With so much to see this year, we've done the research for you and have selected the very best of this years' Melbourne Festival.

Melbourne Festival is one of Australia's leading international arts festivals and has an outstanding reputation for presenting unique international and Australian events in the fields of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, multimedia, free and outdoor events over 17 days each October.

Our top 4 picks of the festival:


Michel van der Aa (Netherlands)

Libretto by Michel van der Aa, after Hirokazu Kore-eda

Universally acclaimed and utterly unique, Michel van der Aa’s cross-genre masterwork grapples with a compelling, singular question: what was the defining moment of your life?

Could you distil your life to a single instant? A moment that, if all else were to fade, you would choose to live with for the rest of eternity? Michel van der Aa, house composer for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and one of contemporary opera’s most assured and ambitious voices, burrows deep into the very question of why we live with this profound contemporary masterpiece.

As six lost souls gather in limbo, they are asked to decide on the one memory each of them will take with them into the afterlife. Those who cannot choose must remain, trapped in purgatory until they can find a way to move on.
Based on the acclaimed 1998 Japanese film of the same name, this landmark Netherlands production is a heart-rending fusion of opera, theatre and film. The textured vocals of the six singers, set to an ethereal score performed by a 23-piece orchestra, blend with an intriguing element of documentary: as the characters struggle to choose a single, defining memory, their stories are intercut with footage of real people contemplating the same decision.
Grandiose in scope, Van der Aa’s audacious blending of arts makes for a fitting final operatic presentation from Festival Director Brett Sheehy, who throughout his work with festivals around Australia has sought to champion contemporary opera as a vivid and essential 21st century art-form. After Life joins such works as Jonathan Mills’s Eternity Man, Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar and Pascal Dusapin’s Medea in bringing us another compelling demonstration of contemporary opera’s artistry and vitality.

Michel van der Aa is giving a free public lecture at Monash University on Saturday 13 October at 12pm.
Van der Aa is also participating in the free Ringside: Artists in Conversation series on Friday 12 October at the Festival Hub.

'One of the most distinctive of the younger composers today. His ability to fuse music, text and visual images into a totally organic whole sets him apart from nearly all his contemporaries.’ – The Guardian (UK)
‘Michel van der Aa is the hottest property in Dutch music at the moment.’ – The Guardian (UK)
‘This is the all-embracing art form of the future. Five stars!’ – Financial Times (UK)
‘This is a remarkable opera by a remarkable talent. A masterpiece.’ – 8Weekly (Netherlands)
Presented by Melbourne Festival

Playing at the Regent Theatre

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Schaubühne Berlin (Germany)

One of modern theatre’s most distinctive and audacious companies makes a triumphant return to Melbourne Festival, with a startling take on Henrik Ibsen’s acerbic classic.

Last year Schaubühne Berlin stunned Melbourne audiences with its sold-out, chilling and ultra-modern interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. This year we’re proud to present the return of the prestigious German theatre ensemble, as it presents a bold new slant on Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People – a world-premiere season that is the result of a ground-breaking co-commission between Melbourne Festival and the prestigious Avignon Festival.

A darkly satirical tale of greed and corruption, An Enemy of the People is Ibsen’s most overtly political work, an eerily recognisable vision of a community that turns on a man speaking uncomfortable truths.

Under the leadership of directorial prodigy Thomas Ostermeier, Schaubühne Berlin has built a reputation for propelling theatre’s most hallowed texts forcibly into the modern age, drawing out themes that resonate profoundly with contemporary audiences. Against a global backdrop of spreading immigration panics and environmental crises, Ibsen’s wryly comedic parable is an inspired choice for our times.

Masterfully directed, dripping with satire and backed by the dramatic weight of one of the world’s leading theatre companies, An Enemy of the People is set to be one of the major theatrical events of the year.

Thomas Ostermeier presents a free talk as part of Ringside: Artists in Conversation on Thursday 25 October.
An engrossing, brilliantly lucid and psychologically authentic rendering of Henrik Ibsen's classic play.’ – The Australian (on Hedda Gabler)
‘Impeccable, nuanced acting and complex, seamless direction.’ – Herald Sun (on Hedda Gabler)

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Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183

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CAMPO / Gob Squad (International)

The dreams of youth give way to the realities of life in this utterly unique theatre work – a grown-up tale told with youthful humour, warmth and candour by seven children.

Seven sets of hopes and dreams; seven flashes of blinding promise; seven lives broken apart and reassembled. Seven children play out the totality of their lives, decade after decade, before your very eyes.

German/UK theatre heavyweights Gob Squad join forces with Belgian arts centre CAMPO to bring us a bitter-sweet tale of dreams forfeited and promise lost, laced with youthful humour, zeal and wit.

The exceptionally talented child actors each play themselves; performing inside a room made from one-way mirrors (watched from outside by the audience, like a kind of theatrical science experiment), they lay out their personal dreams and ambitions in their own words. But as the play unfolds and they begin to age – to study, to work, to fall in love, to compromise, to fail – the contradictions and travails of adulthood steadily unpick their carefully laid plans.
By turns playful, poignant and inspiring, Before Your Very Eyes is a vivid tribute to the joy and promise of youth, a sobering reminder of how easily we lose our way, and as heart-warming an evening of theatre as you’re ever likely to see.

CAMPO Artistic Director Kristof Blom_ presents a free talk as part of Ringside: Artists in Conversation on Thursday 25 October.

Performed in English and Dutch with English surtitles
'The most beautiful and truest performance of the year.’ – Süddeutsche Zeitung
‘Big Brother directed by Andy Warhol. Remarkably funny, hugely imaginative, engaging, enigmatic, hypnotic.’– The Sunday Times (on Gob Squad’s Room Service)

To Book:

The Malthouse (03) 9685 5111

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Part pop concert, part standup cabaret, Young Jean Lee’s upbeat WE’RE GONNA DIE is a wry, engaging celebration of the inevitability of death – and some of the terrible things that can happen on the way there.
One of America’s most acclaimed experimental playwrights, Young Jean Lee has a habit of challenging herself with intensely personal works. Having skewered US race-relations with THE SHIPMENT, and delved into her own evangelical Christian upbringing in CHURCH, she now brings to Melbourne Festival a charming, satirical and intimate cabaret mash-up of personal tragedy, in the form of busted relationships, public humiliation and family calamity – all set to quirky pop tunes.

Performing solo, with the accompaniment of a live band, the formidable Young Jean Lee bares herself with peppy songs and raw anecdotes; with each rousing tragicomic sing-along, she touches on moments of solace and fleeting kindness. Confronting the void with pitch-black humour and perky pop grooves, Lee takes centre stage to sing, dance and laugh, kicking back at the dark.

Both honest and humorous, WE’RE GONNA DIE is Lee’s tenacious celebration of a universal truth we often prefer to forget: that each of us will encounter moments of indignity and illness, isolation and despair, en route to our inevitable end – and, in the end, that’s okay.

The performance on Thursday 25 October will be followed by a Q&A
with Young Jean Lee.
'Sly, weird and thoroughly winning. Its forthright acknowledgement that life can be a rough business is bracing, funny and, yes, consoling.’
– The New York Times (USA)
‘Enormously touching. Lee purchases our hearts with her bravery's own coin.’
– Time Out New York (USA)

Playing at the Arts Centre

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Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183

Ticketmaster 136 100