Performing Arts Around Sydney

This site covers the following topics Sydney cultural tourism, Australia, New South Wales, music, literature, arts, theatre, drama, ballet, art, gallery, music, opera, symphonies, concerts, galleries: I have provided this hidden list for search engines that ignore meta tags.

This is another one that will be a bit slow, so this has been started as a place-holder -- it is got to be a bit of effort in October 2006, and was still dangling in September 2009. I have put a lot of the names in, and the structure is there, but the content remains to be supplied. Well, at least you have the names to Google on now!

Opera | Ballet | Drama | Music performances | Leading literati | Classical music on radio | Cinemas


Opera venues | Opera companies | Interesting Australian singers

Opera venues

Aside from the
opera theatre at the Opera House, you can occasionally catch one of those spectaculars mounted for boors and money-market philistines at a football stadium, and then there is Opera in the Park, in the Domain in January. No further comment -- but the Opera in the Park is free, lots of fun, and has real opera singers.

Opera companies

Australian Opera

This is the big one. Of course, because somebody had a bright idea a while back, they are actually
Opera Australia now. They have a badly designed calendar on their site which requires that you keep clicking the GO button to get the next month, and they haven't actually bothered to fill it out very far ahead, but they are trying.

It's a pity their site is so trying, because the company is excellent. When I find some easier way of discovering what's on, I will add it. The Opera House site appears to be even worse!

Because they are Opera Australia, you won't always find them in Sydney when you visit, so if you are going "just to see an opera at the Opera House", you may be disappointed. If you are not a balletomane or an opera buff, you may care to read these notes on attending the Opera House first, because there is a good chance otherwise that you will spoil the experience for those around you. Back to the top


Ballet venues | Dance companies | Australian choreographers and dancers

Ballet venues

The opera theatre at the Opera House | Sydney Entertainment Centre | Riverside theatres

The opera theatre at the Opera House

You may care to read these notes on
attending the Opera House first. Be aware that dirty politics by stupid parochial philistines in the 1970s resulted in the Concert Theatre being given over to opera and ballet and vice versa. The pit is too small, there is no room to fly scenery, and the wings are cramped -- it is not a good performance space.

The main space where you can get tickets is likely to be in the loges. If you have the inside front seat (the front one, closest to the middle of the theatre) you will have a reasonable chance of seeing, but the others are bad to woeful. If you are visually impaired, the acoustics in the loges are quite good.

Sydney Entertainment Centre

Forget it -- ballet here is a joke. Sorry, it stinks! Go to the football instead.

Dance companies

The Australian Ballet | The Bangarra Dance Company | The Sydney Dance Company

The Australian Ballet

This is undoubtedly the main ballet company in Australia, though I may be biased -- having just passed beyond the stage of being a youth subscriber, we got brilliant seats when the Opera House opened, and we have been sitting in the same seats, centre of G row, ever since. We have watched dancers arrive, go through their careers, and be relegated to walk-on parts. We keep paying up -- so you aren't going to get any unkind comments here. They were founded in 1962, and I have been going since 1966, as near as I can work out.

Begin at the Australian Ballet website. When you search through, you will find that they are in Sydney in the period April-June and again September-December (roughly). If you are here at other times, you may need to look elsewhere.

What to expect: this is a classical company, but at least one program a year will have three shorter pieces, at least one of them a bit adventurous. On the other hand, the company has at least one full ballet each year, though it won't necessarily be a 'white' ballet.

Tips: The loges are generally bad news for ballet. See the comments elsewhere about the loges. Most of the best eats are taken by subscribers, but the box office often gets a few returns that you may be lucky enough to get. I don't know the details: you will need to ask.

The Bangarra Dance Company

They seem to call themselves the Bangarra Dance Theatre these days, but whatever they are called, they are young, fresh and adventurous. They are Aboriginal dancers, but they present a mix of Aboriginal and modern dance. They are good enough to appear from time to time with the Australian Ballet. What more could you ask? Well how about this: they have just been at Sadler's Wells, Salford and Aldeburgh!

There used to be Bangarra videos. but they seem to have disappeared in 2009. I'm leaving this here to check up next time I revise this page.

The Sydney Dance Company

This company was in financial difficulties, but they seem to be afloat again now. They have along track record of adventurous and innovative dance, so if you can support them, please do!

To find out more, look at the Sydney Dance Company website.

