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Solange performing in the Concert Hall in 2019
Solange performing in the Concert Hall for Vivid LIVE 2018. Image credit: Daniel Boud

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.

In 2022, Vivid LIVE welcomed music lovers back to the House with a line-up featuring over 70 artists, including Sampa the Great, BLESSED, Masego, Nils Frahm, Tkay Maizda, Meg Mac, 1300, Boris, HTRK, Mad Racket and Picnic Studio parties, Astral People’s 10 + 1 birthday, and many more, with a very special residency from Paul Kelly, joined by Thelma Plum under the stars on the Northern Broadwalk.

Forecourt gigs

Tame Impala perform on the Forecourt

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 free concert series from Jack River, Barrabuwari Sunset Gathering feat. Ziggy Ramo, Barkaa, JK-47, Kobie Dee, Milan Ring, Spvrrow and a Trackwork Label Showcase.

This November, we’re celebrating the start of the Opera House’s 50th year, with 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.

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Stream | Contemporary Music

Music at the House

The Cure, H.E.R., Bon Iver, Solange & more

Our Head of Contemporary Music, Ben Marshall, chooses 10 of his favourite music videos captured from under the Opera House sails.

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Read | Contemporary Music

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.

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Read | Contemporary Music

Club Weld: empowering musicians on the autism spectrum

Some of Sydney's most prolific artists collaborated with musicians on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities to make their own music in the Opera House’s state-of-the-art Intel Broadcast Studio.

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Ben Marshall sits on stairs in the Opera House foyers
Ben Marshall, Head of Contemporary Music

Ben Marshall, Head 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).

Explore more from Contemporary Music...

Kae Tempest

Kae Tempest

17 Feb 2023

Making their Sydney Opera House debut as part of WorldPride, gifted British polymath Kae Tempest brings their extraordinary spoken-word performance to the Concert Hall for one night only.

Bikini Kill

Bikini Kill

13 Mar 2023

Legendary riot grrrls and feminist icons Bikini Kill return to Australia for their Sydney Opera House debut, bringing their defiant sound and fury to the Concert Hall for one show only.

Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

6 Mar 2023

Emerging from a dark personal period with some of her most powerful music yet, acclaimed singer-songwriter Angel Olsen returns to the Sydney Opera House for her headline debut in the Concert Hall.