With Victoria’s double dose vaccination rate racing past 80% of the 16-plus population, Melbourne’s performing arts organisations are returning to the stage.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is leading the charge with a series of concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl throughout December.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

The centrepiece of the outdoor mini-season is the star-studded Performance of a Lifetime: LIVE event, performed on two nights (13 & 14 December) and hosted by Double J radio presenter Zan Rowe. It features the MSO conducted by Benjamin Northey, performing alongside the stars of the Performance of a Lifetime vaccination campaign video including Rhonda Burchmore, Deborah Cheetham, Virginia Gay, Ali McGregor and Meow Meow, plus some of the biggest names in Melbourne theatre including Lucy Durack, Josh Piterman (The Phantom of the Opera), Alinta Chidzey and Des Flanagan (Moulin Rouge! The Musical), Jemma Rix and Courtney Monsma (Frozen The Musical) and Gillian Cosgriff (Harry Potter & the Cursed Child).

The concerts will also feature contemporary music stars including Tim Rogers (You Am I), Kate Ceberano, Kylie Auldist and Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos), Emma Donovan, Paul Grabowsky, Lior and Felix Riebl (Cat Empire) premiering brand new solo material.

The season kicks off with Classical Hits at the Bowl (6 & 7 December), with a program selected from the more than 80 concerts that the MSO had to cancel in 2021. Benjamin Northey will conduct a veritable hit parade of classical favourites, including Holst’s The Planets, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Beethoven’s Symphony N. 6 and Ravel’s Boléro. The concert will also feature 14-year-old violin wunderkind Christian Li, who will perform the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Violin Concerto.

The MSO has also announced its return to Hamer Hall for two performances of Handel’s Messiah on (11 & 12 December), conducted by Graham Abbott and featuring Samantha Clarke (soprano), Sally-Anne Russell (alto), Samuel Sakker (tenor), Pelham Andrews (bass).

Melbourne Recital Centre is also open for business again, with concerts starting again on 12 November, kicking off with a cappella ensemble Coco’s Lunch performing songs from its new album. Forthcoming highlights include Melbourne Chamber Orchestra performing Handel’s Dixit Dominus, and the world premiere of the 2021 Merlyn Myer Commission by composer and pianist Nat Bartsch, who will perform her work The Glasshouse alongside Inventi Ensemble.

The major musicals are returning too. Moulin Rouge! The Musical will finally have its Australian premiere at the Regent Theatre on 12 November, with Frozen The Musical to resume that same night at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Meanwhile, the two-part play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is preparing to return to the Princess Theatre from 18 November.

Melbourne Theatre Company has scheduled its first performance for 13 November, with Simon Phillips’ production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, featuring music by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall. Malthouse Theatre is reviving its Outdoor Stage season, which was designed to allow COVID-safe performances, and will feature a mix of live music, talks and cabaret. And perhaps the most joyous re-opening will be that of the beloved La Mama theatre, which will re-open in December after it was destroyed by an electrical fire in May 2018.

The Melbourne International Jazz Festival will be taking over the city from 2–5 December, playing host to 70 live performances and events, including 16 premieres and album launches.