Australian choreographers and dancers

This is a stub for future development -- bear with me! Stanton Welch

Stanton Welch

to come

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Drama venues | Playwrights

Drama venues

The Ensemble | The Belvoir | The Seymour Centre | The Wharf Theatre | The Drama Theatre at the Opera House | Glen Street Theatre | Riverside Theatre, Parramatta

The Ensemble

The Ensemble Theatre, a converted boatshed on the edge of the harbour. This is one of my favourites, offering theatre-in-the-round in a converted boatshed. You can find them on the Web at

You generally get a smallish cast with at least one 'name' actor (scratching my head, Warren Mitchell has appeared there, so have John Howard (the actor, not the pseud), Reg Livermore, Garry McDonald, Greta Scacchi, Henri Szeps and Lorraine Bayly).

One of the best things is that you can eat on the premises from 6 pm -- and they know they have to serve you so you can get to the performance. Good food, good wine, mice coffee -- you could do worse.

The Belvoir

The Belvoir opened again on October 4, 2006. I will have more to say when I have tried the new venue (it hasn't happened in three years, because I've been busy and I've been going to other places). To find out more about the Belvoir and Company B, see their web site.

There are a number of pleasant and remarkably cheap eateries in Cleveland Street and Elizabeth Street, and there is a bar for interval drinks. Be aware that you can order and pay in advance, and avoid the crush, if you wish. Talk to the barman before the performance.

The Seymour Centre

The entrance to the Seymour Centre, obscured by building works. The Seymour centre is a group of theatres and performance spaces, located on City Road, opposite Victoria Park, near the University of Sydney. It is part of the University, which explains their web address:

Cleveland Street joins City Road at this point, and there are a number of good eateries down the street. I could take you to them, but I don't know their names. Later, OK? Meanwhile, just walk down the hill, look around, and if you find a good one, let me know!

More to come

The Wharf Theatre

Walk around from Circular Quay, away from the Opera House, and go under the Harbour Bridge, veering to the right. Look for the stairs down, and off you go. It is the home of the Sydney Theatre Company. There is also a theatre on the other side of Hickson Road, and I'm mixed up about which one is which. To eat before the theatre, get to the position in the third photo below. Walk through, turn left, and head for the pizza place whose name escapes me. You'll come to it before you reach piers 8/9, which is the abode of my favourite Sydney publisher, Pier 9. I should know the name, as I have eaten lunch and dinner there often enough!

The steps leading down from Fort Street to Hickson Road and the wharves. The wharves along Hickson Road. The Wharf Theatre, Hickson Road.
Pictures above, from left to right:

An excellent venue, but also worth going to in the day time, because there are some excellent eateries and coffee places along the waterfront. There are also a few buses running around there, but they are a bit hard to nail down (and I think they have now stopped running. It's a brisk 15 minute walk from Circular Quay.

The Drama Theatre at the Opera House

This is a hidden surprise, on street level on the western side of the Opera House, the side nearest the Harbour Bridge.

More to come

Glen Street Theatre

Youc can find them on the web at

More to come later

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

For more information, see the theatres' own site.

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Music performances

Music venues | Australian orchestras and ensembles of note | Interesting musicians | Australian composers of note | Musica Viva

Music venues

Concert Hall at the Opera House | City Recital Hall, Angel Place | The Verbruggen Hall at the Conservatorium

Concert Hall at the Opera House

This is the largest performance space in the Opera House, and was originally meant to be for opera and ballet, until
a dirty bit of politics caused the two theatres to be swapped. If you just want to go there to see something, anything, you have a better chance of attending a performance here, because there are more seats, and they all have reasonable sight lines. Be aware, though, that you may crick your neck a bit from some of the seats on the side, if you insist on watching the performance, and the first few rows at the front aren't the best for watch orchestral performances.

City Recital Hall, Angel Place

Angel Place hall is hidden away, north of Martin Place, between George Street and Pitt Street. They have a nice web site at

Verbruggen Hall at the Conservatorium

A great little centre in a maginificent historical setting. It has all been done up in a very sympathetic way to reveal the history of the site. that wasn't easy, as they kept running into old convict roads and the like: the original conservatorium building was the stables of Government House. Get there early and look at the historical/archaeological displays.

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Australian orchestras and ensembles of note

The Sydney Symphony | Australian Chamber Orchestra | Australian Brandenburg Orchestra | Musica Viva (OK, not an orchestra, but they didn't fit elsewhere)

The Sydney Symphony

Until recently, this was the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but somebody got enthusiastic. Read more about the
Sydney Symphony here.

Australian Chamber Orchestra

ACO is an amazing set of performers, and they get about a bit, but if you find them in town, catch them!

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

This interesting orchestra has a wbsite:

Sydney Philharmonia Choirs

While choirs are in a different section, the
Sydney Philharmonia choirs are commonly found in major orchestral works that call for a choir, so I have left them here. They have four choirs, the largest having 450 voices. Go to their site, check out their program.

