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Contemporary Performance

Extraordinary, eclectic, entertaining

Contemporary Performance is the Opera House’s youngest programming stream, presenting the best in contemporary dance, theatre, circus, magic, comedy, musicals, cabaret and popular culture from Australia and around the world.

Programming innovative, entertaining and genre-defying productions from Australia and the globe, Contemporary performance champions modern storytellers, maverick makers and the reinvention and reinterpretation of classic art forms.

Clyde Emmanuel Archer is dancing between worlds

The L-E-V Dance Company artist on redefining race in dance, and the ‘gaga technique’

Dance, Theatre & Musical Theatre

The Opera House has staged leading productions from pre-eminent dance companies and choreographers such as Akram Khan, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Michael Clark, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Ballet Preljocaj and most recently, Sharon Eyal’s L-E-V Dance Company.

The program also builds on a long history of presenting award-winning musical theatre productions including Heathers: The Musical, Miracle City, Green Day’s American Idiot, Sondheim’s classic Assassins and in 2019, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.

Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends also debuted New Worlds in 2018. 

LEV OCD Love. Image: Prudence Upton.
Blanc de Blanc in the Studio. Image: Jacquie Manning.

Cabaret & Magic

Summer is the season for circus, magic and cabaret at the Opera House with previous parties including La SoiréeBarbu, Blanc de Blanc and Limbo Unhinged plus large-scale spectaculars such as The Illusionists, Circus 1903 and The Unbelievables.

In 2019, Megan Mullally brings her punk-vaudeville band Nancy And Beth to the Joan Sutherland Theatre.  

Comedy & Culture

The program presents some of the best homegrown and international comedians such as Hannah Gadsby’s comedy phenomenon Nanette in the Concert Hall (now available on Netflix), plus comedy heroes Celia Pacquola, Wil Anderson, Tom Gleeson, Kitty Flanagan, Lano & Woodley and Judith Lucy vs Men.

Contemporary Performance has also presented 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.

In 2019, Thrones! The Musical Parody mixes passion for pop-culture with musical theatre.  

Hannah Gadsby performing 'Nanette' in the Concert Hall, 2017. Image: Ben King

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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Thrones! The Musical Parody
05 Jun 2019 - 30 Jun 2019
Ridiculously handsome men battling White Walkers. Ridiculously beautiful women riding fire-breathing dragons. And everyone either trying to kill or woo each other. Nudity? Maybe. Laughs? For sure.
Exhilarating Electric Musical Theatre
Megan Mullally & her band: Nancy And Beth
16 June 2019
Multiple Emmy Award winning actress Megan Mullally (Will & Grace, Parks and Recreation) and Friday Night Lights star Stephanie Hunt join forces in their critically acclaimed musical comedy cabaret show.
Laugh Out Loud Entertaining Cabaret
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
17 Dec 2019 - 21 Dec 2019
Hannah Gadsby is an award-winning Australian comedian whose funny, self-deprecating observations have delighted audiences all over the world. Her brand new live show Hannah Gadsby: Douglas aims to take the voice she found for Nanette (2017/2018) and use it. Douglas is the name of her dog who inspired her to put pen to paper and embark on her next journey.
Made in Australia Laugh Out Loud Comedy