The Olympic year will bring with it the London 2012 Festival, modestly billed as "the biggest festival the UK has ever seen, with artists from all over the world". Running from 21 June to 9 September, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will include everything from an exhibition of photographs of Londoners of 203 different nationalities (at a venue still to be confirmed) to an installation by the New York collective YesYesNo along the length of Hadrian's Wall and Hans Peter Kuhn's procession of flags at the Giant's Causeway in Belfast.
But the first half of 2012 will also serve up a great variety of cultural treats, from the Camellia Festival at Chiswick House (beginning 18 February) to sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro at Chatsworth (from 28 March), not to mention Caligula, Detlev Glanert's contemporary German opera about the decadent and dangerous Roman emperor (English National Opera, from 25 May).
In the visual arts, J.M.W. Turner (from 28 January) and Tracey Emin (from 26 May) both get their own shows at Turner Contemporary in Margate, while Bauhaus: Art as Life comes to the Barbican (opens 3 May) and ball gowns go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (from 18 May).
Kensington Palace reopens to the public on 26 March, while Hampton Court Palace promises to shed light on Stuart decadence and debauchery in The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned (opens 5 April).
Other noteworthy exhibitions unveiled in the first half of 2012 will consider everything from children's lives (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, from 24 March) to Han tombs (the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, from 31 March) and the Ragamala painting tradition of India (from 25 January at the Dulwich Picture Gallery).
In March, the Royal Opera House will mount the UK premiere of Judith Weir's Miss Fortune, which adapts a Sicilian folk tale to the present day in the story of a young woman from a rich family who decides to strike out on her own. Audiences are promised "break-dancing and a burning kebab van" as well as great music.
Puccini's Californian opera about bandits, Wells Fargo agents and hard-drinking miners during the Gold Rush, La Fanciulla del West, gets a typically bold update in Opera Up Close's version set in a Soho internet cafe (King's Head Theatre, London, from 31 January). The English National Opera is reviving John Adams' controversial account of terrorism and the Middle East conflict, The Death of Klinghoffer (from 25 February), while also mounting a chamber production of Wolfgang Rihm's Jakob Lenz at the Hampstead Theatre (opens 17 April).
Cate Blanchett makes a rare appearance on the London stage in Botho Strauss' Big and Small (Gross und Klein) (at the Barbican, from 13 April), as an expanding and contracting Alice-like character who sits alone in a hotel dining room but constantly searches for human connection.
Meanwhile, David Suchet stars in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (Apollo Theatre, from 2 April) and Spymonkey finds the funny side of Greek tragedy in Oedipussy (Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, from 13 March).