Sydney rising

A reborn Sydney Festival will emerge from the ashes of last year's global meltdown, writes Lindy Hume

Every January, Sydney Festival promises to transform Sydney. The challenge for me as festival director is to reinterpret the brief–to lead Sydney into a robust national and global discourse on the arts and to hold up a mirror to the city in new, surprising and beguiling ways. This will include what I see, experience and sense around me, and will be a response to the city I've returned to after nearly 20 years.

A great festival program balances centrepiece works from important artists and companies; once-only events that capture the spirit of Sydney in summer; and edgy and eclectic adventures. There must be an abundance of high-quality family, free and low-cost activity, and surrounding the whole, there should be a relevant thematic framework or narrative.

The architecture of a festival is built around ideas. Many ideas for 2010 reflect a sense of communal and individual catharsis, but also a recalibrated happiness and optimism after the upheavals of the last year. Compassion is implicit in many of the works in the forthcoming festival, whose creators remind us that great art from any period should tell us something about our lives today.

For example, Thomas Ostermeier's radical treatment of Hamlet shows us a claustrophobic and corrupt social system, a political biosphere so corrosive as to explain–even justify–Hamlet's suicidal tendencies.

Themes of crisis and catharsis inspire three extraordinary international danceworks: Dark Matters, Tempest: Without a Body and a brazenly rethought Giselle. Giselle's story ends in tragedy of course, but also transfiguration–the final minutes of this piece are beautiful.

The 2010 theatre program is a wild ride, highlighted by a brilliant production of Pirandello's anarchic Six Characters in Search of an Author, the showpiece of our new Sydney Festival hub at the Seymour Centre.

Lindy Hume is director of the Sydney Festival.

From the archives:

Reviews of books on seeking the quiet life in China, and on the Clean Industrial Revolution, on Obama, and British democracy

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Geoff Gallop launches Sydney Ideas Quarterly.

Previews of a Festival celebrating Isaiah Berlin.

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