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Sydney Opera House launches New Work Now

Sydney – Tuesday 29 September, 2020. The Sydney Opera House has today launched New Work Now, an initiative created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide meaningful support for local Australian artists and arts workers through commissioning, developing and presenting new works.

More than $1 million has already been raised through the initiative, enabled by the Opera House and its family of private supporters, including major donors, corporate partners, staff, and building and other contractors. A full list of contributors is available here.

As restrictions ease in NSW and theatres begin to reopen, New Work Now will play an important role in reinvigorating the arts and in the return of public programming to the Opera House from November.

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia in March, live performances largely ceased, with unprecedented impacts on artists, arts workers and audiences. New Work Now responds directly to these challenges by commissioning local artists to create and present new works.

“As a cultural icon and symbol of Australia, the Opera House is committed to inspiring and strengthening the community through everything we do. I extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has given so generously to support New Work Now, and I look forward to seeing the works come to life.”

New Work Now commissions and presents works that showcase the breadth and diversity of local Australian artists and creatives, selected by the Opera House’s internal programming arm, Sydney Opera House Presents, led by Director of Programming Fiona Winning. The works will span classical and contemporary music, First Nations, talks and ideas, contemporary performance, children and families, and digital works.

Works are initially being presented as part of From Our House to Yours, a free online program featuring performances, talks, podcasts, editorials and behind-the-scenes content. The award-winning program was launched earlier this year after the Opera House closed its theatres as a result of COVID-19. It has been enthusiastically embraced by audiences, with more than 5.3 million views and downloads, and 19 million minutes of content watched to date.

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said: “Now, more than ever, we look to the arts to be uplifted, entertained, educated and inspired. New Work Now is a superb initiative by the Opera House to help reignite Australia’s creative spark and support artists and art workers as they recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19. The beauty of this initiative is how it will help rebuild our local arts and creative industries.”

The line-up of commissions enabled by New Work Now includes:

  • Sydney Chamber Opera – Diary of One Who Disappearedcommissioned by Professor Ross Steele AM
    A new production of Diary of One Who Disappeared by Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928). Janáček's hauntingly beautiful song cycle questions the romantic ideal that the love of another person can rescue us from the suffering and mundanity of our existence. The world premiere will be presented as part of the Opera House’s digital season From Our House to Yours on 10 October.
  • CRUSH – by artists Lee Wilson, Mirabelle Wouters, Mickie Quick and Phil Downing
    Part DIY shed, part Medieval research centre, part obsessive Bunnings shopping spree, CRUSH blows up the boundaries of the physical body and mind. Helpmann Award winning Australian company Branch Nebula artists Lee Wilson, Mirabelle Wouters, Mickie Quick and Phil Downing have been in the lab, fixated on phenomena like pressure, vacuum, gravity, magnetism – and slimy, gloopy stuff. Prepare to be stunned as if you are catapulted across the stage in this gripping new physical performance. The work will be presented in late 2020.
  • Indigenous World Art Orchestra
    A global collaboration involving First Nations performers, composers and musicians that tells true stories of the first contact on occupied territories around the world. Accompanying Vivaldi’s Four Seasons will be original scores with a strong focus on First instruments, traditional rhythms, mother tongues and cultural voices. Reflection on the music and narration of these stories will be shared from a woman’s perspective. The work will be creatively developed in 2020 for production in 2021.
  • The Bright Side of Bum Town – written by Frieda Lee
    This is the story of Madeira Cake and her family living in a post-coronavirus recession. It explores the choice facing many parents: more money and longer working hours but less time to enjoy with your family versus less money and shorter working hours but more time spent with the family. The script will be developed in 2021 and is supported by a partnership with Griffin Theatre Company.

New Work Now commissioned artist Frieda Lee added: "I feel incredibly lucky to have a reason to sit down and work when so many artists are contemplating throwing in the towel because of COVID-19. And to get to do it at the Opera House is very special. Even my two year-old is excited for me. 

Works already presented on the digital stage through New Work Now include an exclusively commissioned performance by Ziggy Ramo, who transformed his debut album Black Thoughts into a hip-hop reckoning, and a world premiere performance by Sydney artists Rainbow Chan, Eugene Choi and Marcus Whale, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of Wong Kar-Wai’s landmark film In the Mood for Love.

The Opera House will announce further works enabled by New Work Now later this year and in 2021. While presentation will initially be online, audiences will be able to experience works from the program live on stage when the Opera House’s theatres reopen to the public from November. Further information about New Work Now is available here.

Members of the public interested in making a contribution to New Work Now and supporting local artists and arts workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can do so online.

For media information, please contact:

Melanie Wellington
Senior Communications Manager / 0413 709 081