Sydney Festival is an annual cultural celebration that transforms Sydney each January, delivering the highest quality art and big ideas. In 2016, Sydney Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary and the final year for esteemed festival director Lieven Bertels. This spectacular program is bursting with free and ticketed events across theatre, dance, circus, opera and contemporary and classical music.

Sydney Festival 2016 is comprised of 157 events, a staggering 89 of which are free. 383 performances will take place across 34 venues, featuring 902 artists from 22 countries. With 11 world premieres, 20 Australian premieres and 8 Australian exclusives, summer in Sydney is not to be missed.

Exclusive performances headline the festival with Germany’s famous Thalia Theater Hamburg and director Jette Steckel making their Australian debut with Woyzeck, a stage adaptation by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Leading Belgian orchestra Anima Eterna Brugge will perform Australia’s first ever Beethoven symphonic marathon on period instruments in Anima Eterna Brugge Beethoven’s Symphonies. With Beethoven’s exuberant Ninth Symphony raising the roof of the Sydney Opera House with Sydney’s own Australian Brandenburg Choir.

Leading the many circus performances is Compagnia Finzi Pasca from Switzerland who will bring their large scale mix of astonishing acts in La Verita, a circus spectacle inspired by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.

Music takes centre stage at Sydney Festival, with Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and composer Antonio Sanchez performing his fervent score live alongside the screening of hit movie Birdman (Or, the Unexpected virtue of ignorance). Joanna Newsom will return to launch her new album Divers at the Sydney Opera House whilst The Flaming Lips headline the famous concert Summer Sounds in The Domain, for free!

Hyde Park’s hugely popular festival hub Meriton Festival Village will showcase a variety of circus, comedy, cabaret and contemporary music, headlined by Meow Meow in the world premiere of Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid. Award-winning actor-singer-author Alan Cumming returns to Sydney with his hit new show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs!

Sydney Festival will be home to one of the largest community participation events presented in the festival’s history, with French artist Olivier Grossetete’s epic installation The Ephemeral City. Sharing the space will be internationally renowned video artist Shaun Gladwell whose newest work, Skateboarders vs Minimalism will premiere as three large-scale projections starring skateboarding legend Rodney Mullen alongside the music of Philip Glass. Both works can be enjoyed from a bird’s eye view on a free165m Flying Fox.

Sydneysiders know Sydney Festival is one of the most wonderful summer festivals in the world — a claim underpinned by the city’s lustre and charisma, making it an ideal showcase for the world’s great artists.

See the full Sydney Festival 2016 program here: