This February, the landmark Sidney Myer Music Bowl will once again be filled with the majesty and magnificence of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing live with a spectacular line-up of international guests alongside some of Australia’s most exciting young musical talents.
The MSO’s annual free concerts are a perennial summer favourite that began in 1929 when Sidney Myer first funded the MSO’s free public program. Since establishing its new home at the Bowl in 1959, the annual event has attracted more than 4 million music lovers of all ages.
In 2024, it will be 90 years since the passing of the late Sidney Myer. This season’s series is dedicated to his memory and his great gift entrusted to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the people of Melbourne.
The 2023 program comprises three extraordinary evenings beginning with a treat for opera lovers, Puccini in the Park, featuring the MSO with acclaimed international conductor Xu Zhong, superstar Chinese soprano Hui He and Australian tenor Paul O’Neill performing songs from Puccini’s classic operas: Tosca, La Bohème and Madama Butterfly.
When We Were Young will showcase the next generation of brilliant talents including conductor Carlo Antonioli, composers Naomi Dodd and Alex Turley, and flautist Eliza Shephard. The third and final concert, Summer Serenade features some of the biggest names in orchestral music, with works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Rossini conducted by Benjamin Northey.
Puccini in the Park
Wednesday 21 February
Puccini in the Park will thrill opera lovers and novices alike who will witness a breath-taking performance by Chinese soprano Hui He. Lauded by western media as “China’s greatest gift to the world of opera”, Hui He debuted in 1988 performing the titular role in Aida at Shanghai Grand Theater.
In 2000, she won the Second Prize at Placido Domingo’s International Operalia Competition in Los Angeles, after which she was invited by Maestro Domingo to perform with him in Shanghai. Hui He will make her Australian debut at the MSO Chinese New Year Celebrations on February 21.
Australian tenor Paul O’Neill, who played Pinkerton in Opera Australia’s 2023 production of Madama Butterfly on Sydney Harbour, will join Hui He for this concert. The MSO will be conducted by Xu Zhong who made his Australian debut conducting Don Giovanni with Opera Australia in 2021. Xu has worked with many of the world’s great orchestras, and his conducting talents have been acknowledged in the leading opera houses in Europe and worldwide.
When We Were Young
Saturday 24 February
Audiences will be treated to a stellar line up of music from Australia’s next generation of musical talents and a curtain raiser by Melbourne Youth Orchestras. This program, with the MSO led by Carlo Antonioli, will showcase two world premieres – Cerulean Dances from MSO’s 2024 Cybec Young Composer in Residence, Naomi Dodd, and acclaimed arranger/composer Alex Turley’s newest work, River.
The winner of the 2022 ABC Young Performers Award, Eliza Shephard will perform Matthew Hindson’s Flute Concerto House Music. Closing out the concert will be Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony – a work that climaxes in theatrics and triumph.
Wednesday 28 February
Embark on a musical journey in the final unmissable concert with a mesmerizing repertoire including Rossini’s Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri and Tchaikovsky’s emotive Serenade. Benjamin Northey will then lead the MSO through two of Beethoven’s most-performed works, the Coriolan Overture and his First Symphony, celebrating the brilliance of these timeless compositions as they point towards the MSO Beethoven Festival later in 2024.
The MSO’s Sidney Myer Free Concerts are made possible by the MSO Sidney Myer Trust Fund, in association with The University of Melbourne, Arts Centre Melbourne and ABC Classic. The MSO also thanks the City of Melbourne’s Event Partnership Program for their support.
Image: The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performs at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (supplied)