11 February 2009


Come support the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal on Sunday February 15 at 6am on The Monumental Stairs, Sydney Opera House where the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs will be presenting a special performance of Dawn Chorus.

As part of the 2009 Sydney Festival program, Dawn Chorus performed new and existing choral works for more than 13,500 people. This Sunday, the choir will sing a selection of a capella works in one of Australia’s most iconic settings. The power of Dawn Chorus lies not only in the music, but in the hour of both reflection and quiet hope.Festival volunteers will be on hand at the event to collect donations. All donations will go to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

For more information on this special Dawn Chorus fundraising event, click here.

05 February 2009


The 2009 program included events across a range of genres including theatre, contemporary music, classical music, jazz, dance, circus, comedy, film and talks.

We've done some more number crunching and have come up with a few facts and figures that might interest you about this year's Festival.

- Number of performances: more than 245 events, 45 of which were free
- Number of free events: 40, including Festival First Night, the concerts at The Domain, outdoor films at Darling Harbour and The Overflow, and 30 pianos placed in public places in Sydney and Parramatta.
- Number of venues across Sydney and Parramatta: 20
- Number of radio interviews that took place: 196
- Number of artists and company members: over 1000 from more than 20 countries including UK, France, Canada, USA, Germany, Bosnia, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, Russia, France, Argentina, India and Ireland.
- Number of tireless Festival volunteers: 224 (125 alone for Festival First Night)
- Number of hours volunteered during Festival: 2815 hours
- Number of choristers in Dawn Chorus at Bondi Beach: 280
- Number of performances of The Smile Off Your Face in a day: 50
- Number of pianos placed on the streets of Sydney and Parramatta during January: 30
- Amount of gold foil confetti that falls onto the stage per performance of The War of the Roses Part 1: 200 kilos
- Number of Sydney Festival staff in January: 415 employees made up of 20 full time, 104 contractors and 290 casuals
- Number of attendants at Festival First Night: approx 300 000
- Number of tickets sold: 128 000
- Number of tickets sold at the Tix for Next to Nix booth: 4163
- Number of airport pick ups and drop offs: 123
- Number of nights booked for rooms in hotels and apartments: 3603
- Number of Sydney Festival flags across the city: 687
- Number of coffees consumed by Festival staff during the month of January: approx 12 000


Here is a selection of some of the best images from Sydney Festival 2009. A big thank you to our wonderful Festival photographers Prue Upton and Trent O'Donnell for their tireless work capturing the Festival through their lenses - night and day, rain or shine.

Photo 1.
After the success of his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver enchants the audience with his soulful voice and atmospheric instrumentation at City Recital Hall Angel Place. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 2. The splendour of Clifton Gardens at sunrise matches the beautiful voices of the Philharmonia Choirs during Dawn Chorus. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 3.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds delight the masses at All Tomorrow's Parties on Cockatoo Island. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 4. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds rock Cockatoo Island. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 5.
Quirky Parisian chanteuse Camille entertains with her high energy performance. Image: Trent O'Donnell. Photo 6. Hayley McElhinney, Pamela Rabe and Luke Mullins passionately take the stage in Sydney Theatre Company's The War of the Roses. Image: Tania Kelley

Photo 7.
Sydney enjoys a night under the stars at Samsung Mobile Festival Garden. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 8. Movers & Shakers kicks off Sydney Festival 2009 with a myriad of unique dances in Martin Place during Festival First Night. Image: Jamie Williams

Photo 9.
Martin Hayes leads the Masters of Tradition at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 10. Many dedicated fans queue outside the Tix for Next to Nix booth in Martin Place every morning during the Festival. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 11.
A performance by The Fondue Set as part of Movers & Shakers. Image: Jamie Williams. Photo 12. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová perform their heartfelt songs in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 13.
Sporting the sculptural hats of Philip Treacey, Grace Jones blows the crowd away with her grand theatrics on Festival First Night. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 14. St. Vincent fills The Famous Spiegeltent with her swirling indie-pop sounds. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 15.
Fanfare Ciocărlia and the Gypsy Queens & Kings at the State Theatre gets the crowd up and dancing. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 16. The Gypsy Queens & Kings liven up the crowd on the Hyde Park Fountain Stage during Festival First Night. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 17.
The huge audience watching iiNet Films Afloat's screening of Run Lola Run with a live soundtrack by The Bays in Darling Harbour. Image: Trent O'Donnell. Photo 18. A scene from Budapest's Katona Jozsef Theatre's production of Ivanov. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 19.
Kristin Hersh performs Paradoxical Undressing in the intimate Bosco Theater. Image: Trent O'Donnell. Photo 20. A scene from Robert LePage's Lipsynch. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 21.
Marawa in La Clique thrills audiences at The Famous Spiegeltent. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 22. There was much fun to be had making elaborate tribal headdresses during Kids in the Garden. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 23.
Eska Mtungwazi sings for Matthew Herbert Big Band. Image: Trent O'Donnell. Photo 24. The crowd performs 'The Sydney' during Festival First Night. Image: Jamie Williams.

