New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020

Extraordinary art experiences from around the globe come to Wellington for three captivating, mind-blowing, astonishing, hilarious, spine-tingling and thought-provoking weeks.

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21 Feb – 15 Mar 2020



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Traditionally, arts festival programmes are selected by a single artistic director, but in Wellington, we do everything differently and our arts festivals are no exception.

For the New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020 line-up, three high-profile artists have been invited to curate a signature series of events that will take place alongside the overall festival programme of work from Aotearoa and the world.

The artists behind the festival

The curators have each been assigned a week of the three-week-long festival, so that each week will have a different feel and flavour, with a programme of works that are more varied, surprising and inspiring than ever before.

Wellington darling, resident and Oscar winner, Bret McKenzie will work alongside Grammy Award-winning Laurie Anderson and contemporary artist and radical theatre-maker Lemi Ponifasio.

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Bret McKenzie plans to get the city to come to life.

Wellington darling, resident and Oscar winner - Bret McKenzie

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Everything to be excited about 

From ever-expanding live shows that transform and evolve every evening to a free gig for your favourite four-legged friends, dancers, orchestras and orators, as well as gigs, more than fifty writers’ events and outdoor projections, the New Zealand Festival is a years’ worth of entertainment packed into three short weeks.

Many of the performances at the 2020 Festival are one-off, unique events that won't ever happen again in quite the same way. You've got to be here in Wellington this summer to experience them - feeling FOMO yet?

Some Festival highlights

Week one:

Lemi's programme

Lemi Ponifasio is the Guest Curator for the first week The Festival opens with Chosen and Beloved, a spellbinding live orchestral experience by Lemi’s company MAU and featuring one of the best-selling pieces of classical music of all time, Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Lemi will also premiere a major theatrical work, سدقلا Jerusalem, inspired by the epic Concerto al-Quds from the great Arabic poet Adonis.

Festival programme

Rapper, poet, and spoken word artist Kate Tempest will bring a live wire intensity to her one night only performance and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performs the music of Philip Glass and Max Richter with acclaimed international conductor, Kristjan Järvi. In the home for the writer’s programme, the Renouf Foyer, Whiti Ihimaera, one of NZ’s greatest storytellers speaks about how he picked up his pen and challenged the dominant literature of Aotearoa and the world.

Week two:

Laurie’s programme

Highlights of Laurie Anderson’s week two programme include Here Comes the Ocean and The Calling, two concerts that will see Laurie performing on stage alongside long-time international collaborators and Kiwi musicians Laurie is also presenting a new virtual reality experience in which audiences can fly To the Moon; an interactive installation of her late husband Lou Reed’s guitars and amps; as well as a free concert that our canine friends can enjoy: Concert for Dogs.

Festival programme

Festival favourite Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teaċ Daṁsa returns with a wild and raucous new dance work, MÁM which had its origins in a Wellington residency. Grammy award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens performs for one night at the Michael Fowler Centre with her opera trained voice delivering a soul-stirring and spine-tingling style of New Americana. From the writer’s programme, Joy Harjo, the first native American to be named US Poet Laureate has an evening of poetry, politics and stimulating conversation. 

Week three

Bret’s programme

In the final Festival week, Bret McKenzie is gives you the unique chance to see how a theatre work is made, before it premieres in London The Weta Digital Season of The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil is a work-in-progress showing of a new National Theatre show based on George Saunders’ novella of the same name Bret is also passionate about providing a platform for musicians including Aldous Harding, Weyes Blood and The Weta Digital Season of The Late Night Gigs, with a line-up of Nadia Reid, Shades of Shakti and Esterѐ.

Festival programme

In the final week of the Festival general programme, the world renowned Lyon Opera Ballet bring Trois Grandes Fugues and three stunning interpretations of Beethoven’s masterpiece, Die Grosse Fugue. Belgium company, Focus & Chaliwaté, bring their imaginative take on theatre using puppetry and mime craft a poignant and witty take on the complex issue of climate change.

Check out the full New Zealand Festival of the Arts programme here.

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A year's worth of entertainment packed into three short weeks

New Zealand Festival of the Arts

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