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Sydney Opera House Story: a chronology 1606 to date





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The Sydney Opera House Story: Construction 1957-1969

In response to visitor demand, this chronology has been compiled by Paul Bentley to record the story of the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts, theatrical associations with the Bennelong Point site, Jørn Utzon’s involvement with the House and changes to the building.  It draws on and updates Philip Drew’s extensive chronology Utzon and the Sydney Opera House and a number of other sources. See also Sydney Opera House: an annotated list of sources

This section includes key facts from the period 1957-1969. For a more detailed chronology of this phase, Utzon and the Sydney Opera House is recommended. 

1606-1956 | 1957-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008 | 2009-2010 | 2011-2013 | 2014-




Jan 29  

Premier Cahill announces Jørn Utzon as the winner of the competition. Second Prize: Joseph Marzella, Leon Loschtter, WW Cunningham, Walter Weisman, Melvin Brecher, Robert Geddes and George Qualls of the United States. Third Prize: Boissevain and Osmond of England.  


Feb 16  

Parks and Playgrounds Movement of New South Wales raises objections to the building of the Opera House on Bennelong Point Park


Jul 3 

Premier announces that the Government will proceed with the building of the Opera House.


Jul 10  

Premier requests the Lord Mayor to convene a public meeting to launch an appeal for funds.


Aug 7  

Public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall sets up the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund Committee under the patronage of the NSW Governor.  Mr Mike Todd offers half the proceeds of the premiere of his film Around the World In 80 Days to the Opera House Appeal Fund and half to a charity nominated by the Premier. 


Nov 25  

First Opera House Lottery opens for subscription.


Mar 26  

Jørn Utzon and Ove Arup arrive in Sydney for three-week visit to present the Red Book and discuss sketch plans with the committee and its advisers.


Nov 24  

Representations made by Collier Jones Lang & Wooten re the possibility of developing a hotel or office building with the Opera House project as a business investment. Proposal rejected 13 January 1959 after investigation by the Treasury.


Jan 7  

Actors and Announcers Equity of Australia urges the Government not to build the opera house.


Mar 2  

Construction begins and proceeds in three stages: Stage 1 (the podium, 1959-1963), Stage 2 (the roof and exteriors, 1963-1967) and Stage 3 (the interiors, promenade and approaches, 1967-1973).


Oct 22  

JJ Cahill dies from gastric ulcer complications. He is succeeded as NSW Premier by RJ Heffron.



Opera House Trust Act passed 14 March, setting up an interim corporate body,. the Sydney Opera House Trust, to ensure proper planning for the completion of the building and subsequent operations. The Minister of Public Works is nominated president of the Trust, the Lord Mayer as Vice-President and Mr S Haviland, its Chairman.  Other members include, among others, Dame Doris Fitton, Sir Bernard Heinze, Dr Nikolai Malko, Sir Charles Moses, Professor H. Ingham Ashworth and Dr Cobden Parkes. The first meeting of the Trust takes place on 12 April.


The Sydney Opera House Trust decides to establish “a music museum in which it will be possible to display articles of historical interest, particularly ones having an Australian Association such as costumes worn by the late Nellie Melba in some of her operatic roles”



Jørn Utzon submits the Yellow Book in January outlining proposed changes to the roof structure (the so-called spherical solution).  


  The Sydney Opera House Trust decides to establish a "music museum in which it will be possible to display articles of historical interest, particularly ones having an Australian association such as costumes worn by the late Dame Nellie Melba." Planning for the museum was deferred.

RJ Heffron resigns as Premier in favour of JB Renshaw, who becomes Premier on 1 May 1964.



Sir Robert Askin takes office as Liberal/Country Party Premier of NSW, May 13. 


Dec 19 Jazz concert held at the Opera House. Photographs and poster donated by the Sydney Jazz Club to the Dennis Wolanski Library and Archives of the Performing Arts in 1988.

Feb 28  

Jørn Utzon withdraws from the Sydney Opera House project under pressure from the new Minister for Public Works, Davis Hughes.


Mar 28  

Davis Hughes appoints a new panel architects to complete the Opera House: Peter Hall (in charge of design), DS Littlemore (in charge of supervision), Lionel Todd (in charge of documents) and EH Farmer (Chief Architect of NSW and chairman of panel). The appointment is announced on 19 April.


Apr 28  

Jørn Utzon leaves Australia



AL (Stuart) Bacon takes up appointment as first General Manager of the Sydney Opera House in February.



Sir Phillip Baxter is appointed Chairman after Sydney Opera House Trust reconstituted with reduced membership.


1606-1956 | Top | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2005 | 2006-2007 | 2008 | 2009-2010 | 2011-2013 | 2014-


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