The 25th Melbourne Festival, and the second under the artistic direction of Brett Sheehy, was launched on Tuesday night, 13 July, announcing a dynamic and emotive program of work from some of the finest creative minds of our times. Over 16 days, from 8 to 23 October, the Festival presents an unparalleled feast of music, dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, multimedia and outdoor events from renowned and upcoming Australian and international companies and artists.

Highlights include Sinead O’Connor, John Cale, Robert Lepage, Jack Charles, Hotel Pro Forma, Michael Clark Company, Thomas Adès, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Akram Khan Company, The Black Arm Band & Beck’s Festival Bar.

This year’s Festival will feature 13 world and 14 Australian premiere works with projects varying widely in scale and content. Of the 909 artists presenting their work in the 2010 festival, 658 are Australian and 251 from overseas, with many of the international artists realising their Australian debuts. The Festival not only focuses on innovation and excellence but also accessibility and affordability, with an extensive program of free and low cost performances, installations and exhibitions.

Festival highlights this year include free outdoor aerial spectacular [email protected]; Hotel Pro Forma’s awe inspiring, large-scale operatic spectacle, Tomorrow, in a year, featuring the groundbreaking music of electro-pop masters The Knife; world renowned recording artists Sinead O’Connor, John Cale and Meshell Ndegeocello; one of Australia’s most highly regarded performers in his one-man show, Jack Charles V The Crown; the residency of British composer, Thomas Adès, the most inventive contemporary composer of his generation; and Beck’s Festival Bar at the Forum Theatre.

The free FOXTEL Festival Opening is literally out of this world, as aerial choreography and a live rock show come together for some fast, furious, flying family fun in the Alexandra Gardens. [email protected], the amazing aerial spectacular from Spanish/Argentinean company Grupo Puja!, is a free performance set to dazzle and amaze people of all ages across the three nights of the opening weekend. Lighting designer Allan Parkinson brings the Festival precinct to life with Halo, a specially designed lighting installation that will give Melbourne’s art precinct a glowing, vibrant heart, illuminating St Kilda Road in homage to the John Truscott years.

Festival opening night features two Australian premieres. come, been and gone is the bold new dance work from the world renowned Michael Clark Company featuring the music of the legendary David Bowie with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno. Also on opening night, internationally revered director, film maker and actor Robert Lepage stages a magical journey to modern China with The Blue Dragon, a heart-wrenching love story told with Lepage’s trademark striking theatrical vision.

The Festival closes with a one-off spectacular finale, Seven Songs to Leave Behind, a unique concert featuring international music legends Sinead O’Connor, John Cale, Meshell Ndegeocello and Rickie Lee Jones, with award winning Indigenous artist Gurrumul Yunupingu and festival favourites Black Arm Band and Orchestra Victoria at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.


::Music::

Legendary founding member of The Velvet Underground and acclaimed composer John Cale performs his seminal solo album, Paris 1919, and dips into his extensive songbook in a spectacular performance accompanied by his band and Orchestra Victoria. For an intimate evening with Cale don’t miss his one-man show Noises in My Head, as he takes us through the many layers of his musical career.

In a first for Melbourne Festival, one of Britain’s greatest living composers and performers, Thomas Adès, undertakes a residency with three very special concerts. In his first concert, Adès conducts the internationally renowned Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing some of his most acclaimed work. The second features Adès on piano with innovative US string group, the Calder Quartet, and finally, Adès will direct and play harpsichord with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in a program of his own music and music close to his heart. In a separate event presented by ANAM, his work will be performed by Michael Kieran Harvey and Anthony Pateras.

The Australian Art Orchestra performs the world premiere of Soak, a live music and film experience and the Australian premiere of The Hollow Air, which features a collaboration curated by Philip Slater between Australian Art Orchestra and shakuhachi player Riley Lee. Black Arm Band’s stunning vocalist Ursula Yovich performs her soulful one-woman show Magpie Blues, and recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey plays live against an electro acoustic backdrop for en masse, an exquisite experience in sight and sound.

