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War and Peace | © David Baltzer
War and Peace | © David Baltzer
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Your Guide To Melbourne Festival 2016

Picture of Ellie Griffiths
Updated: 3 September 2016
The year’s most provoking and inspiring festival returns to the heart of Melbourne‘s culture and creativity, offering unique experiences that will bring people of all backgrounds together. The Melbourne Festival is one of the leading international arts festivals in Australia – combining dance, music, theatre, visual arts and multimedia in a range of free events – and has an outstanding reputation that outshines others in the country.

The Origins of the Festival

Originally known as Spoleto Melbourne – Festival of the Three Worlds, under the direction of Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti, this festival became the third in the series, joining those in Spoleto, Italy and Charleston, USA. Introduced to Melbourne in 1986, this festival has long been dedicated to showcasing the best arts in the nation, and internationally. By 1990, the festival’s name was changed to Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, and again renamed in 2003 to Melbourne International Arts Festival. Despite the several name changes, today it is more commonly, and simply, known as Melbourne Festival, still carrying the same intentions.

Lady Eats Apple | Courtesy of Melbourne Festival
Lady Eats Apple | Courtesy of Melbourne Festival

New Artistic Director For 2016

Throughout the festival’s history there have been a variety of artistic directors bringing something new to Melbourne. With a passion for arts, claiming ‘City Festivals are the Olympic Games of the arts,’ the twelfth artistic director Jonathan Holloway is the new artistic director ensuring that Melbourne Festival 2016 is bound to be just as good, if not better, than previous years. Planning a festival in a city where arts and culture are highly regarded and known, Holloway is leading a festival consisting of 62 events and 207 performances from the across the world, featuring the familiar and the unknown.

With a spotlight on the ever-changing borders that lie between ‘childhood and adulthood, life and death, dreams and reality,’ Holloway said, ‘for tens of thousands of years people have met on this land to share songs and stories and to dance together. This is where they gathered to explore their dreams and realities.’

Triptyque by Les 7 doigts de la main | © Alexandre Galliez
Triptyque by Les 7 doigts de la main | © Alexandre Galliez

Dance and Circus

With an array of dancers and performers making it to the stage and the streets, the queen of Flamenco dancing, Spain’s Sara Baras will be gracing the Hamer Hall for the first time ever, performing Voces. Her extraordinary footwork and stage presence cannot be missed; but if you do, it better be due to seeing something else on the programme of equivalent importance. One of which is the world dance premiere of Australian dancer and choreographer Lucy Guerin piece, The Dark Chorus, that will trap you in a performance embracing the darkness.

Canada‘s Le Patin Libre will combine street dance with contemporary essence on ice, in the breathtaking and internationally acclaimed Vertical Influences, whilst Canada’s Les 7 Doigts (The 7 Fingers) will bridge the gap between dance and circus, unlimited by the human body, in Triptyque.

Ballet Flamenco | © Santana de Yepes
Ballet Flamenco | © Santana de Yepes

Theatre

With another first visit to Melbourne, the world-renowned National Theatre of Scotland will be performing an uplifting tribute exploring ‘youth on the cusp of adulthood’ in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, whilst Berlin‘s Gob Squad presents one of the ‘most famously unread novels,’ War and Peace.

Although Australian’s love to see performers from other countries, Australia’s Back to Back Theatre has largely become one of the world’s most exciting companies, presenting their largest scale work Lady Eats Apple. From the Garden of Eden to the urban jungle, this performance will combine mythical stories with the everyday life.

War and Peace | © David Baltzer
War and Peace | © David Baltzer

Music

Opening the festival with an outdoor spectacle throughout the squares and streets of Melbourne, Basque street theatre company Deabru Beltzak will be seen performing Les Tambours de Feu – live drumming accompanied with pyrotechnics and special effects lighting up the night, starting at Federation Square.

After the heart-breaking death of the Ziggy Stardust, Australia’s iOTA, Tim Rogers, Steve Kilbey, Deborah Conway and Adalita will be paying tribute to the one and only, in David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed. Each of the artists performing at this tribute will sing his songs in their own styles, all backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, bringing goosebumps to your skin and a tear to your eye. Further, iconic Aussie singer-songwriter Paul Kelly will celebrate the words of W.B. Yeats and other great Irish poets throughout the last century, with Irish-French chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan.

An array of other musicians will perform a variety of performances catering to all tastes including: pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman performing new tracks from their latest album Nearness, Brooklyn-based Julianna Barwick bringing folk soundscapes, American musician Grant-Lee Phillips performs two exclusive shows, and Singapore-born Melvyn Tan brings the piano to life.

David Bowie Nothing Has Changed | © Robert Catto
David Bowie Nothing Has Changed | © Robert Catto

Visual Arts

The highly anticipated hair salons – one within the Melbourne CBD and another held in Stonnington – will be offering ‘Haircuts by Children,’ inviting children between the ages of eight and 12 to cut the hair of the adult public. So, if you’re brave enough, or in desperate need of a haircut, this new approach to modern art is not to be missed.

Less scary, are the roving galleries that roam through Melbourne for eight months of the year – maybe you’ve already spotted them. In the ’80s, an initiative was constructed between the Government and the festival allowing local artists to use one tram on each line as a canvas. This year the ‘community’ tram will be paying tribute to the feminist mural that was taken over by graffiti earlier in the year.

During the festival ,ensure you embark on a journey throughout Melbourne as a variety of artworks appear across the city in exhibitions and installations. Explore the iconic Queen Victoria Market in a whole new light as 14 of Australia’s leading artists transform the market as part of the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab. Also, discover the intricate, large-scale installation ‘The Home Within’ by internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota, who expresses a home as a structure: ‘A home is a body. You are its heart.’

Haircuts by Children | © John Lauener
Haircuts by Children | © John Lauener

Melbourne Festival will run October 6-23, 2016 at a variety of locations.