Sydney Opera House appoints new Head of Contemporary Performance

SOH Olivia Ansell - photo by Daniel BoudThe Sydney Opera House has announced that leading arts curator and producer Olivia Ansell has accepted the position of Head of Contemporary Performance to lead and showcase new, innovative and emerging work.

Established in January of this year, the Opera House’s Contemporary Performance programming stream was conceived to champion modern storytellers, pop-culture visionaries and the reinvention and reinterpretation of classic art forms. With the Opera House’s burgeoning Contemporary Music program, the new programming stream is key to delivering on the Opera House’s vision to present work that is as bold and inspiring as the building itself.

Voted one of VIVID’s Top 100 Creative Catalysts, Olivia’s extensive industry experience includes roles as the co-executive producer and driving force behind the hugely-popular, immersive experience Hidden Sydney, Artistic Director of Sydney Comedy Festival at Sydney Town Hall, Curator of Kings Bloody Cross for Vivid Ideas and producer of Nigel Jamieson’s HOME – the Perth International Arts Festival’s large-scale concert spectacular featuring 500 artists – including Tim Minchin, John Butler Trio, The Waifs and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra – performing for an audience of 50,000.

Olivia brings 20 years’ experience to the Opera House’s newest programming area as a performing artist, director, choreographer, programmer and producer. She joins four existing Heads of Programs at Sydney Opera House Presents – Ben Marshall (Contemporary Music), Rhoda Roberts AO (First Nations), Edwina Throsby (Talks & Ideas) and Bridgette Van Leuven (Children, Families & Creative Learning).

Olivia will be responsible for programming and presenting the best Australian and international productions spanning: contemporary dance; theatre; circus and magic; comedy; musicals and cabaret; and pop and screen-culture events.

“Sydney Opera House is recognised for supporting and presenting visionary work by some of the world’s most revered artists, companies and commercial producing houses,” said Olivia. “It is an absolute honour (and lifelong dream) to join the team at Sydney Opera House Presents. I look forward to collaborating with Australia’s vibrant local arts community to deliver powerful and evocative contemporary performance.”

Olivia is a graduate of QUT and the Australia Council’s Executive Leadership Program, Lecturer at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Con Opera School and guest reporter for Talking Lifestyle’s Entertainment Buzz with David Prior.

She will commence in January 2018 and fills the role vacated by Danielle Harvey who programmed a hugely-successful inaugural year of Contemporary Performance featuring Michael Keegan-Dolan’s critically-acclaimed Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, the genre-defying Hot Brown Honey, podcast trailblazer Brian Reed, the Australian premiere screening of cult Netflix series Stranger Things 2, and the upcoming summer entertainment presentations of The Unbelievables, Limbo Unhinged, American Idiot and to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song.

“We are incredibly delighted to welcome such an experienced curator and passionate arts advocate to the Sydney Opera House,” says Director of Performing Arts, Kate Dundas. “Olivia’s appointment secures our commitment to the future of the building and the art, to ensure we remain a driving force in artistic leadership and innovation.”

“With her breadth and depth of experience, Olivia is uniquely placed to lead Contemporary Performance and connect audiences to the most innovative and entertaining productions and artists from Australia and the globe.”

For more information about the Sydney Opera House and its programs, visit: for details.

Image: Olivia Ansell – photo by Daniel Boud