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Sydney Festival 2014 Highlights

With spectacular beaches, a stunning harbour, idyllic weather and an abundance of dining and entertainment options, sydney is a world-class destination. Add the buzz of the three-week sydney Festival over January and it’s an international hub of culture, quality art and big ideas. Festival director Lieven Bertels shares his favourite sydney discoveries. Click here to view our interview with him


Dido & Aeneas1 by Sebastian Bolesch

The centrepiece of Sydney Festival 2014 is Sasha Waltz’s choreographed version of Henry Purcell’s masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas, accompanied by Europe’s leading baroque ensemble, the Academy of Ancient Music Berlin. With beautiful costumes, flying dancers and a special role for the choreographer’s eight-year-old daughter, this is one of the biggest productions ever to come to an Australian festival, similar in size to The?a?tre du Soleil’s Flood Drummers, presented at Sydney Festival 2002.

This production Dido & Aeneas is a spectacular rendering of the oldest love story in English opera. It commences with a prologue that is danced underwater in a giant fish tank on stage, but Waltz, who is one of only a handful of directors that truly masters the large stages of today’s opera houses, is not afraid to zoom in on minute details and create spine-chilling pearls including Dido’s famous lament When I’m Laid in Earth. With a running time of 100 minutes, this show also makes for a family-friendly introduction into the world of opera, and tickets make for great Christmas presents.



Penned in 1930 by the celebrated poet, playwright and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice) is one of the world’s few great solo pieces written for a woman. Directed by visionary Dutch theatre director Ivo van Hove, it stars Halina Reijn, one of Europe’s most celebrated actors, in a tour-de-force that centres on a woman’s one last desperate phone call to her ex-lover.

Pleading with the voice on the other end of the line, she sinks deeper and deeper into despair. With a touch of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, we watch the scene, and the woman herself, unravel on the other side of a glass wall.

Testament to its power as an enduring piece of great theatre-making, Cocteau’s play has inspired a host of re-tellings on both stage and screen. Reijn is the latest in a long time of illustrious interpreters of the role including Ingrid Bergman and Simone Signoret.

La Voix Humaine is performed in Dutch with English subtitles.



Known for daring yet refined aerial acrobatics, Ockham’s Razor brings its award-winning trilogy of contemporary aerial theatre pieces to the Festival.

Using tailor-made aerial equipment, these agile physical performers investigate themes of isolation, reliance and the way our actions impact on those around us.

Circus meets storytelling in Arc, exploring the ties and tangles of human relationships on a life raft structure suspended in mid-air, while a heart-stopping pas de deux takes flight in the gentle aerial ballet Memento Mori, based on Hans Holbein’s woodcuts of “The Dance of Death”. Every Action is a light-hearted take on Newton’s Third Law, performed on four boxes of varying sizes where each movement of four strangers affects the others – in this piece what goes up quite literally must come down.

A trilogy for adults and children alike, the whole family can venture out for a night of entertainment. With a running time of just over an hour and acrobatics which dazzle, the kids will be enthralled!



eclipseFrom a legendary African musical duo comes a unique concert experience: performed entirely in the dark at Sydney Town Hall, Eclipse takes you on an extraordinary sensory journey.

With millions of record sales to their name, Malian husband and wife duo, Amadou & Mariam, is one of the most successful bands to come out of Africa this century. No small achievement for two African musicians who have been blind since childhood.

Eclipse chronicles the duo’s life and work together, featuring songs from across their career. It’s a multi-sensory performance that highlights exquisite song craft, Amadou’s thrilling electric blues guitar and the magical interplay of their two voices; weaving the couple’s distinctive, propulsive Afro-pop and soul music together with storytelling, scents and sounds to bring you home to their beloved Mali – exactly as they experience it.

With Amadou & Mariam’s vivid music bolstered by a seven-piece band and vital Malian instrumentation, Eclipse is a one-of-a-kind concert experience – moving, celebratory and revelatory.

Band Of Magicians

One year ago, in the USA, four of the most amazing young magicians-of-the moment met for the first time and the world’s first magic supergroup was born.

Natural showmen, Justin Willman, Nate Staniforth, Justin Flom and Australia’s own James Galea are the faces of modern magic. Working together they have created an act loaded with outstanding illusions, dazzling deceptions and astounding artistry.

Each member’s fierce sense of one-upmanship drives the whole Band of Magicians to new, increasingly impossible feats, creating magic that draws on their collective talents, far surpassing what one magician can accomplish alone. Keep your wits about you for this one. It’s awe-inspiring entertainment from the finest magic specialists around.

And, while you are in Parramatta, why not visit our giant Rubber Duck and Roman Onda?k’s visual arts project presented by Kaldor Arts Projects – his fun work Measuring The Universe even offers a chance to have your height marked on the exhibition wall!


Othello: The Remix

Othello The Remix 01 photo by Michael BrosilowShakespeare has never been more accessible than in Sydney Festival 2014’s Othello: The Remix. A fresh and urban take on Shakespeare’s classic play, Chicago hip- hop sensation Q Brothers’s Othello: The Remix stays true to the original storyline while placing the action in the tumultuous 21st century music business.

Together, the Brothers create fiery, feisty musical ad- rap-tations of Shakespeare’s plays.

MC Othello gets out of the ghetto and goes straight to the top. He wins the respect of the music industry, the adulation of fans and the heart of the beautiful singer Desdemona. But he’s also attracted the spite of hip-hop purist Iago, who has something more sinister planned for Othello than a rap battle.

Innovative, intelligent and street smart, Othello: The Remix turns the volume up on Shakespeare’s rhymes and rhythms for a new generation to tune into.


The Hillard Ensemble

The Hilliard Ensemble Photo: Marco BorggreveThe Hilliard Ensemble, one of the world’s most distinguished vocal chamber groups, is virtually unrivalled for its a capella performances of old and new music, and at Sydney Festival 2014 will perform its final two Australian concert programs.

Known for its mesmerising stage performances of vocal music, and for selling millions of records world-wide, these classical superstars have earned an unmatched reputation for their a capella performances of sacred and secular music that span the last millennium, as well as works from today.

Now in its 40th year, while at the height of their career, the Ensemble has decided to hang up their vocal chords. They are celebrating with a final world tour, with two exclusive programs at Sydney Festival. This is the last chance for Australian audiences to hear the beautiful and pure sound of the foursome.

The Ensemble sings A Hilliard Songbook, a program of its best- loved works, encompassing the sacred and the secular – from early mediaeval polyphony to modern-day minimalism as well as the world premiere of Three Japanese Songs by Toshio Hosakawa.

For its second program, the Ensemble is joined by viol ensemble, Consort Eclectus, Melbourne-based Renaissance music specialists. The concert includes two works written especially for the Ensemble by Gavin Bryars and Nico Muhly.


Lieven Bertels, festival director
Lieven Bertels, festival director


Sydney: An International Hub of Culture, Quality Art and Big Ideas

These Reviews were written by Lieven Bertels. Check out our interview with him by clicking here.

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Alana Lowes

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