The Sails turn 50

The Sydney Opera House will be hosting a Birthday Festival to mark their half-century.

Words: Erin Irwin

Formally opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is the star of Sydney Harbour. Now, as it reaches its golden anniversary, the institution will celebrate 50 years with the Birthday Festival. Alongside an array of theatre, music and dance events, art will also be a key player in the festivities.

A mammoth public artwork Whispers by Quandamooka artist Megan Cope will take over the site, with 100,000 kinyingarra (oyster in Jandai language) shells to be installed. These shells speak to environmental issues that threaten Australian flora and fauna, as well as acting to embrace Tubowgule – the land on which the Sydney Opera House sits – as a traditional locus of gathering and celebration. The public and volunteers were invited to help craft this installation, with each shell hand-made in a collaborative effort that is illustrative of Cope’s practice.

Artist William Kentridge will also be contributing to the festivities, with his experiential, Olivier award-winning work Sibyl to be put on display. The interdisciplinary South African artist combines visual art, music and film to create an unforgettable performance. Inspired by the ancient Greek myth of the Cumaean Sybil, the figure who acted as oracle at Cumae and foretold prophesies, it deals with anxieties about the future and the innately human desire to control one’s destiny.

Birthday Festival will run throughout the month of October, with a wide range of events available. For more information, head to the Sydney Opera House’s website here.


Don’t miss out on William Kentridge‘s Sibyl. The Sydney Opera House has kindly offered all Art Collector readers 20% off performances on Thursday and Friday. To claim this offer, purchase your tickets here.

This article was posted 13 September 2023.

Image: William Kentridge, Sibyl, performance still. Courtesy: the artist and performers, and the Sydney Opera House, Sydney.


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