Latest News

Back to Latest News back


Sydney Festival opening celebrates its 40th anniversary

Sydney Festival opening celebrates its 40th anniversary
January 13, 2016

The opening weekend of the Sydney Festival has offered an explosion of exceptional theatre, dance, music, visual arts and opera to mark its 40th anniversary.

Marking the final year under the guidance of esteemed Festival Director Lieven Bertels, the Festival is offering 157 events, of which 89 are free.

Running from 7th to 26th January, Sydney Festival 2016 is offering 383 performances across 34 indoor and outdoor venues, featuring 902 artists from across 22 countries along with 11 world premieres, 20 Australian premieres and eight Australian exclusives.

A spectacular free concert from The Flaming Lips kicked off the 40th anniversary celebrations on the opening weekend of the Festival. In a live performance the alt-rock gods entertained thousands with frequent costume changes, confetti cannons, video projections, balloons, a dazzling lighting show and front-man Wayne Coyne surfing the crowd in an oversized hamster ball.

Hot off the back of a New York Times best-selling memoir Not My Father’s Son, Scottish actor-singer-author Alan Cumming returned to Sydney Festival with his raucous adults-only one-man cabaret show - Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.

The charismatic star performed two nights of eclectic music in the intimate surrounds of The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in the Sydney Festival Village and received rave reviews.

Exclusive performances opened the festival with Germany's famous Thalia Theater Hamburg making their Australian debut with Woyzeck , a stage adaptation by Robert Wilson , Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan . Sydney Festival also presented a special keynote address by acclaimed playwright, director and visual artist Robert Wilson at Sydney Opera House.

People of all ages were invited to help French artist Olivier Grosset e te build a temporary city in Darling Harbour and at Sydney's new creative playground, the Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, in one of the largest community participation events presented in the festival's history. A gigantic 30 metre high cardboard building titled The People's Tower was created and demolished in Darling Harbour, whilst construction started for the epic installation The Ephemeral City.

Headline artist Meow Meow returned to Sydney Festival with the world premiere of Meow Meow's Little Mermaid , which opened to outstanding reviews including a five star review from Limelight magazine. Award-winning actor-singer-author Alan Cumming also returned to Sydney with his hit new show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs!

More events are set to come to Sydney Festival including the Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and composer Antonio Sanchez performing his fervent score live alongside the screening of hit movie Birdman (Or, the Unexpected virtue of ignorance) and Joanna Newsom , who will return to launch her new album Divers at the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Festival will present new Australian works of magnitude and cultural importance with the Helpmann Award-winning opera The Rabbits, and Stephen Page’s directorial debut feature film SPEAR by Bangarra Dance Theatre. In a major new work by Broome’s internationally acclaimed dance-theatre company Marrugeku, Cut the Sky explores our relationship with Country – our past, present and future through an Aboriginal lens – and humanity’s frailty in the face of our own actions.

The 2016 music program features some of the globe’s most exciting artists of our generation. In an Australian premiere season, four-time Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and composer Antonio Sanchez will perform his fervent score live alongside the film screening of the hit movie Birdman (Or, the Unexpected virtue of ignorance) and Joanna Newsom will return to launch her new album Divers at the Sydney Opera House in her first Australian show in five years. The orchestral masterpiece that broke new ground in minimalism in 1975 by pairing concert hall aesthetics with pop will be restaged in Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals under the direction of Peter Gordon, featuring the original core ensemble. Australia’s favourite underground rock band Dirty Three will reconvene for the first time in three years for a special Festival show, whilst Morrissey and The Smiths fans will have their heroes music treated to a Mexican makeover in Spanish, via vibrant rhythms of ranchera, mariachi, mambo and cha cha cha in Mexrrissey.

Hyde Park’s hugely popular Festival hub Meriton Festival Village returns with a variety of thrilling circus, comedy and cabaret shows, activities and a wide range of contemporary music performances. A world premiere and new Australian work by Sydney Festival favourite Meow Meow headlines the Festival Village in Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, and award-winning actor-singer-author Alan Cumming returns to Sydney with his new show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs! Australia’s leading circus company Circa will invite audiences to enter a world of physical daring in the beautiful and truly virtuosic What Will Have Been. Djuki Mala will thrill adults and children alike with their high-energy and stunning fusion of traditional Indigenous culture, contemporary dance and storytelling, and Family Week will return with a jam-packed week full of family shows and free fun.

Our Parramatta program is larger than ever with our new Festival hub in Prince Alfred Square hosting a program of free events for the duration of the Festival and a large scale fairground like no other. Recycled objects gain new life in surprising and spectacular ways in the captivating wonderland of fun that is Arquitectura de Feria. Compagnia Finzi Pasca will also bring their mix of astonishing acts and fantastic visuals to Riverside Theatre in La Verita, a circus spectacle inspired by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.

Festival Director Bertels explains “it’s such a privilege to be part of the 40th anniversary of Australia’s favourite summer arts festival.

“Sydney Festival has commissioned and presented a record-breaking number of new Australian works, and takes pride in creating unique opportunities for Australian and international artists to collaborate.”

View the Sydney Festival 2016 program at

Images: Sydney Festival performances Cut the Sky (top) and Anima Eterna (below).





Support our industry news service
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

As an independent publisher, we need reader support for our industry news gathering so ask that - if you don't already do so - you back us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine and/or our online news.

Click here to view our subscription options.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Hadley/Series Australia Pty Ltd

Hadley Australia and Series Australia Pty Ltd are the leading quality theatre chair manufacturers in the southern hemisphere. The businesses work closely with architects, interior designers and…

read more

Arts / Culture / Design / Entertainment / Venues



PathMinder Pty Ltd have partnered with AllUser Industries srl to bring Europe’s most advanced high security portals to the Australian and New Zealand markets. AllUser Industries started to…

read more

Access / Fitness / Recreation / Security


@leisure Planners

@leisure is a team of experienced leisure, aquatic and sports facility managers and planners, with market modelling, sports management, recreation planning, business and GIS qualifications. We have…

read more




As of 2018, TicketServ operates as SeatGeek Asia Pacific Pty Limited, part of international ticketing platform SeatGeek. Click here to contact SeatGeek Asia Pacific via their entry in…

read more

Attractions / Entertainment / Events / Sport / Ticketing


APT Asia Pacific Pty Ltd

APT (Advanced Polymer Technology) is the leading global manufacturer of polyurethane-based materials, acrylic coatings and synthetic turf products for sporting and recreational applications. From…

read more

Environment / Sport / Surfaces / Technology


Smart Connection Consultancy

Smart Connection Consultancy is a boutique sport and recreation consultancy who has become one of Australia’s leading advocates for the use of synthetic sports surfaces as a vehicle to grow…

read more

Consultants / Recreation / Sport / Surfaces



ICP is an Australian-based company focused on indoor climbing. ICP will manage your project from initial design to completion and beyond, whether you're building an international-level climbing…

read more

Attractions / Fitness / Recreation


Aussie Strength

We are Aussie Strength. The ultimate supplier for Commercial Gym Equipment that's built to deliver in the toughest environments. From USA-Built hardcore weight training equipment from Arsenal…

read more

Fitness / Technology / Wellness


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business