The smile on Claire Edwardes’ face is more dazzling than the serried arrays of lighting on the stage of the Joan Sutherland Theatre.

“Wow. How strange and wonderful hearing a live audience clapping again. It’s quite surreal.”

It’s a sound Edwardes and her colleagues from Ensemble Offspring have not heard in months. Like many artists, they have kept themselves busy with livestreams from their front rooms, innovative videos, online parties, but the simple act of playing to an audience sitting in the same room as you and hearing their feedback, their laughter, applause, breath… That has been in inconceivable. Now, as the Sydney Opera House takes its first, tentative steps towards opening back up, Ensemble Offspring is performing for one of the last events in the Opera House’s 2020 digital seasonin front of an invited live audience.

Ensemble Offspring perform during their concert Mesmerism in the Joan Sutherland Theatre. Photograph © Prudence Upton

The auditorium is rarely this empty: there are just 50 or so people scattered through the stalls, individually shown to their seats...