The 2020 Sydney Festival opens today, but without one of its central productions. As announced on Tuesday, the French stage adaptation of Opening Night, based on John Cassavetes’ film and starring Isabelle Adjani, has been cancelled because of concerns about air quality in Sydney as a result of the bushfires.

In a statement, Sydney Festival Artistic Director Wesley Enoch, said that he was “extremely disappointed”. “We have been in constant communication with all international and Australian based companies in relation to any concerns arising from the current fire situation in NSW and we have been buoyed by their responses,” said Enoch.

Isabelle Adjani in Opening Night. Photograph © Simon Gosselin

“The arts community understands the importance of carrying on and also acknowledges the powerful role that art, culture and the act of coming together can play at a time like this. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and assurances, the Opening Nightteam has chosen not to come.”

Securing Adjani, a French star who has been twice nominated for an Oscar, was a coup for the Festival and the withdrawal of Opening Nightis a major set-back. Sydney Festival has promised full refunds to...