Photo 25.
The dancers from Christopher Wheeldon's Morphoses strike intricate poses during their performance of Commedia. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 26. Moscow Art Trio performing at The Famous Spiegeltent. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 27.
A scene from Nature Theater of Oklahoma's No Dice. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 28. A scene from the Australian premiere of Being Harold Pinter. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 29.
The crowd enjoys Aron Ottignon's performance on the piano at Harry's Café de Wheels as part of the Play Me, I'm Yours project. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 30. Reggie Watts outside the Bosco Theater, his "home" for the Festival. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 31.
The crowd relaxes with a drink in the Domain before The Gypsy Queens & Kings fire up at Festival Jazz. Image: Jamie Williams. Photo 32. The magical world of Patricia Wrightson's novel comes to life on stage in Erth's The Nargun and the Stars. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 33.
A Festival intern experiencing the strange sensory journey of The Smile Off Your Face. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 34. The Flying Fruit Flies Circus cast wows audiences in their performance of The Promise. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 35.
A view of the crowd in The Domain during Festival First Night. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 36. Risteárd Cooper & Rebecca O'Mara star in Brian Friel's The Yalta Game. Image: Trent O'Donnell.

Photo 37.
Edgar Allen Poe's haunting short story comes to life with Barrie Kosky's The Tell-Tale Heart. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 38. Dawn Chorus at Balmoral Beach. Image: Prudence Upton.

Photo 39.
Fresh from his Big Band performance at Sydney Opera House, Matthew Herbert mixes up a storm at The Famous Spiegeltent with a booty-shaking, genre-defying DJ set. Image: Prudence Upton. Photo 40. Wendy Houstoun incorporates dance and spoken word in her performance of Desert Island Dances. Image: Prudence Upton.

04 February 2009


The past three weeks have been jam-packed full of Festival highlights. We opened with a bang on January 10 with Festival First Night and saved some of the best til last with Dawn Chorus at Bondi Beach on January 31.

We asked Sydney Festival staff for their favourite 'Festival moment', here are some of their responses:

Watching the glow of hundreds of headlights weave down the hill to Balmoral Beach at 4:30am in a silent pilgrimage to Dawn Chorus. The satisfaction of seeing the thousands of people gathered to listen to the gentle and beautiful voices as the tide came in, the sun lifted its head and the birds woke up for another day was a soul-nourishing moment.

Seeing people queuing up to play pianos while they were being installed for Play Me, I’m Yours!

Watching The Domain fill up like a time-lapse camera moment during Festival First Night and being amazed how happy everyone was.

Hearing a capacity crowd of 1300 people singing “What might have been lost” during Bon Iver’s set at the City Recital Hall. Acoustically and spine-tinglingly amazing.

Seeing 150 eager children beating away on African drums inside The Famous Spiegeltent during a Kids in the Garden workshop. Thunderously load, sweaty, chaotic and joyous.

Watching Grace Jones’ audience explode with applause when she appeared in a bejewelled, mirrored Bowler hat to sing Love is the Drug. Then looking up at the ceiling of the Enmore Theatre as it was transformed to a swirling, whirling blizzard of green reflecting laser lights.

Watching Reggie Watts and Camille do an impromptu beat box jam on stage together at the Beck’s Festival Bar – a truly unforgettable Festival moment.

Watching some fantastic dance at Movers & Shakers in Martin Place on Festival First Night, including the hugely mixed audience doing ‘The Sydney’. What a great moment.

Dancing in the Bosco Theater to the sounds of gypsy three-piece band Kaloome at the first Samsung Mobile Secret Show.

A toy falling off its bed mid-performance in Fluff and a very little audience member getting up to put it back.

Glen Hansard opening his set to a full house at the Sydney Opera House, unplugged, with a broken guitar and no mike, and absolutely knocking everyone for six with his compelling passion and talent.

