A pyrotechnic arena spectacular from France, and a dance coup from Germany crown Sefton’s swan song programme.

Current Adelaide Festival director David Sefton will be passing the curatorial baton to Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy next year. However while he may be bidding a fond farewell to South Australia’s annual celebration of the arts, it seems that with his fourth and final festival programme he intends to go out with a bang.

The jewel in the crown of his 2016 offering will be a jaw-dropping arena spectacular, packed with cutting-edge stage lighting technologies and astonishing pyrotechnics, by explosive French production company Groupe F. After selling in excess of 10,000 tickets in only three days, next year’s festival opener is now officially the fastest selling show in the 55 year history of event. For one night only À Fleur de Peau will dazzle and amaze an audience of over 50,000 at the Adelaide Oval in what promises to be one of the largest scale performances outside of the pop and rock circuit anywhere in the country in 2016.

Another headline act is a major coup for Sefton’s final programme: the first Australian performance by the legendary German dance company Tanztheatre Wuppertal Pina Bausch in 16 years, presenting the breathtaking and heartbreaking masterpiece Nelken (Carnations). Bausch, who died in 2009 just days after being diagnosed with cancer, is widely considered to be the most fiercely influential and visionary choreographer of the past century. Her extraordinary works pair visual spectacle with viscerally charged movement, underpinned by a uniquely whimsical brand of storytelling that both ensnares the senses and seduces the mind. This is surely the must-see dance event anywhere in Australia next year.

Tanztheatre Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Nelken

Theatre lovers are also treated to an epic marathon of history plays as the 11-hour trilogy from National Theatre of Scotland and National Theatre of Great Britain, The James Plays, explores the tumultuous and often blood-soaked reigns of the Kings James I, II and III. Rona Munro’s newly penned trio of plays exploring the lives of these three Medieval monarchs are saturated in political intrigue and intricate narratives, shining a new, intimate light on these historical figures.

The National Theatre’s James II

There’s also much for music lovers to enjoy as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra presents its annual Tectonics Festival. Isreali firebrand conductor Ilan Volkov will lead the orchestra in a programme that explores the bleeding-edge of modern composition.

Alongside the international imports will be a number of productions by South Australian companies across theatre, music and dance including Australian Dance Theatre’s Habitus, Australian String Quartet’s Alleged Dances, Zephyr Quartet’s Exquisite Corpse, State Theatre Company of SA The Events, Slingsby’s The Young King, Tiny Bricks’ Deluge, Stone/Castro’s The Country and Vitalstatstix’ Body of Work.

Of his final programme Sefton says, “For my last hurrah, I’ve brought together a slate of the world’s very best large-scale and ambitious performances exclusively to Adelaide. Alongside this I’m also delighted to be presenting a broad and impressive selection of South Australia’s finest artists.” As with all the country’s major international arts festivals, the programme boasts some impressive numbers: in total there will be 30 theatre, music, dance and visual arts events, including 7 world premieres, 21 Australian premieres and 20 events exclusive to Adelaide over the 18 days of the Festival 26 February to 14 March 2016. With record-breaking tickets sales already under his belt, in addition to some seriously impressive Adelaide exclusives in 2016’s selection, Sefton has proven he’ll be an extremely tough act to follow for Armfield and Healy’s inaugural year in 2017.

Full details of the 2016 Adelaide Festival of the Arts and tickets are available now.