26 January 2024

2024 Sydney Festival: Exultant cultural expression and artistic creativity

| Rama Gaind
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dance performance

Jubilant dance work Encantado opened at the Sydney Opera House as part of the 2024 Sydney Festival. Photos: Supplied.

“Let the spirit of the holidays be with you throughout the new year!” A well-wisher with heart! Now that was a welcome sentiment from Joey, our tour guide, as we walked around Darling Harbour, a buzzing waterside precinct that’s just moments from the centre of Sydney.

There was jubilation in the crowd as celebrations got underway with the launch of the Sydney Festival on 5 January. The festival has returned with a series of free events celebrating culture, creativity and spectacle until 28 January. Having seen first-hand some glimpses of the exceptional acts on the schedule, disappointment will not be on the cards. We’re spoiled for choice!

It’s time again to be inspired and entertained this summer with a full-on program of more than 140 distinctive events including world premieres, extraordinary immersive experiences, cutting-edge public art, Australian exclusives, free events, trailblazing First Nations programming and an epic live-music offering.

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This year’s ambitious schedule is sure to follow the success of 2023. Showcasing Sydney’s magnificent art and cultural spaces, there’s a chance to indulge in what guarantees to be an unmissable festival to enjoy the incredible homegrown and international talent.

Festival director Olivia Ansell has positively brokered numerous world-premiere productions, commissioned large-scale Australian work and collaborated with the global cultural community to create and bring incredible world-class festival encounters to Sydney.

woman standing in front of colourful artwork

Sydney Festival director Olivia Ansell.

A highly accomplished arts professional with more than 20 years’ industry experience, Olivia is enthusiastic about her role.

“I look forward to a continued collaboration with so many formidable artists from Australia and across the globe, sharing authentic stories that can invigorate, enrich and animate our city,” she said. “The relationship of artist to audience is a delicate love letter that a festival can humbly scribe.”

Once again, we are invited to rediscover the city differently – from parks to beaches, harbour inlets to retro fun parlours – proving there’s nowhere else but Sydney to experience an exhilarating summer of art.

Featuring 25 world premieres, 30 Australian exclusives, 14 co-commissioned works and 57 free events amid an expansive program of local and universal highlights, Sydney Festival will host more than 1000 artists.

The festival is a testament to the creative appetite of Sydney and its culturally curious audiences. Across 24 action-packed days of music, performance, theatre, art, fashion, circus and dance, it will take in more than 50 venues and enlist the talents of hundreds of artists. Sprawling the city and surrounds, from Parramatta to Bondi Beach, the Sydney Festival has something for everyone this month. However, choosing which event to attend could throw up some challenges.

An enchanting experience was watching the first of the festival’s many Australian exclusive events – the jubilant dance work Encantado at the Sydney Opera House. The brainchild of the Rio de Janeiro-based choreographer, activist and teacher Lia Rodrigues, Encantado is a wild celebration of nature and our place in it. On stage, 11 dancers transformed 140 colourful blankets into shape-shifting costumes and personas in a work that takes inspiration from the very real environmental and spiritual struggles experienced in today’s Brazil.

composite of woman performer with two different make-up styles and outfits

Kate Miller-Heidke’s new smash-hit musical comedy Bananaland has had its Sydney premiere at the festival.

Kate Miller-Heidke’s new smash-hit musical comedy Bananaland acclaims the glorious absurdity of people following their impossible dreams.

This year, Sydney’s iconic harbour will take centre stage, with works and events presented on – and in observance of – water throughout January, including Puccini’s nautical one-act opera Il Tabarro, performed aboard the Carpentaria lightship, and live music from global roamers Arka Kinari, whose bespoke sailing vessel serves as both their touring van and stage.

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Drink in The Thirsty Mile at the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, which is the newest festival hub, experience spellbinding free opera on the waterfront, get into a spot of trouble at Smashed: The Nightcap and stay all summer long.

Apart from visiting iconic attractions such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House with its towering sail structure, it’s easy to see why this vibrant city is so special!

The festival has launched, once more, with an invigorating burst of artistic expression and creativity. Happiness is infectious, especially when you are on vacation sharing in family togetherness, spiritual enlightenment and camaraderie with friends.

With an exciting program of live music, performance, visual art and dance, Sydney Festival 2024 has proved yet again that there is nowhere like Sydney to experience an exhilarating summer of art. The festival has – once more – transitioned from concept to delivering a delightful burst of cultural and artistic reality!

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