The Sydney Opera House might never have been built had it not been for Sir Eugene Goossens. As the world-renowned building celebrates its 50th anniversary, Vincent Plush examines the maestro’s 10-year career in Sydney, the scandal that brought it to an end, and the road to the Opera House’s official opening in October 1973.

Eugene Goossens at his desk, holding his glasses. The desk is covered in papers.
Eugene Goossens c. 1954, Max Dupain, gelatin silver photograph on paper, National Portrait Gallery of Australia. Purchased with funds provided by Timothy Fairfax AC 2003

On Saturday 20 October, 1973, Sydneysiders could finally heave a deep sigh of relief: the Sydney Opera House was to be opened by Queen Elizabeth II that afternoon.

People with long memories will recall not just the...