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Contemporary Music

Music that moves you

The Opera House’s Contemporary Music program showcases the most interesting artists working in one of the major art forms of our time, from the legends of today to those of tomorrow. The famous Concert Hall, a venue often associated with artforms like opera and classical music, now attracts over 100,000 contemporary music-lovers each year to hear artists such as Nick Cave, Ludovico Einaudi, Brian Wilson, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Patti Smith and Mary J. Blige.

The Opera House Forecourt is home to large-scale outdoor gigs, including The National, Florence + The Machine, Tame Impala, Chet Faker, while the Opera House’s signature Contemporary Music festival, Vivid LIVE, goes from strength-to-strength in its ninth year. Digital programming – from live streams, VR and 360° experiences to the Nooks & Crannies series, connects artists with audiences around Australia and the world.

From clubs to the Concert Hall: Ben Marshall
From New Order to Four Tet, Vivid LIVE's Ben Marshall on expanding his horizons in London's electronic music scene.
The National perform on the Forecourt in 2014 Image: Daniel Boud

Vivid LIVE

Vivid LIVE celebrates the ambition and excellence of the best in contemporary music. It marries artists interested in stretching the concept of performance with a building that symbolises the liberating power of art.

Vivid LIVE is a unique time to take in the Opera House, with contemporary music across every venue, foyer and rehearsal space, while the incomparable Lighting of the Sails signals the moment to Sydney and the world. 

Tame Impala perform on the Forecourt in 2015

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 music’s most magical moments, from Thin Lizzie in 1978 and one of the biggest concerts of its day, the 2SM Concert of the Decade, in 1979, to Björk in 2008, The National in 2014, Florence + The Machine, Tame Impala and Chet Faker in 2015, and 2016’s sell-out 20th anniversary farewell concerts by Crowded House.

Grand gestures against a remarkable backdrop, those concerts have connected new audiences with a building that has become the symbol of modern Australia.

Ben Marshall, Head of Contemporary Music

Ben Marshall is responsible for the Sydney Opera House's year-round contemporary music program, Curator of its centrepiece festival Vivid LIVE and is Co-Curator of the GRAPHIC festival. 

Originally a lawyer, Ben has more than 20 years' experience in the Australian music industry. He was a founding presenter on Sydney community radio station FBi in 2003. In 2005 he established and ran Inertia’s touring division Civil Society (now Handsome Tours), bringing Sia, The xx and The National to Australia for the first time.

Ben’s programming has brought new audiences to the Opera House with acts including Bon Iver, New Order, Flume and Florence + the Machine.

In 2015 Ben was presented the FBi Sydney Music Arts Culture (SMAC) Of The Year Award, recognising his work to elevate local contemporary music culture at Sydney Opera House. In 2015 he also won the Best Contemporary Music Festival honour at the Helpmann Awards for his debut Vivid LIVE program.

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