Renewing an icon

Inside the Sydney Opera House’s ten-year plan to renew the building for future generations of artists, audience and visitors

Find out more about the biggest upgrade in Opera House history and how more than $275 million of works, largely funded by the NSW Government, are transforming this world-famous icon for the 21st century.

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Click an area of the map below to see how we’re making improvements

Find out more about the biggest upgrade in Opera House history and how more than $275 million of works, largely funded by the NSW Government, are transforming this world-famous icon for the 21st century.

Click an area of the map below to see how we’re making improvements

Concert Hall

February 2020 – late 2021 / early 2022

The Cure perform in the Concert Hall

The Concert Hall is the heart of the Opera House and its largest internal venue. As well as being home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, it stages a growing program of contemporary music and performance, talks, comedy, circus, cabaret and more.

Beginning in February 2020, major renewal works will transform the Concert Hall for everyone.

The biggest upgrade to the venue since it opened almost fifty years ago, this multi-million-dollar project will result in better acoustics and sound for artists and audiences, more ambitious performances, improved access for people with mobility needs and a safer venue for staff working behind-the-scenes.

A new state-of-the art theatre machinery and staging system will ensure that when the Concert Hall reopens, it is better equipped to present the full spectrum of 21st century performance.

How the Concert Hall will be improved:

  • Specially-designed acoustic reflectors will replace the clear acrylic ‘donuts’ above the stage and acoustic diffusion will be added to on the timber box fronts, providing better sound for performers and audiences.
  • A new automated draping system will make it easier to switch from classical to amplified mode.
  • Lowering the stage will improve sightlines, create more intimacy between performers and audiences and improve backstage access.
  • Automated stage risers will also improve sightlines and enable musicians to hear each other more clearly, accommodating a variety of orchestral configurations.
  • A new theatre flying system installed above the ceiling will enable greater functionality to fly lighting and scenery,  facilitating larger-scale, more ambitious performances.
  • A state-of-the-art sound system will enhance amplified performances.
  • Accessibility will be improved with an elegant new lift and passageway, making it possible for wheelchair users to independently access all levels of Concert Hall, including its spectacular Northern Foyer for the first time. Accessible seating positions will be added in the stalls and the rear boxes in the circle.

While the Concert Hall is closed for refurbishment all other venues and the wider precinct will remain open, ensuring the Opera House can continue to offer unmissable performances and experiences to the 10.9 million people who come here each year.

Artist impression of the Concert Hall in orchestral mode with new acoustic reflectors.
Artist impression of the Concert Hall’s new draping system in amplified mode.
In November 2016, the Opera House tested prototypes of acoustic reflectors with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
A special listening device used to test the quality of sound in the Concert Hall with the new acoustic reflectors. This yellow foam ball hears sounds just like the human ear.

Joan Sutherland Theatre

Completed: May – December 2017

In 2017, the Opera House completed the $71 million renewal of the Joan Sutherland Theatre (JST), opening up new possibilities for artists, audiences and staff. The second largest of the Opera House’s six internal venues, the JST is home to The Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.

The much-loved theatre closed for seven months while essential works were carried out to replace theatre machinery that had reached the end of its operational life and to make improvements to the orchestra pit, acoustics, safety and audience facilities.

The reopening of the venue on New Year’s Eve 2017 marked the successful completion of the project on time and on budget.

How the Joan Sutherland Theatre was transformed:

  • A new rear stage scenery lift with increased load capacity was installed that is quiet enough to be operated during a performance.
  • Original ropes and pulleys used to fly sets were replaced with a more modern flying system that is quieter, safer and more reliable.
  • The improved grid deck provides a more flexible system of hoists and a clearer, more open work area for production staff.
  • A better rigging system as well as a new bridge for rigging lights were installed, along with partial replacement of the auditorium lighting and a new sound console.
  • A new follow-spot room allows the spotlight to reach performers across the entire stage (the previous follow-spot could not reach upstage).
  • Upgrades to the orchestra pit and the installation of a state-of-the-art acoustic enhancement system have improved playing conditions for musicians and enabled better distribution of orchestral sound around the venue.
  • A new lift and passageway on the western side of the theatre now allows people with limited mobility, for the very first time, to access the Northern Foyer with its sweeping harbour views.
  • A new purpose-built rehearsal room was opened for The Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.
  • Audience facilities have improved with six additional female toilets and a new accessible bathroom.
“We had 28 fly-bars moving at once at one time in Whiteley, and it’s big things they’re carrying...if Sydney Opera House hadn’t refurbished their stage machinery 18 months ago we couldn’t have done it.”
James Wheeler, Opera Australia Production Manager

Creative Learning Centre

The final project in the Opera House’s Decade of Renewal will transform existing office space in the building’s north-western corner into a new Creative Learning Centre.

