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The 1986 Adelaide Festival was held from Saturday, March 1 to Sunday, March 23, led by Artistic Director Anthony Steel.

The festival was Steel’s second as Artistic Director and was held in a year of activities for the State's Jubilee 150 celebrations.

It opened with a breathtaking high-wire walk from the Festival Theatre roof across the River Torrens and included the long-awaited world premiere of Richard Meale's opera Voss, composer Philip Glass, whose commissioned score provided the basis for the Australian Dance Theatre's A Descent Into The Maelström and the unquestioned popular hit of the festival, The Nederlands Dance Theater. Other highlights included Jan Fabre, The Wooster Group and Gidon Kremer.