Musica Viva

This is an amazing national entrepreneur. Check their website, or to see what they are putting on — you may like it!

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Interesting musicians

Australian composers of note | Interesting Australian pianists | Interesting Australian guitarists | Interesting Australian music groups | Singers and choirs

Australian composers of note

Ross Edwards | Elena Kats-Chernin | Peter Sculthorpe | Carl Vine | Nigel Westlake | Other composers worth consideration

I am just scratching the surface here. To get a fuller run-down, see This covers both past and present composers in Australia, and links to individual biographies. Another good site with lots of links is

Peter Sculthorpe

I have followed Sculthorpe since his Sun Music in the late 1960s, when the Australian Ballet used that music. He has been consistently interesting.

Elena Kats-Chernin

Another Oz composer (we poached her!). I think I first really noticed her when she did Wild Swans for the Australian Ballet, though I had heard some of her piano rags before that. Born in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), we have had partial ownership of her since 1975. She had 13 years in Germany but returned here in 1994.

Ross Edwards

His piano concerto was played at the London Proms in the mid-1980s, and The Times sniffed that it was "the sort of work that gave A-Major a bad name". It gets air time here, and people quite like it. Bollocks to The Times, then! If you are looking for an evocative, fresh and different Australian piece to take home, look for his
Dawn Mantras. This went out to the world at the start of the new millennium: if you remember seeing singers on the top of the sails of the Opera House, you have heard Edwards. It feartures the most amazing introduction from dijeridu, followed by a children's choir.

Carl Vine

to come

Nigel Westlake

to come

Michael Atherton

I had the good fortune to meet
Mike Atherton when he was artist-in-residence at the Australian Museum, so I have paid attention to his music when it was played. You should do so as well.

Other composers worth consideration

In no particular order, pay attention to Percy Grainger, Miriam Hill, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Moya Henderson, James Penberthy, Don Banks, Ann Carr-Boyd, John Antill, Dulcie Holland, Miriam Hyde, Eric Gross, Nicholas Routley, Colin Brumby, Alfred Hill, Dorian Le Gallienne, Gerard Brophy, Nigel Butterley, David Stanhope, Larry Sitsky, Michael Easton, George Dreyfus, Felix Werder, Andrew Ford, Vincent Plush, Margaret Sutherland, Martin Wesley-Smith, Richard Meale.

When time allows, I will probably add to that list, and give some of those people entries. They are all well worth pursuing and collecting.

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Interesting Australian pianists

Roger Woodward | Tamara Anna Cislowska | Duncan Gifford | Daniel Hill | David Helfgott | Simon Tedeschi

If you like piano in large lumps, be aware of the Sydney International Piano Competition. On my sums, the next one should be in 2008. I certainly hope so -- each of the last four is associated in my mind with the book I was writing at the time: the competition is broadcast in full on ABC-FM, and these days, I manage to make it to a few of the rounds as well.

Roger Woodward

to come

Tamara Anna Cislowska

this biography for more.

Duncan Gifford

to come

Daniel Hill

to come

David Helfgott

to come

Simon Tedeschi

to come

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Interesting Australian guitarists

Gareth Koch | Slava Grigoryan | Saffire | Karen Schaupp | Antony Field

Gareth Koch

You can read about him at You can buy a boxed set of four of his CDs through the site: I particularly recommend his Carmina Burana for solo guitar.

Slava Grigoryan

He plays sometimes with his brother Leonard, and also with
Saffire, but you can also catch this classical guitarist on his own.


Guitar quartet with
their own web site, where you can buy their CDs: there are two so far, and samples are available on the site. The names may be familiar: Gareth Koch, Slava Grigoryan, Karen Schaupp and Antony Field.

They tour, so you can find them anywhere: check their site for details. Chase them -- there is a real joy in seeing people enjoy performing the way these four do.

Karen Schaupp

to come

Antony Field

to come

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Interesting Australian singers

Teddy Tahu-Rhodes | Sara Macliver | Yvonne Kenny | David Hobson | Sydney Philharmonia Choirs | Gondwana Voices

Teddy Tahu-Rhodes

OK, to be fair, he is a New Zealand baritone, but he works mainly in Sydney, and should not be missed. See his
guest soloist page at the ACO site .

Sara Macliver

Soprano: to come

Yvonne Kenny

Most Australians will recall Yvonne Kenny as the singer who remained composed while a bogong moth landed on her during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney. In truth,
it wasn't a bogong, but a hawk moth instead.