Having to leave Lipsynch after the first hour (just too dang busy!) A wrenching moment filled with pride for the quality of the work we do.

Watching St. Vincent in The Famous Spiegeltent at dusk and wishing I could be as cool as her.

Holding my breath with a whole room of people as the dark literally wrapped around us during the first few minutes of The Tell-Tale Heart.

“I’m a sexy robot!” - No Dice. Best line in a theatre show EVER.

Seeing the queue of hundreds of people outside the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden at midnight to see Matthew Herbert’s Secret DJ set and thinking… I guess we got the word out!

Listening to a couple of thousand feet softly tapping away in unison to Masters of Tradition in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.

Seeing people kiss at the Play Me, I’m Yours pianos… me being one of them!

Standing backstage at The Domain during Grace Jones’ set as her paper confetti cannon made it snow for at least a minute. It was magic.

The stillness of the crowd as The Bays blasted their sensational score to Run Lola Run under the stars at Darling Harbour.

Watching my god daughter's face light up and hearing her squeal with delight when she first saw the set of Fluff. Then, listening to 100 kids making frog and chicken noises during the show!

Sunset on Cockatoo Island on the beautiful Barracks Stage of All Tomorrow’s Parties, surrounded by friends and listening to James Blood Ulmer.

Sitting in the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden with some of the actors from the Gate Theatre, enjoying a drink and their company as well as the whole buzzy atmosphere of the Festival.

The intimacy of fingers on a stranger’s face and feeling theirs on mine during The Smile Off Your Face.

Experiencing Lypsynch with my 10 year old daughter, who was meant to be my excuse to leave early as I was very sleep deprived. The production was so enthralling and the marathon of a show so well devised that we both sat transfixed for 9 hours, sharing this very special show with a theatre full of fellow travellers. Eloquent, inspiring and deeply affecting.

Watching Enter the Dragon with thousands of other fans at Darling Harbour as Karsh Kale provided the soundtrack. Everytime Bruce Lee won a fight the crowd would go crazy. We were all cheering him on. It was really fun and kind of exhilarating.

Being so thankful for Wendy Houstoun’s bravery in letting us laugh out loud about contemporary dance during her show Desert Island Dances.

Bon Iver, Spiegeltent, a beer, sunset… Need I say more?

After such a huge month it has to be said the final day was a bit of a highlight – bit like a plane touching down and the shaky walk to the baggage carousel as we all return to normality.

Watching Grace Jones from the photographer’s pit when she actually pointed to a specific photographer and gave him a down-the-lens pose.

When Reggie Watt’s got up at Martina Topley-Bird’s Samsung Mobile Secret Show and provided a drum solo complete with cymbals!

Driving a golf buggy on Cockatoo Island after midnight filled with happy All Tomorrow’s Parties artists and punters.

After the Artist Party I found myself responsible for ensuring two rather inebriated Hungarian actors found there way to their accommodation. I hailed a taxi and was a little alarmed to discover, when I gave the address to the driver, that firstly he had no idea where the hotel was and secondly that his English was as bad as the two Hungarians. I waved them good bye with a smile of slight trepidation and was greatly relieved to see them on stage the following night.

Watching my daughter dance around The Famous Spiegeltent to Dan Zanes & Friends.

The ham, cheese and mustard sandwich in No Dice. Plus - the Jewish-pirate in the show sweating himself to saturation.

The rumbling drums of Jim White taking me to a tumbleweed strewn desert during Bill Callahan’s set in The Famous Spiegeltent.

When Marketa Irglova picked up her guitar to sing a solo at The Swell Season and a member of the audience shouted out “where’s your hoover?” to which she replied “where’s yours?”. The entire audience erupted in laughter but it also made me realise just how much everybody there had fallen in love with the film ‘Once’ and just how magical it was to be there listening to them perform at the Sydney Opera House!

Glen Hansard covering Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’.

Reggie Watts serenading a bug on the wooden floor of the Bosco Theater as it tried to escape his vibrating beats.

Walking out of the theatre after 9 hours of Lipsynch and feeling so proud that we brought such a special experience to the people of Sydney.

Reading the glowing review for The Promise where the critic had listed every kid’s name (all 21 of them) so they would have a ‘cut-out-and-keep’ memento.

Picking up Grace Jones at 4pm from the hotel for a 5.30pm international departure flight, only for her to say she would like to do some jewelry shopping on the way to the airport! She arrived at the airport at 5.25pm, with jewelry in hand and still managed to get on the flight! Phew!

