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Wu-Tang Clan performing the 25th Anniversary of 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' in the Concert Hall, December 2018. Image: Daniel Boud

Contemporary Music

Music that moves you

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 ground-breaking 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 art forms 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, Ludovico Einaudi, Brian Wilson, Lizzo, Sufjan Stevens, Moses Sumney, Bon Iver, and Mary J. Blige.

The Opera House Forecourt is one of the world's most spectacular outdoor stages and has been home to legendary moments with Lorde, Chet Faker, Tame Impala, and Paul Kelly.

The Opera House’s signature Contemporary Music festival Vivid LIVE continues to present a curated line-up of leading and boundary-pushing artists, and looks forward to returning in 2021.

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Kamasi Washington chats Heaven, Earth, everything in between

Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and his father Rickey, on why the first take is always the best take.

Mad Racket on the Northern Broadwalk, Vivid LIVE 2019. Image: Jordan Munns

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 a contemporary music takeover. Each year the Opera House hosts iconoclasts and genre forerunners alike from around the world in its theatres, rehearsal spaces, foyers, studios, outdoor stages and, to international attention, on the iconic sails. 

Vivid LIVE celebrates iconic 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. 

Due to the NSW Government’s cancellation of Vivid Sydney 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions on non-essential public gatherings, we regret to advise that Vivid LIVE 2020 at the Sydney Opera House will no longer proceed this year. We very much look forward to welcoming you back in 2021. Thank you to our valued staff, artists, audiences and visitors for your understanding and support.

John Butler Trio on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt

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,  to The National’s legendary sold-out shows in 2014 and return in 2018, Massive Attack in 2010, 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.

 Ben Marshall

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, Regina Spektor, 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 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), H.E.R. (2018), Anohni (2016) and Mazzy Star (2018) and the hallmark Lighting of the Sails. In marrying artists who stretch the concept of performance with a building that symbolises the liberating power of art, Ben’s goal has been to present “people who work in the new territories, the places in between, the places out at the edges” as the legendary musician and producer Brian Eno – Vivid LIVE’s inaugural curator – outlined.

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