For the first time, children and young people will have a dedicated space at the Opera House to play, experiment and learn in a building that embodies creativity and innovation.

The centre will be the home of the Opera House’s world-renowned Children, Families and Creative Learning program, along with new and expanded programming including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) and other initiatives.

The flexible space will host workshops, creative play and engagement activities, talks and performances, and will include a permanent digital classroom.

This new centre will play a critical role in nurturing artists, creators and audiences of the future.

Artist impression of the Creative Learning Centre, due for completion by the end of 2021.

Yallamundi Rooms

Completed: February 2018 – April 2019

In April 2019, the Opera House opened the doors to its redesigned function and events centre – the Yallamundi Rooms. The name Yallamundi means “storyteller” in the local Sydney Indigenous language and honours the long history of gathering and storytelling on Bennelong Point.

The project involved removing an unsightly events marquee from the Northern Broadwalk, restoring the building’s original façade and ensuring the World Heritage-listed masterpiece can be enjoyed as architect Jørn Utzon intended.

The Yallamundi Rooms is the first new venue created inside the Opera House since the refurbishment of the Utzon Room in 2004 and is designed for a range of events from weddings, intimate gatherings and celebrations, to community and corporate events.

When the Opera House opened in 1973 this space was known as the Harbour Restaurant.
An important part of the project was the permanent removal of the events marquee from the north-eastern, restoring unimpeded views of the Opera House’s northern façade.
The redesigned function and events centre sits inside the building’s envelope, providing stunning views of the Harbour.

Entry & Foyers

May 2019 – early 2020

The Entry & Foyers project combines a number of upgrades that are designed to transform the way the outside of the Opera House connects with the inside.

Enabled by the completion of an underground loading dock in 2015, which redirected 1,000 heavy vehicles a week from the Forecourt and created a more welcoming space for the community, the Opera House is undertaking further improvements at the entry to the site and under the Monumental Steps. These works are due for completion in early 2020.

Improvements being made to create a more welcoming Opera House:

  • Replacing the bitumen surface under the Monumental Steps with new paving in signature Opera House granite, creating a lighter space and providing a seamless and safer experience for visitors as they cross from the Forecourt to the concourse entrance.
  • A new lift in the main Box Office Foyer will, for the first time, provide an independent path of travel for those with access needs to the JST Southern Foyer.
  • Upgrading an existing back-of-house passage and lift to connect to the Concert Hall Southern Foyer. This work will be completed in conjunction with the main Concert Hall works.
  • Opening a new visitor lounge in the Box Office Foyer featuring stylish, comfortable seating, as well as interactive displays and exclusive digital content (completed 2016).
  • Improving pedestrian access and safety at the entrance to the site by re-grading the splayed stairs near the roundabout, removing steps on the western side of the East Circular Quay entrance, improving the current drop-off system at the gatehouse and replacing existing temporary security infrastructure with permanent bollards. These upgrades have been carried out in collaboration with neighbouring landowners Property NSW and City of Sydney.
New paving in signature Opera House granite replacing the bitumen surface under the Monumental Steps.
Construction of a 2240 square metresqm underground loading dock beneath the Opera House to provide safe and efficient access for trucks.
During excavation to build the new lift connecting the Box Office Foyer to the Joan Sutherland Theatre, archaeological remains from the site of Fort Macquarie and Tramcar House were discovered.

Conservation & Heritage

The Opera House is a World Heritage-listed masterpiece. All renewal works are being undertaken in line with the Opera House’s Conservation Management Plan Fourth Edition [PDF] and Utzon’s Design Principles, taking every opportunity to respect and conserve the heritage and integrity of the building that has inspired a nation and redefined 20th century architecture.

Through our Decade of the Renewal, the Opera House is committed to telling stories about the building’s transformation, guided by the Opera House’s Renewal Interpretation Strategy [PDF]. This document sets out clear actions on how the Opera House engages audiences and shares stories about the Opera House’s Renewal program, whether that’s through onsite exhibitions, events and digital content.

Proudly funded by the New South Wales Government