50 years in 50 photos: A visual history of Sydney Opera House
As the Sydney Opera House reaches its 50th anniversary, we take a look back at some highlights since its opening in 1973
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Historic performances, royal visits and an Olympic Games — the Sydney Opera House has seen it all. As this UNESCO World Heritage site celebrates its 50th birthday, we take a journey through the photo albums to revisit some of its most iconic moments.
- architect: person who designs new buildings and is responsible for how they are built
- earmarked: reserved, set aside, identified, kept for a particular purpose
- ambitious: difficult, demanding, challenging, hard
- construction: building or making something
- archives: both the place that holds records and the collections of historic information themselves
- scaffolding: the raised structure that supports workers and materials during work on a building
- Ol’ Man River: a show tune from the 1927 musical Show Boat with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II – the musical was made into a film on 1936
- Sergei Prokofiev: Russian composer, pianist and conductor (1891-1953)
- War and Peace: Prokofiev’s opera is based on Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s iconic 1869 novel of the same name
- Queen Elizabeth II: Elizabeth II was Britain’s longest reigning monarch, assuming the title of Queen in 1952 and serving until her death on September 8, 2022, at the age of 96
- commemorate: officially remember an important event or individual by holding a special event or ceremony
- Royal Ascot: a major social and sporting event for Britain’s upper-class, Royal Ascot began with the Gold Cup in 1807, Ascot’s oldest surviving race
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: Austrian-born American bodybuilder, Hollywood actor and politician
- Prince Charles: formerly the Prince of Wales, Charles ascended the British throne and was crowned King Charles II on May 5, 2023, following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II the previous September
- Diana, Princess of Wales: Charles’ first wife and the mother of his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, Diana died in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997, the year after she and Charles divorced
- Elle Macpherson: arguably Australia’s first global supermodel, she became a household name in the 1980s
- Pope John Paul II: Born in Poland, he was head of the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005 and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years
- Nelson Mandela: South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as president of South Africa from 1994-99 and died in 2013 at the age of 95
- Dame Joan Sutherland: highly decorated, renowned Sydney-born operatic soprano (1926-2010)
- Crowded House: a very popular 1980s rock band formed in Melbourne and whose original members were New Zealand singer-songwriter Neil Finn and Australians drummer Paul Hester and bassist Nick Seymour
- VIP: stands for very important person but is used to describe anyone or anything given special star treatment
- Michael Jackson: known as the King of Pop, the singer, dancer and songwriter was an iconic figure of popular culture during his lifetime (1958-2009)
- principal ballerina: highest ranked ballerina within a professional ballet company
- millennium: a period of 1000 years, so the year 2000 was the start of the new millennium
- Corroboree: a meeting of Indigenous Australians that usually includes traditional music and dancing
- Olympic torch: the torch relay heralds the start of the Olympic Games and symbolises the positive, peaceful values of the Games
- Samantha Riley: the champion swimmer won three Olympic medals across the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games
- war in Iraq: also known as the second Gulf War, the Iraq War (2003-2011) began when a US-led coalition of armed forces including Australia’s invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein
- John Howard: Australia’s 25th and second-longest serving prime minister between 1996-2007
- UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a UN agency promoting international co-operation in education, sciences, culture, communication and information
- heritage: the history, traditions and practices of a particular country, society or group
- masterpiece: a creation of great skill and significance, an important work of art in any field
- Pope Benedict XVI: the German-born head of the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 until his resignation in 2013 and died in the Vatican City in 2022
- motorcade: slow-moving formal procession of cars and other vehicles carrying dignitaries and other VIPs
- choreographed: planned, composed, arranged combination of movements to be performed in a dance
- Stephen Hawking: the brilliant British theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author whose work influenced ideas about the origin of the universe (1942-2018)
- hologram: special type of photograph or image made with a laser so that the subject looks solid and three-dimensional
- theoretical physics: field of physics dedicated to coming up with mathematical explanations for natural events
- secondment: a temporary assignment, when someone works somewhere else instead of in their usual role
- Prince: American singer, songwriter, musician and producer (1958-2016)
- choreographer: someone who invents the movements for a ballet or other dance and tells the dancers how to perform them
- How many times did Queen Elizabeth II visit the Sydney Opera House?
- Who performed an intimate concert at the Opera House just two months before his death?
- Who was Nelson Mandela?
- Which non-native animal is the only one that appears in this gallery of iconic moments at the Opera House?
- When and why were “ghost lights” installed at the Opera House?
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1. Iconic moments in history
As you can see in the gallery of photos included in this Kids News story, there have been some amazing moments in time that involve this spectacular piece of architecture.
Choose your favourite photo in the fifty year history of the Opera House and answer the following questions:
1. Who is in the photo?
2. What year was it taken?
3. What moment was being celebrated?
4. How does the Sydney Opera House feature?
5. Why is it significant to you?
6. What do you like about this photo the most?
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, History, Visual Arts, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
Thinking of current world events and imagining things happening in the future, what would you like to see happen next involving the Sydney Opera House? It could be a concert, a famous person visiting, a projection or something else you can come up with.
Write the caption to appear below the image that you are wanting to portray.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
Imagine you were there for one of the 50 events pictured in the gallery.
Create a conversation between two of the people in your chosen photo – you may need or want to include yourself as one of them. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the picture's caption and the extra information in the glossary to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.
Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.