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Contemporary Music presented by Sydney Opera House

The Opera House’s Contemporary Music program presents artists both esteemed and beloved, singular voices performing in one of the major art forms of our time on one of the world’s most iconic stages, from the legends of today to those of tomorrow.

From in-the-round visual extravaganzas in the Concert Hall, immersive recitals in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and groundbreaking electronic music and audio-visual events in the intimate Studio, our Head of Contemporary Music Ben Marshall has programmed a wide range of iconoclasts from across Australia and around the world to perform under the Opera House sails.

The Concert Hall, a venue often associated with artforms like opera and classical music, attracts over 100,000 contemporary music-lovers each year to hear artists such as Nick Cave, Solange, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Stone Roses, Lizzo, Sufjan Stevens, Moses Sumney, Bon Iver, Underworld and Erykah Badu.

The Opera House Forecourt is one of the world’s most spectacular outdoor stages and is regularly home to legendary moments with artists ranging from pop behemoths such as Lorde to our unofficial poet laureate Paul Kelly.

The Opera House’s signature Contemporary Music festival Vivid LIVE has presented unmissable performances from The Cure, Lauryn Hill, Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, New Order & more, and continues to present a curated line-up of leading and boundary-pushing artists.


Vivid LIVE

Celebrate today’s icons and tomorrow’s defining artists in contemporary music.

Vivid LIVE presents innovative world-leading artists on the nation’s most famous stages, transforming the Opera House inside and out in an annual contemporary music takeover. Each year, the Opera House hosts iconoclasts and genre forerunners alike from Australia and around the world in its theatres, rehearsal spaces, foyers, studios, outdoor stages and, to international attention, on the iconic sails.

Vivid LIVE celebrates world-leading artists with an undisputed impact on their audiences, emerging voices and performances from local communities that reflect our diverse contemporary culture through a carefully curated series of Australian premieres, exclusives and special projects.

Forecourt gigs

The Opera House’s architect, Jørn Utzon, envisioned the Opera House Forecourt, framed by the Harbour Bridge and dramatic cityscape, as a gathering place and outdoor auditorium.

Since the 1970s, the Forecourt has been home to some of Australia’s most magical moments, from Thin Lizzie in 1978, Stevie Wright in 1979, Björk in 2008, Massive Attack in 2010, to The National’s legendary sold-out shows in 2014 and return in 2018, and Lorde’s unforgettable sold-out shows in 2017.                      

In 2019, 12,000 people packed the Forecourt in February to see two Australian favourites, the John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins with support by breakout indie starlet Stella Donnelly. Recently, the Forecourt has hosted a series of spring Forecourt concerts from Ngaiire with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tim Minchin, Wanha! Journey to Arnhem, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Vance Joy.

A large crowd of people watch a concert on the Opera House Forecourt at nighttime. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is in the background.

Stream, read & listen

Music at the House: The Cure, H.E.R., Bon Iver, Solange & more

The Opera House has played host to many incredible performances. From Bon Iver's goosebump show to Solange's powerful Australian debut, our Head of Contemporary Music, Ben Marshall, chooses 10 of his favourite music videos captured from under the Opera House sails.

A man performing on a blue-lit stage.

From clubs to the Concert Hall

From New Order to Four Tet, Vivid LIVE's Ben Marshall on expanding his horizons in London's electronic music scene.

Andrew Weatherall – Talking Music

Andrew Weatherall was one of the music world's true innovators. He made his first and only appearance at the Sydney Opera House in December 2017 with an unforgettable five-hour Studio party, taking the audience on an eclectic journey through the history of electronic music and beyond.

Stream, read & listen to more Contemporary Music at the Opera House

Ben MarshallHead of Contemporary Music

Ben Marshall is the Sydney Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music and Curator of its annual centrepiece music event Vivid LIVE. He has worked in Australia’s music scene for over 20 years. Former solicitor-by-day, electronic music promoter-by-night, Marshall setup Inertia’s touring division Civil Society (now Handsome Tours), bringing some of the most influential contemporary music artists to Sydney for the first time. Under his curatorship, the Sydney Opera House has hosted Nick Cave, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop, Lizzo, Anhoni, Kamasi Washington, New Order and Florence + The Machine under its iconic sails, a testament to Ben’s ambitious and forward-facing vision in nurturing contemporary music in Australia.  

Since assuming the role of Vivid LIVE Curator in 2015, Ben has programmed specially-commissioned works such as The Cure’s Disintegration 30th Anniversary performances (2019), Max Richter’s 8-hour overnight Sleep and Bon Iver’s special in-the-round performance Cercle (both 2016)seminal artists like Solange and Ice Cube (both 2018), Australian premieres from the likes of Jónsi & Alex Somers: Riceboy Sleeps (2019) and Nils Frahm: Music For Sydney (2022).

Ben Marshall Head Of Contemporary Music at Sydney opera house sitting on the staircase.