Season Preview 2020

Utzon Music has announced its 2020 season, with a wide-ranging program spanning Estonian song to music from across Africa and a Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle by James Ehnes.

3MA3MA: Ballaké Sissoko, Driss El Maloumi and Rajery. Photo © Cyrille Choupas

“Just as the Opera House is evolving for the 21st century, so too is Utzon Music,” Sydney Opera House Head of Programming Fiona Winning told Limelight. “Next year’s program will introduce audiences to new performers, eclectic influences and a variety of genres while continuing to present some of the finest classical musicians and repertoire.”

Next year will be the series’ 13th season. “This year we bid farewell to the incredible Utzon Music Series curator Yarmila Alfonzetti, who leaves us to focus on new projects after 12 years of exceptional programming,” Winning said. “I would like to take the opportunity to thank Yarmila for her extraordinary contribution to classical chamber music at the Opera House.”

The series, now rebranded as Utzon Music, kicks off in March with a recital by Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese Kora virtuoso Seckou Keita, blending elements from Western Classical, Celtic and Senegalese traditions, before later in the month New York-based Australian pianist Andrea Lam returns to Sydney to perform music by Bach, as well as Uzbek-American composer Liliya Ugay and Australia’s Nigel Westlake.

April will see harpsichordist Erin Helyard team up with the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s ACO Collective for a concert of Italian baroque music, while two French string quartets are coming to the Utzon Room next year, the Van Kuijk Quartet making their Sydney Opera House debut in May and the Debussy String Quartet returning in November.

Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan returns to Australia in June, performing a recital in the Utzon Room with Australian pianist Anna Goldsworthy, while Estonian composer, vocalist and violinist Maarja Nuut will “explore the space where classical music and traditional Estonian song meets” in August.

September will see the trio 3MA – “Malian kora magician” Ballaké Sissoko, “Moroccan maestro of the oud” Driss El Maloumi and the “Malagasy prince of the valiha” Rajery – bring their genre-blending music to the Utzon Room, before the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Principal Violinist Helena Rathbone performs with cellist Timo-Veikko Valve, violist Christopher Moore and Scottish pianist Alasdair Beatson later in the month.

The year comes to a close with Canadian virtuoso James Ehnes celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with a full cycle of the Violin Sonatas with pianist Andrew Armstrong (with whom he performs the same marathon in Melbourne in October) over two recitals in December.

“Utzon Music 2020 marks an opportunity for the Sydney Opera House to reflect the incredibly rich and diverse cultural context in which we live,” Winning said. “With this program we really wanted to introduce different styles and genres that can be encapsulated within classical chamber music.”

“We hope audiences leave with the sense they’ve experienced something truly exceptional and intimate, a feeling that is so unique to consuming music in the Utzon Room,” she said. “Our dedicated audiences are curious with a love of fine music and a desire for further connection with the artists in our program.  We hope they join us for Utzon Music 2020 and continue to enjoy the highest-quality music in such a special venue.”


The Full Season