It would be more appropriate to recall her as a soprano of amazing skill (that link needs Flash, but it has a number of samples). Strongly recommended: Simple Gifts, but check around to see what else is available.

David Hobson

Excellent tenor. Seek him out! He and Teddy Tahu-Rhodes put out an excellent CD of light classics in 2009. It was called You’ll Never Walk Alone, which gives you a feel for its contents. The catalogue number is 4763284, and you can get it at the ABC Shop, which also does online sales. (These nice people also stock a number of my books, but that's beside the point.)

Gondwana Voices

If you are looking for a refeshingly different sense of Australia, look for this national children's choir. They have a website at, and they have two CDs out now. If you go to the recordings tab, you can hear some short samples. The records include music by Michael Atherton and Elena Kats-Chernin.

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Interesting Australian music groups

Sorry, no rock bands here -- I don't know enough to judge them. If intelligent rock is your thing, consider My Friend the Chocolate Cake. Being an wrinkled elder, I alarmed them once by identifying them while they were waiting in the green room to perform on a TV show -- I was there to promote one of my books, and knew about them through my son. I would listen to them anywhere, but I don't think they would like me caling them rock.

Not to be missed: The Piazzolla Project, Saffire, Sirocco, Gondwana, who don't appear to be performing still, but this link gives you a chance to buy their CDs. Charlie McMahon is amazing. My favourite: "Let the Dog Out".

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Leading literati

Australian poets of merit | Australian novelists | Australian playwrights

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Australian playwrights

For starters, go the Currency Press site, or go to their list of plays or their list of authors.

David Williamson
Louis Nowra
See also Drama

David Williamson

THE standard Oz playwright, who has been steadily producing gentle plays looking at the Australian human condition. He announced recently that he was retiring, but new work keeps surfacing.

Louis Nowra

My wife's elderly aunt used to say she was tired of all the carry-ons on ths stage, that she would settle happily for more re-runs of Charley's Aunt. I thought she was just a bit batty, but 35 years on, I am starting to agree. Louis Nowra doen't write light froth nad bubble, alas, but if he is confronting, he is also interesting. Work out where you stand on Wilde re-runs, and you decide.

Alex Buzo

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Australian poets of merit

Some names not otherwise mentioned: John Tranter, Kenneth Slessor, David Malouf, Douglas Stewart, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Hewitt. Most of those are published by Angus and Robertson. Dead poets of a certain degree of deadness will be found on the literature page.

Les Murray | Mark O'Connor | A. D. Hope | David Campbell

Les Murray

Undoubtedly the best-known of modern poets in Australia, and the one you are most likely to find. Look for The Vernacular Republic, but there are others back to the joint volume The Ilex Tree that he did with Geoff Lehmann. His The Biplane Houses came out in mid-2006.

Mark O'Connor

My favourite that is in print is The Olive Tree, because it contains his Reef Poems -- turn straight to The Beginning (page 16) if you are a diver or snorkeler. Mark is a mate, but buy his book anyhow. Buy five -- he is working on a challenging PhD project and needs the money. Your friends need the books.

A. D. Hope

to come

David Campbell

David Campbell died some years ago, but his work should still be in print. Check for his Collected Poems, published in 1989 by Angus and Robertson.

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Australian novelists

To come: Peter Carey, Tom Keneally, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville are just a few to look for until I do something more about them.

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Classical music on radio

This part is easy, because it is already on the Conditions page.


to come

Cremorne Orpheum

This is one of those fine old art deco movie theatres with a Wurlitzer. Sadly, it is rarely played (look for the link to their Wednesday lunches if you want to catch it), and most of the time, you won't even be in the right theatre, as there are about six halls inside the building. There is a bar upstairs (wine and coffee), fine chocolate icecreams, and capable staff. They also sell books of ten tickets at a discount rate. They tend to carry most of the art-house movies in one of the smaller venues, so they are worth hunting down.

They have their own web site:

380 Military Road, Cremorne, 9908-4344.

Dendy Opera Quays

Mostly art-house, elegant theatre, bar selling wine, beer and other stuff, and you can take drinks in with you, but you need to buy your ticket before ordering drinks, to comply with the licensing laws (which are stupid). They offer all sorts of special deals, so check their web site of you will be using them a few times.

There is a web site for the Dendy chain at

Halfway along the eastern side of Circular Quay. 9247-3800

The Randwick Ritz

To come, once I have visited it. Find them at
this link.

The Roseville Cinema

Near Roseville station, on the other side of the highway, there are good eateries around the area, and they tend to have the art-house movies that you also find at Cremorne.

Back to the top This file is, first created on April 20, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on September 5, 2009: links are bring checked and gaps are being filled.

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