Making it in Melbourne: a spectacular summer night with Puccini in the Park

In 7 short days, it will be autumn. I am happiest with sunny days. I live for picnics. The longer I live in Melbourne, the more I have my own seasonal traditions.

For summer, one of my favourite things to do in Melbourne is attend the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s free concerts at the Sidney Myer Bowl. Two years ago, I watched the MSO celebrate John Williams’ 90th birthday with a selection of his greatest hits from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and more. It was so much fun.

Sometimes, life gets in the way, or it just becomes challenging to find people who enjoy doing these things with. But thanks to a Facebook group I’m in, I met six new women friends and one guy last night. Together, we enjoyed the Puccini in the Park. Armed with a picnic blanket, our beverage of choice, and food to share, we soaked up the warmth from the last rays of the sun for the day. It was 34C, and yes, here in Melbourne that’s pretty hot. We got to know each other, exchanged stories. Yet, again, I marveled at how warm and friendly Melbournians are. Even the strangers sitting in front of us, an older group of friends comfortably seated in their lawn chairs handed us bars of chocolate. So sweet! That’s what these concerts feel like, a large community of people who simply love music and picnics. Kids are sleeping on cushions with their parents, enjoying the concert. Little girls twirling in their summer dresses to the music of the orchestra.

The program was as follows:

Puccini Intermezzo to Act 3 from Manon Lescaut
Puccini Turandot: ‘Nessun dorma’
Puccini Manon Lescaut: ‘Sol perduta abbandonata’
Puccini Tosca: ‘Recondita armonia’
Puccini Tosca: ‘Vissi d’arte’
Puccini Tosca: ‘E lucevan le stelle’
Puccini Tosca: ‘Mario! Mario’
Puccini Crisantemi
Puccini La Bohème: ‘Che gelida manina’
Puccini Intermezzo from Madama Butterfly
Puccini Madama Butterfly: ‘Un bel dì’
Puccini Madama Butterfly: ‘Viene la sera’

To be honest, I am not sophisticated enough to understand Opera or can’t really understand Italian. But this much, I knew, they sang of love and heartbreak. That I can easily relate to. I am an empath after all. There is something special about experiencing a concert at Sidney Myer Bowl. There is a show happening outdoor around the stage as there is on stage. At dusk, there is the flight of the cockatoos. With the nearly full moon looming over Sidney Myer Bowl, the lovely cityscape of Melbourne CBD stands at a comfortable distance. Then at one point, I lay on my picnic mat with my eyes gazing straight upward at the sky enjoying the sparkling stars, while listening to the soprano and tenor sing words of love.

When it was all over, we what was left of our nibbles, picked any rubbish and folded our picnic mats. I bid my new friends goodbye. They walked to the tram, and I floated home. It was a quick ten minute walk home. I helped an older woman gingerly make her way down the slopping field. I watched older couples walk holding hands, while clutching their picnic baskets and lawn chairs. I secretly whisper to the universe to grant me a lovely man to hold hands and grow old with.

Perhaps, the smile on my face was evident. A young couple asked what concert I attended. I explained it Puccini In the Park. “Oh we have Operas in New Zealand too,” they tell me. When I tell them it’s free, they are shocked. “Oh, we don’t have it free there.”

Everything about last night was perfect. It is why I love Melbourne: Kind people, free cultural experiences like this right at my doorstep. Oh, Melbourne, I love you!

Here’s my reel on Instagram about this fun summer night

There are two more free MSO concerts coming up. If you enjoyed this blog, please do me a favour, and share it with your friends.

Also, hit me up on and share your favourite Melbourne experience: be it food, music, culture, art, or getaways. I’d love to taste a bit more of what your love about Melbourne. Afterall, we’re all making it in Melbourne. Connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.

Maida Pineda

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