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Under Siege Courtesy Melbourne Festival
Under Siege Courtesy Melbourne Festival

9 Must-See Events at the 2017 Melbourne Festival

Picture of Monique La Terra
Updated: 6 September 2017

The 2017 Melbourne Festival marks the second year with artistic director Jonathan Holloway at the helm and with an ambitious line-up including A 24-Decade History of Popular Music from Taylor Mac, Tree of Codes and A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol, this year’s program is sure to be an unforgettable journey through music, theatre, dance, visual arts and multimedia. Here are the nine must-see events.


A celebration of the five clans of the Central Kulin Nation, Tanderrum is a free opening ceremony and Welcome to Country cultural performance encompassing Ngulu-bulok, Ngarrga, Nurru-nurru, Yinga, stories, dance, Ochre and song. The ceremony will close with a Kulin Nation tribute to the murrup (spirit) of William Barak.

Tanderrum Courtesy Melbourne Festival

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac

240 years in the making, American performer Taylor Mac’s extravagant show comprises of 246 songs spanning 24 decades with an hour dedicated to each period. From 1776 to the present, Mac re-contextualises American Revolution ballads, to Walt Whitman, speakeasy jazz and social justice anthems, culminating in a series of original songs. Divided into four six hour shows, this epic undertaking features over one hundred local and international performers. Taylor Mac will also perform The Inauguration and The Wrap.

Taylor Mac Courtesy Melbourne Festival

Tree of Codes

An astonishing fusion of contemporary ballet, visual art and electronic music, Tree of Codes is a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, visual artist Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie xx. Inspired by the excised novel Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer, who adapted Bruno Schulz’s book The Street of Crocodiles, the ballet responds to the structure of the book through its rhythmic score and monumental installations. Tree of Codes is performed by dancers from Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor.

Tree of Codes Courtesy Melbourne Festival

A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol

Four decades after the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge Regime comes a compassionate and uplifting tribute to Cambodia. Making its World Premiere in Melbourne, Bangsokol is a collaboration between filmmaker Rithy Panh and composer Him Sophy, both survivors of the Khmer Rouge, featuring song, dance, speech and archival footage as well as music from a Western chamber orchestra and chorus with Khmer instrumentalists and vocalists.

A Requiem For Cambodia: Bangsokol Courtesy Melbourne Festival

The Magnetic Fields

Performed over two nights, The Magnetic Fields led by singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt will perform a 50 Song Memoir in celebration of the group’s most recent album, which chronicles Merritt’s first 50 years. Set within a recreation of Merrit’s childhood bedroom, the concerts will feature the specially expanded Magnetic Fields septet playing new songs as well as earlier recordings spanning three decades.

50 Song Memoir Courtesy Melbourne Festival

Under Siege

Reinventing the Peking Opera Farewell My Concubine, revered choreographer Yang Liping presents Under Siege, an epic tale of love, loyalty and the Battle of Gaixia. Staged beneath a canopy of suspended blades, the tumultuous battle is interpreted through a dynamic mix of ballet, hip-hop, kung-fu, contemporary dance and Peking opera, and heightened with exquisite costumes from designer Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and stunning imagery.

Under Siege Courtesy Melbourne Festival

Voyage of Time

Three decades in the making, Voyage of Time is an ambitious biography about Planet Earth by visionary filmmaker Terrence Malick. Narrated by Cate Blanchett and accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, this awe-inspiring feature length film takes audiences on a journey through the cosmos to the birth of humanity, all the while surveying our anthropological experience.

Voyage of Time Courtesy Melbourne Festival

House of Mirrors

Created by Victorian based artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, House of Mirrors invites you to lose yourself within a labyrinth of reflection using only clever geometry and spatial design to deceive those inside. Wander through a mind-altering optical illusion of disorientating dimension and attempt to solve the mirrored maze.

House of Mirrors Courtesy Melbourne Festival

Our Place Our Home

The 2017 Melbourne Festival will close with a celebration of diversity through a series of performances by emerging musicians from Australia’s refugee and Indigenous backgrounds. Our Place Our Home features a line-up of talent from Multicultural Arts Victoria’s State of Culture Music Program, including Mojo Juju and the Pasiefka Vitoria Choir, and Cool Out Sun.

Our Place Our Home Courtesy Melbourne Festival