What to do and see at Sydney Festival 2019

There’s something for everyone at this arts festival in Sydney. Here’s our pick of the best theatre, comedy, art and opera shows.

Sydney Festival is back for 2019
  • Elissa Blake
  • December 2018

First staged in 1977, Sydney opens in new window Festival has always been about getting a sunstruck, post-Christmas city off its tanned behind. Over the years, it’s evolved into a globally significant performing and visual arts showcase, one that balances its artistic ambition with popular appeal.

Under director Wesley Enoch’s watch – this will be his third festival – the tradition continues, with cultural diversity and Indigenous representation coded into its DNA. From powerful communal experiences to one-of-a-kind intimate encounters, here is a tasting plate of Sydney Festival 2019, taking place city-wide from 9-27 January.

Festival Garden

One of the joys of Sydney in summer, the Festival Garden brings crowds and artists together in a pop-up precinct dominated by the historic Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. This year’s offerings include Pigalle, a burlesque-meets-disco vaudeville inspired by the Parisian entertainment quarter, baritone cabaret diva Le Gateau Chocolat in Icons and a return visit from the reliably amazing Irish chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan.
Hyde Park North, 9-27 January

Pigalle will entertain you with modern burlesque
Pigalle will entertain you with modern burlesque.

Apollo 11

Sydney celebrates the epoch-defining 1969 moon landing with a series of artworks and family-friendly participatory experiences to explore, all centred around the newly-minted Barangaroo precinct on the harbour.
Barangaroo South, 9-27 January


American performance artist Geoff Sobelle is known for his quirky shows. Starting with an empty stage, he will conjure up a full-scale house, which then becomes a home as people move in and go about their business in an incredible ballet of domestic routine.
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, 9-18 January

The playful live show Home will sell out fast
The playful live show Home will sell out fast.

Shanghai Mimi

The sass, colour and sensuality of Shanghai between the great wars is revived in this world premiere of dance, acrobatics and vaudeville acts set to a live band playing vintage Chinese jazz and blues.
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, 10-20 January

Splash Test Dummies

Take the sting out of a summer’s day in Parramatta with this award-winning, all-ages aquatic comedy show that manages to successfully combine synchronised swimming with unicycling.
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, 11-13 January

Beware of Pity

Two theatre company giants – Schaubühne of Berlin and London’s Complicité – will work on this lavish stage adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s story of a man overwhelmed by guilt after promising his heart, then reneging on the deal.
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, 23-27 January

Beware of Pity is an emotional play
Beware of Pity is an emotional play.

Neneh Cherry

Emerging as a counter-culture pop icon in the 1980s, Cherry recently completed a new album – Broken Politics – with UK producer Four Tet. This will be her first Sydney concert since its release.
Carriageworks, Eveleigh, 15-16 January

T5 Tank Sound Project

One of Sydney’s forgotten wartime relics – a huge navy fuel tank disguised as a defence complex to outfox Japanese bombers – is being brought back to life with a sound sculpture.
Mosman, 23-27 January


South African artist and director William Kentridge turns Alban Berg’s landmark opera about a hapless soldier driven crazy by an army doctor’s experiments and a faithless lover into a riveting visual and sonic spectacle.
Sydney Opera House, 25 January-5 February

Wozzeck brings opera back to the Opera House
Wozzeck brings opera back to the Opera House.

Nick Cave: Until

American artist Nick Cave and his team are transforming Carriageworks into a colossal dream space called Until. The overwhelming immersive art installation will be made of millions of knick-knacks – from hanging crystals to garden ornaments – designed as a place to bring people and communities together to think and talk about the issues they face such as race and gender.
Carriageworks, Eveleigh, Until 3 March