The Beck’s Festival Bar transforms the iconic Forum Theatre into a house of reverence for a series of performances presented over seven nights. The program features alternative music from around the world including the omnivorous, undulating aural play of Japan’s Boredoms, extreme metal ensemble Stigmata from Sri Lanka, Cambodian/American psychedelic pop group Dengue Fever, influential Chinese indie band P.K.14, and from the US stalwarts of the American independent music scene Low, the reigning agent provocateur of hip hop Sage Francis, making his welcome return to Melbourne, from LA heavy psychedelic rock band, Dead Meadow and punk band The Bronx as their mighty alter ego, Mariachi El Bronx.

The Australian contingent at Beck’s Festival Bar features new surf rock outfit The Break with members of Midnight Oil and Violent Femmes; and local heroes The Drones, Pikelet, Eagle & The Worm, Dexter, Kes Band, The Ukeladies, Bum Creek, Blarke Bayer/Black Widow, Horrorshow, Johnnie and The Johnnie Johnnies, The Twerps and Ponzu Island.


::Dance::

For his long awaited Melbourne debut, internationally acclaimed UK choreographer Akram Khan brings his latest exciting and visually inspiring new dance creation Vertical Road as part of its world premiere season. Tokyo-based multi-disciplinary artist Hiroaki Umeda can be seen in two of his recent installations for body, sound and light, Adapting for Distortion and Haptic. Umeda is also the choreographic consultant for Hotel Pro Forma’s Tomorrow, in a year.


::Theatre::

The Festival is thrilled to present the Australian premiere of The Blue Dragon, Robert Lepage’s stunning and intriguing love story told with his trademark visual mastery. Toneelgroep Amsterdam make their Australian debut with their dynamic technological theatrical treatment of the classic 1977 John Cassavetes’ film Opening Night. Jacob Wren, Canadian writer and maker of eccentric performances, and Pieter De Buysser, Belgian writer, philosopher and theatre maker, present the quirky social research project An Anthology of Optimism, and Gare St Lazare Players Ireland present The Beckett Trilogy, starring highly acclaimed Beckett interpreter Conor Lovett in a spellbinding marathon solo performance of three of Samuel Beckett’s literary masterpieces.

The spotlight also shines on one of Australia’s most highly regarded performers and one of the nations nearforgotten treasures, Jack Charles, in a powerful one-man show, Jack Charles vs The Crown. The program also features multi award-winning Melbourne-based theatre ensemble Ranters Theatre with their latest creation, Intimacy, and the world premiere season of Life Without Me by Daniel Keene, where Faulty Towers meets Sartre’s No Exit in an absurd look at life at the crossroads.


::Experiential::

Richter/Meinhof – Opera by artist and composer David Chesworth entangles art with politics, the real with the ritualized, in an intimate performance artwork set to a series of compelling soundscapes. A play without actors, a performance without performers and a concert without musicians, Heiner Goebbels’ Stifters Dinge is a totally mesmerising and captivating work.

Be tantalized by circus stars, sideshow queens, daredevils, aerialists and artistes in Carnival of Mysteries, a heady mix of unforgettable entertainment in the world premiere season from the world’s pre-eminent purveyors of provocative variety, Finucane & Smith. Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey & Jesse Stevens’ epithet is a fascinating and enchanting mixed media sound installation created from the genetic materials of individuals and activated by the audience. Northern Trax, presented by A.R.A.B Youth Ensemble, is a series of uplifting, confronting and interactive performance installations across Melbourne, and Pop-Up Project seeks Melburnians to help create an exciting and surprising one-off event set to infiltrate the city.


::Regional Tour::

This year’s Melbourne Festival is offering regional areas a taste of the Festival with the Gare St Lazare Players Ireland performance of Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett’s novella, First Love. In a supremely funny performance Conor Lovett, plays on the theme often expressed by Beckett that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness”. This engaging monologue can be seen at Warrnambool, Warragul and Bendigo.


Be transfixed by astonishing works of contemporary theatre, dance, music, film and visual arts at Melbourne Festival from 8 to 23 October 2010.

For more details visit www.melbournefestival.com.au

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