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Contemporary Performance

Extraordinarily daring and spectacularly entertaining

Contemporary Performance at the Opera House offers the latest in contemporary dance, theatre, circus, magic, comedy, musicals, cabaret and special screen presentations. Creating a heady-mix of arts & entertainment, bawdy nouveau-cabaret and pop-culture happenings. Programming the best Australian and international productions, Contemporary Performance champions brave, genre-straddling work, the mavericks that make them and the reinvention and reinterpretation of classic art forms.

In recent years the Opera House has featured preeminent international contemporary dance companies - including Akram Khan, Sylvie Guillem, DV8 and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and most recently, Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. The Opera House has staged musical theatre productions including Heathers: The Musical, Sweet Charity, Miracle City and the forthcoming Sydney premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot. Summer is the season for circus, magic and cabaret. Large-scale spectaculars such as The Illusionists, Circus 1903 and The Unbelievables fill the Concert Hall, while late-night variety shows like La SoiréeBarbu, Blanc de Blanc and Limbo Unhinged play before packed houses in the Studio.

Contemporary performance presents pop and screen culture events throughout the year including the podcast trailblazer Brian Reed of S-Town; the Sydney premiere screening of Jane Campion’s critically-acclaimed Top of the Lake: China Girl; and the Australian premiere of Stranger Things 2. Culminating in pop-culture the pop- and screen-culture festival BINGEFEST – a 24-hour celebration of performance art, video games, pop culture icons and internet art. The inaugural BINGEFEST included the participatory performance artwork #ANDINTHEEND by artists Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner.

Latex and leather: Snow White done right
Jean Paul Gaultier on bringing dominatrix fashion to the ballet.

Olivia Ansell, Head of Contemporary Performance

Olivia Ansell is a leading arts curator, performing artist, director, choreographer, programmer and producer with more than 20 years’ experience in the sector. She commenced as the Head of Contemporary Performance in January 2018 leading Sydney Opera House Present’s newest programming area.

Established in January 2017, the Opera House’s Contemporary Performance programming stream was conceived to champion modern storytellers, pop-culture visionaries and the reinvention and reinterpretation of classic art forms. With the Opera House’s burgeoning Contemporary Music program, the new programming stream is key to delivering on the Opera House’s vision to present work that is as bold and inspiring as the building itself.

Voted one of VIVID’s Top 100 Creative Catalysts, Olivia’s extensive industry experience includes roles as the co-executive producer and driving force behind the hugely-popular, immersive experience Hidden Sydney, Artistic Director of Sydney Comedy Festival at Sydney Town Hall, Curator of Kings Bloody Cross for Vivid Ideas and producer of Nigel Jamieson’s HOME – the Perth International Arts Festival’s large-scale concert spectacular featuring 500 artists - including Tim Minchin, John Butler Trio, The Waifs and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra – performing for an audience of 50,000. Previous roles include inaugural Executive Producer of Shaun Parker & Company, touring Parker’s dance theatre works across the globe including Sadler's Wells, 2012 London Olympics and NYC’s Summerstage, and Manager of Development for the newly formed Hayes Theatre Co- establishing philanthropic and corporate support for Australia’s independent home for music theatre. 

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