family are celebrating the new year. Alex is now married to Stephen and is pregnant. Ken, her father, is complaining that the opera house will never be finished, sorely testing the good humour of Alex's godmothers, Jean and Olive, and her mother, Eileen. After all the sacrifices the family have made for Alex's singing career, Ken blames Stephen for her stalled career. Ken and Alex sing of their vanishing dreams.

Scene 8: Construction Site 1962

A thunderstorm breaks over the opera house construction site and work is halted. The Architect rejects yet another compromise solution for the roof construction from an exhausted Engineer. The Maestro warns The Architect that he must play the political game or be trampled on. The Architect's despair at his inability to solve the problem turns to joy when he finds an astonishingly simple solution.

Act 2

Scene 9: The Royal Yacht 1963

On the Royal Yacht Britannia, The Queen is hosting a reception. The Architect is at his most assured but The Politician promises The Maestro that if he wins government, The Architect won't get away with the delays and rising costs. The Queen's Aide de Camp introduces Alexandra to sing for the assembled guests with Stephen as her accompanist. Her song connects deeply with The Architect and he, as well as The Maestro, The Politician, Stephen, and Alexandra herself, feels the future is secure. But it's The Politician who seizes the moment knowing that his time has come.

Scene 10: Living Room 1965

Stephen and Alexandra argue over the change of government, the Opera House and Stephen's increasing role in Opera House politics as a representative of the Orchestra. With her opera career languishing, the argument reveals the precarious state of their marriage.

Scene 11: Flag Raising 1965

At the construction site The Workers celebrate the completion of the roof. The Architect tries to humiliate The Politician and falls out with The Engineer. Alexandra is found on the site deeply distressed and is comforted by The Architect.

Scene 12: State Office Block 1966

The Architect resigns from the project vowing never to return.

Scene 13: Opening night 1973

Alexandra has returned to make her debut in the completed opera house after establishing a brilliant international career. In her dressing room before the performance she shares her pride with her family and her bitterness over the treatment of The Architect with The Maestro.

Scene 14: The Feathered Serpent

As the Aztec Princess in the opera The Feathered Serpent, Alexandra sings of her lover's sacrifice and The Architect appears, unnoticed, a presence in dream, memory, song and the stone of the building itself. The spirits of Earth and Sky lead the company in the final chorus.


Sydney Opera House — The Opera will be performed on the steps of Sydney Opera House. 

Venue map (pdf)


At this event, the audience will sit on reserved seats on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt looking towards the sails of Sydney Opera House while the performance takes place on the steps.

As the seating will be arranged on the flat, access will be simple.

If you have particular access or mobility needs, please contact the Sydney Opera House on 02 9250 7111 or email

View the seating map (pdf)


At Sydney Opera House – The Opera, we'll supply our audience members with headphones and an FM receiver.

If you have a hearing aid or device, this can be attached to the receiver, provided that your device has a 3.5mm jack.

We’ll have a headphone support crew on the ground at each performance to audience members who require help.


Sydney Opera House — The Opera is an open-air and all-weather event

The venue, audience seating, and the stage are completely uncovered. The event is an all-weather experience and Opera Australia is committed to going ahead with a performance of Sydney Opera House — The Opera even in doubtful or unfavourable weather conditions. We want everyone to have a wonderful night and we understand that the experience can be affected by rain. Please come prepared so that you are as comfortable as possible, and ready to support the performers, who will carry on singing in the rain.

Bring warm and waterproof clothing

Sydney weather is full of surprises so please bring warm and waterproof clothing, just in case. Please note that although umbrellas can be brought to the venue, out of consideration for other members of the audience they cannot be used during the performance.


Ponchos will be available to purchase at the event.

Performance pauses and cancellations

We will only cancel a performance during electrical storms (within 10km radius) or during times of extremely high winds and/or rain. The decision to cancel a performance is not made until 7.30pm or later and a cancellation may be called during the performance.  So please plan to travel to the venue for a 7.30pm performance start time even in unfavourable weather conditions.

Auxiliary expenses including travel, accommodation or hospitality which you have arranged in conjunction with the performance are at your own risk and not refundable by Opera Australia.

See full terms and conditions

There are five pop-up bar and restaurant areas on the Forecourt of Sydney Opera House, exclusively for Sydney Opera House — The Opera. The venue will open at 5pm each evening.

The Premier's Bar

As the scrumptious smell of something delicious thrown on the barbie fills The Premier’s Bar, step back in time to Sunday dinner at Mum’s place, when life was simple and finding makeshift wickets for the backyard cricket game was the evening’s only worry. See the menu.

The Queen's Bar

A stylish little hole-in-the-wall, serving up thirst-quenching delights fit for a queen. See the menu.

The Engineer's Bar & The Maestro's Bar

Jolly good spots for jolly good chaps.  While away the hours on the Eastern Forecourt, enjoying berries from the sunshine coast and shrimp from Jervis Bay; delicious locally sourced produce for a menu full of local favourites. See the menu.

The Architect's VIP Bar

Ponder the wonders of the Sydney Opera House, an architect's dream, from the comforts of the venue's VIP space. Come take a seat, and enjoy a pre-performance or interval cocktail with Cintra Estate Australian-grown olives. Feeling like something more? You can order off The Maestro's Bar menu too. See the menu.

Please don't bring a picnic. Only food and beverages purchased on site can be consumed within the venue.

"This is the sort of experience which should stir a little patriotic pride in any Australian who attends."

The Daily Review

"Watching an opera about the creation of the Sydney Opera House with the eponymous building as the backdrop was surreal as well as awe-inspiring." 

The Australian (subscription required)

"What you have is a must see – a genuine once in a lifetime event."

Limelight Magazine

"A wonderful showcase of Opera Australia's talented company and a great opportunity to experience a new way of presenting outdoor performances."

Broadway World

"A scale of excellence at every level"

Stage Whispers
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