This year’s Festival should cause quite a stir with a radical Rite set to upstage even Ute Lemper.

Noel Staunton's 2013 Brisbane Festival is nothing if not eclectic. The line up for this year’s event features opera, classical music, circus, cabaret and theatre but it could all be upstaged by the headline act.

One hundred years after the Rite of Spring caused a near riot in Paris, the Brisbane Festival are set to present a double bill from one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies. Dublin-based Fabulous Beast’s Artistic Director Michael Keegan-Dolan will reimagine his 2009 Olivier-nominated version of the Rite and will bring to life a radical new interpretation of Petrushka, Stravinsky's dark tale of psychotic puppetry.

“Michael Keegan-Dolan’s savage and inspired rewrite of Stravinsky is…as exhilarating as it is harrowing” wrote Debra Craine in London’s The Times while Neil Norman, writing in the daily express said that the show, “reaches deep into Stravinsky’s music and ferrets around in the entrails to pull out raw, bleeding chunks of movement. An evening of pure theatrical voodoo.” Indeed, this Rite has received rave reviews wherever it has played and a glimpse at a video clip will show you why. Keegan-Dolan’s take, played out by 12 dancers, focuses on the animalistic side of human behavior with a healthy dollop of fertility ritual, ancestral worship, human sacrifice and so on. A typical Rite of Spring you might say, but Fabulous Beast have a contemporary style that reflects our modern obsession with group dynamics and the pressure to conform that will take your breath away.

The double bill will include Keegan-Dolan’s take on Stravinsky’s Petrushka, played out on a bare white stage, and the music will be played by Serbian virtuosos (and sisters), Lidjia and Sanja Bizjak on one grand piano in the magical arrangement devised by Stravinsky himself. One thing's for certain, you won't look at fluffy bunnies quite the same ever again.

More dance…and this time it's local

There’s no denying that dance looks to be the Festival’s strong suit this year. To complement the Rite of Spring they have programmed a local work from Expressions Dance Company. Following on from her award winning works where the heart is and R&J, Artistic Director Natalie Weir has created When Time Stops, possibly her most ambitious work to date.

The piece features a brand new score by recent Helpmann Award winner Iain Grandage (he won for his outstanding work on Sydney Theatre Company’s adaptation of Kate Grenville’s Secret River), which will be performed live on stage by 12 members of the Camerata of St John’s, Queensland’s intrepid premiere chamber orchestra.

When Time Stops is designed to open the floodgates on those achingly personal yet intensely dramatic life-defining events; new life, loss, love and longing and describes itself as “an ethereal voyage of life-changing moments told through the eyes of a woman.” Oddly enough, that turns out to be a first for Weir. “I haven’t done a work told through a woman’s eyes at EDC,” she says. “where the heart is was told through a male’s eyes, probably because I have so many sons. I thought it would be nice at some point to choreograph through a woman’s eyes. She could be anyone. She’s not me. She’s a viewer; a watcher. She observes life. She’s going through an experience that she has to resolve”.

Other highlights range from free open-air opera to Ute Lemper

Another 'fusion' work that blends classical music and movement looks set to be an eye-opener. Opus comes from local company Circa, one of the most innovative circus companies around and winner of a slew of national arts awards over the last few years. Here they are joined by the renowned Quatuor Debussy from France in a work that will explore the music of Shostakovich in what is billed as an intense combination of savage dance and chamber music.

Other musical highlights include a tribute to one of this year’s operatic birthday boys, Giuseppe Verdi, as Opera Queensland deliver a high power free concert in the idyllic open air Riverstage. The Queensland Symphony are joined by Cheryl Barker, Kang Wang, Douglas McNicol and Andrew Collis plus an entire chorus in a picnicker’s dream event.

The other outdoor freebie is the QSO’s popular Symphony Under the Stars which this year will feature the world premiere of Sean O’Boyle’s jazz-infused Gershwin homage, An Australian in New York, alongside favourites by Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Puccini. O’Boyle, who has recently moved to NYC explores in music aspects of his new life including the breathtaking drive from the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey. We are also promised fellow musicians on the Upper Westside and some “cheeky squirrels” – that is if the Rite of Spring rabbits don’t get them first…

Oh, and if cabaret is more your cup of tea then you can’t do better than the legend that is Ute Lemper, returning with an electrifying performance featuring the love poems of Pablo Neruda. Famed for her interpretations of Kurt Weill, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Stephen Sondheim, Lemper introduces audiences to Nobel prize winning Neruda, who wrote these sensual poems on the Chilean Isla Negra after years in exile. The second part of the show will see her perform a selection of her best loved songs from Berlin to Broadway including music from musicals, Kurt Weill, tango and French chanson.

The Brisbane Festival plays various venues September 7-28.