Sydney Festival 2023: everything you need to see


It was not easy for sydney party over the past two years. With covid cancellations, international funding controversy, boycotts and soggy weather woes, this has been marred by many issues. Logistical issues aside, it’s hard to deny the diversity and vibrancy the festival has brought to Sydney’s arts and culture sector since its inception in 1977. Each year, the city transforms into a kaleidoscope of color and activities thanks to the gigantic event.

Last year saw over 150 great experiences in art, theater and music. This year, they are progressing considerably. There is a narcotic 748 performances scheduled for their 2023 program in 54 venues in the city. These include art, a man-made beach, world-class exhibitions, live performances, theater productions, immersive experiences, dance performances, and family-friendly events. Regular festival venues like the Opera House, Carriageworks and MCA will be back to host events.

“There is no better place than Sydney to experience an exhilarating summer of art. Made possible by over 1,000 participating local and international artists and the rich diversity of shared histories and cultures,” said artistic director Olivia Ansell.

Sydney Festival Highlights 2023

You’ll want to start clearing your calendar for January 2023 because there’s plenty on the horizon that you won’t want to miss. Initially, an artificial beach made up of 26 tons of sand will take over from the town hall. Lithuanian opera Sun & Sea, written and created by Lithuanian artists Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė will take center stage and tackle the themes of the climate emergency on location. It’s a favorite of the festival circuit worldwide, recently winning accolades at the 2019 Venice Biennale where it received the Golden Lion.

Picture: Evgenia Levin

In a major blow for Sydney, the festival has managed to secure a biographical exhibit on one of the most groundbreaking surrealist painters of the 20th century – Frida Kahlo. The exhibition, titled Frida Kahlo: the life of an iconwill be hosted at the Cutaway in Barangaroo and will feature dazzling holography, immersive projections pervading the venue, live Mexican musical performances, and VR technology to transport you directly to some of Kahlo’s most recognized works.

Other highlights include Tracker, which combines dance, ceremony and text by choreographer-director Daniel Riley and 16 evenings of live music under the Commercial Travellers’ Association building in Martin Place. Expect music from Alice SkyeAstral PeopleAutomatiqueJune JonesKaitlyn Aurelia SmithLil SilvaParty DozenTom SnowdonMoktar and more.

Above the underground bar, the American artist Kelsey Lu will present The Lucid: A Dream Portal to Enlightenment — an immersive 8-hour audio journey that examines how sound, mood and music can influence our thoughts and imagination.

Lose yourself in the Franco-Swiss artist Bedroom of James Thiérrée – a stunning collision of dance, mime, acrobatics, music and thrilling stage effects. Sara Baras, an acclaimed Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer will bring an intoxicating showcase to the Sydney Opera House. Plus, experience the buzz and energy of Tokyo right at home with a Shinjuku theme Maho Magic Bar at Darling Harbour.

Down in Western Sydney, Kalabante Productions will entertain crowds with contemporary circus performances at the Riverside Theaters and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the Lunar New Year at Parramatta Park with Sydney Symphony Under the Stars.

a neon-lit bar

Other stars of the festival

There are many more in dance, music, theater and art. The Sydney Festival fixture, Carriageworks, will host a number of arts events and exhibitions, including The Word Made Flesh by Paul Yorea huge queer performative celebration called Lines and Thea Anamara Perkins: Stockwoman which challenges how First Nations people should be represented in Australia.

The parts at the UNSW Galleries will spotlight LGBTQIA+ nightlife and party culture in Sydney from 1973 to 2002 and the experimental jazz drummer Chloe Kim will take over from the MCA for an exclusive event.

Dance fans can expect a presentation from Australian stalwarts Elena Kats-Chernin (AO), choreographer Meryl Tankard (AO) and visual artist Régis Lansac (OAM).

Several occasional musical performances Also on the program are talented artists like Tim Freedman (The Whitlams); singer/songwriter Martha Marlow and experimental jazz musician Chris Abrahams (The Necks). Oh, and there is Bonobos bringing a big dance party to the Masonic Center.

portrait of the musician Bonobo

Families can expect a packed schedule to keep kids and adults entertained. hide the dog is a world premiere for the whole family that takes place at the Opera. The Australian Museum, meanwhile, will delight visitors with Dive with Erth’s Sharksan exhibit on all things shark.

One to get excited is Brick wrecks by Ryan ‘The Brickman’ McNaught who needs no introduction. His LEGO models will this time come to life with stories of shipwrecks. Also there is Backsplash! an 80s themed pool party that mixes workout and water aerobics. Dress up in your best 80s outfit and dance to your favorite tunes surrounded by palm trees and lights.

Airship Orchestra will be back in 2023 and bring heaps of summer fun with Cupid’s Koi Garden — a water park six meters high. You can also enjoy air collaboration The air between us, created and performed by New Zealand dancer and choreographer Chloe Loftus and award-winning Maori dance artist Rodney Bell. For theater lovers, there is Blue at the Belvoir Street Theatre, a melancholic tale of a young life at a crossroads.

Also pay attention to A broadcast coupa new comedy by Melanie Tait (The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race) and Multicultural Comedy Gala at the Riverside Theater which showcases Australia’s rich diversity and features Australian comedians Akmal, Dilruk Jayasinha, Rebecca De Unamuno and Ting Lim.

Circus, comedy and cabaret combine in an intoxicating mix for Circus TrickTease’s work it and prinnie stevens will take us through the music of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé and more with The Lady sings the blues.

There’s plenty more to come and there’s something for every taste and interest. Check out their full program here and get ready – it’s going to be a summer to remember.

The Sydney Festival will take place from January 5 – January 29, 2023 with 26 free events, Australian exclusives, world premieres and more. Tickets are on sale now, get more info here. Some festival highlights will be available for live broadcast from your home.

(All images courtesy of Sydney Festival).


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