The fact that at each event we attracted such a range of audiences, all drawn to the magic of Sydney Festival.

Hearing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in conversation with Bernard Zuel in Eat Drink Talk Art was a real privilege – who needed to buy a ticket to the concert when one could see and hear them for free? They were both so at ease and so honest and engaging.

Grace Jones hula hooping through an entire song at The Enmore Theatre without dropping a note. Truly impressive!

I was chatting to Misha Alperin and he was telling me how much he loved Australia, the climate, the people etc. but that it was really too far to travel. He suggested, perhaps we could move Australia to where Spain is located and move Spain to where Australia is. Everyone in Europe would be overjoyed to have Australia so close and no-one actually living in Spain would know the difference!

Running into Fergus Linehan’s familiar face in the crowd on Festival First Night and receiving a comforting hug from the mastermind behind it all, before continuing through the craziness!

“Comfort is overrated!” – a quote from Pavol Liska (No Dice Director), after the audience had sat through 4 hours of No Dice in 40 degree heat, without air conditioning.

Having one of the Smile Off Your Face guys show me how he cries on demand after a few drinks in the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden.

29 January 2009


Although the Festival officially wraps up this weekend, one of our major events, The War of the Roses - Part 1 & Part 2, continues at Sydney Theatre until 14 February.

Sydney Theatre Company is extending the Tix for Next to Nix concept and taking matters into their own hands, by offering a limited number of $25 (front row!) tickets for all remaining performances. That's a saving of up to $65.

Tickets are available to be purchased online now and sales close once sold out or at 10am on the day of performance. A $7 transaction fee will apply.

Click here to book your $25 tickets.


Lisa the Festival Blogger returns with her final blog entry of Sydney Festival 2009. In this blog, she reviews Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová's show at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall plus Christopher Wheeldon's Morphoses.

"Markéta Irglová, one half of The Swell Season encouraged us to ‘trust our goat’ this week when making decisions about life. I was thinking, clever goat, I want one. Of course what she was talking about was her gut, but her Eastern European accent fused with an Irish burr distorted the word.

At their Eat Drink, Talk Art event, she and Glen Hansard - the other half of The Swell Season - sat stooped in their chairs and talked elegantly about the merry-go-round they have been on since Once, the film, was made two years ago.

A film like Once wasn’t meant to be this successful. It was shot in Dublin in 17 days on a tiny budget and the original idea was for the film to be sold on DVD to fans at gigs (Glen Hansard is lead singer in the band The Frames). But it was hugely successful, charming the indomitable Harvey Weinstein, making millions at the box office and winning them an Oscar for the soundtrack.

Neither Glen nor Markéta had any acting experience when Once was shot in Dublin. They had been friends for a long time, followed their hearts and plunged in. Actors use many methods to create their work, but they relied on instinct and it paid off. Both described the process of acting together like jazz, and creating a mad stormy energy between them – in many ways it’s this quality that makes the film such a success.

As they spun their tales about touring the world playing gigs and finding themselves in the film industry’s spin cycle, the intimacy between them was like the third dimension in the room. Love is contagious and fairytales intoxicating, and in life we’re all drawn to genuine warmth and positivity and I daresay this is a significant element to their success. They both seem intent on finding the truth in every situation and giving back to their audiences - a critical mass of connected individuals whom they create an alchemy with.

Glen, so charming he could have been reading out his shopping list and I wouldn’t have cared, his sentences yolked together with ‘was.. like’ and ‘you know’, doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with fame. When things exploded for them Markéta said to him "this is what you've always wanted. If you're going to flirt with fame, don't be surprised if it turns around and wants to have sex with you."' Rather than be tinged by fame, they seem committed to sharing it, encouraging us to take risks in life and reminding us that we never know what lies around the corner.

Christopher Wheeldon is regarded as one of the world’s top choreographers of classical ballet and is someone else who trusted his goat. Leaving a prestigious role at New York City Ballet to start his own transatlantic company, Morphoses, his instinct paid off. He knew how much fun he should be having with his work, Morphoses was a fine display of his faith in his instincts, and his dancers. I am no expert when it comes to ballet, but most of the reason I enjoyed it so much is because the dancers in Morphoses clearly want to put on a good show and seemed so happy as they did it. Everyone knows that performers perform so much better when they are inspired.

The creative insights I was offered this week were the perfect way to round up the Festival - I’ll trust my goat and follow my heart, and I just might be lucky."

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová are pictured here playing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in an impromptu performance before their concert on Wednesday evening.

27 January 2009

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