Opera takes centre stage as Festival of Outback Opera returns

Opera Queensland’s week-long celebration of song promises to build upon the success of previous years, delivering an even more extraordinary celebration of opera, culture, and community.

Feb 21, 2024, updated Feb 29, 2024

Set in Queensland’s iconic towns of Longreach and Winton, the 2024 Festival of Outback Opera is unlike any other music event. Vast landscapes and sublime sunsets give way to blackened night skies, forming the backdrop for a program of unforgettable outdoor concerts.

It’s an experience the city cannot match, and it was recently announced that award-winning singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke will be headlining the festival. Classically trained, Kate has been widely praised for her unique ability to effortlessly traverse the worlds of opera, contemporary pop, folk, and musical theatre.

“I’m so excited to be a part of these magical starlit concerts. I was born in Charleville and outback Queensland really makes my heart sing. It’s always a buzz to perform with an orchestra and I can’t wait to share these beautiful arrangements with audiences (and to perform in Longreach for the first time!),” says Kate Miller-Heidke.

The 2024 Festival of Outback Opera features the return of the two spectacular open-sky concerts in Longreach and Winton, their popular community sing-along Sing Sing Sing, the Opera Ball and the already sold-out Long Lunch. The festival continues to bring new and different approaches to opera to audiences.

“Each year we have sought to expand the festival’s program, never losing sight that at the centre of any great festival is a collection of exceptional artists, who can offer audiences a unique experience in a remarkable location. 2024 is no different, a roster of some of the best singers in the country, more opportunities to connect with the locals, and, fingers crossed, more stunning sunsets.” Patrick Nolan, CEO & Artistic Director, Opera Queensland

Joining Kate Miller-Heidke this year will be tenor Rosario La Spina, direct from his appearance in Opera Queensland’s new festival Brisbane Bel Canto and soprano Rachelle Durkin who returned to Australia from New York during the pandemic. She recently starred in West Australian Opera’s La Bohème and was last seen in Queensland playing the title role in Opera Queensland’s Tosca. Shaun Brown, Hayley Sugars and a host of other artists will perform alongside the University of Queensland Pulse Chamber Orchestra joined by musicians of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Making a stop-over in Winton and Longreach during the festival is Opera Queensland’s new production, Do We Need Another Hero?. From pop to opera, country to classical, this live music tribute seamlessly blends the grandeur of opera with chart-topping anthems that pay homage to heroes from every corner of our world. Expect repertoire that encompasses The Beatles, David Bowie, John Farnham, Bizet, Handel, Mozart, Pagliacci and more. The event is so popular that it is being presented it twice, the production will also close out the festival in Longreach at the end of the week.

“This year’s festival is a testament to how far we’ve come and how deeply we are rooted in the heart of the outback communities of Winton and Longreach. Each year, we’ve seen this festival blossom into a vibrant celebration of culture and creativity, bringing together performers and audiences from different walks of life to celebrate the magic of opera under the outback skies, Opera Queensland’s Director of Learning, Regional and Community, Laura Hansford.

Opera Queensland’s artists will perform alongside the University of Queensland Pulse Chamber Orchestra and musicians of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra on Thursday in Winton, at the first of the open-air concerts, Dark Sky Serenade. Dazzling night skies, crystal clear air and glorious music take centre stage at this large-scale outdoor concert held at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs atop a 75-metre tall mesa, locally referred to as a jump-up. Perched high on the jump-up, audiences watch as the sun sets, and the views and colours constantly transform the landscape around them.

The Winton activities wrap up on Friday afternoon at the Winton Long Lunch, which sold out within days of going on sale. The surrounding communities are enlisted to bring this event to life, with produce from local farms forming the menu and students from the Big Red Truck Outback College of Hospitality acting as front of house staff on the day. Diners are treated to a degustation of songs performed by some of the stars of the festival.

On Saturday the festival relocates to Longreach, for the second open-air concert, Singing in the Night. The artists perform under the stars at Camden Park Station, a historic 18,000-acre working cattle station boasting 360-degree views of the spectacular Longreach landscape. The venue has played host to everyone from the country’s first stockmen to Queen Elizabeth II herself.

“Storytelling through great music sits at the heart of every community and so, bringing performances like these to remarkable locations is both a thrill and a privilege. I can’t wait to see everyone there,” comments Festival of Outback Opera conductor Chris van Tuinen.

On Sunday, it’s time for riding boots and ballgowns as guests gather for the festival’s Opera Ball. An evening of fine dining, sublime singing and dancing set among the coolabah tree-lined Thomson River at Smithy’s Camp embodies the spirit and iconography of the Outback.

The Festival of Outback Opera offers audiences a flexible itinerary that allows them to immerse themselves for a long weekend or give in to a full week of activities. It is song and scenery on a grand scale. And while the space is vast, the feeling is intimate, leaving audiences with a smile on their faces and a bounty of new friendships. A long way from the bustle of the big city, it’s an experience unlike any other.

Visitors travelled from all over Australia and as far afield as Scotland for the 2023 Festival of Outback Opera, and included caravaners who had stopped in on the festival within their holiday itinerary and were not necessarily regular opera attendees.

“In many ways opera has always been seen as a big city, elite artform, but in fact it’s a fabulous artform for the people. Because we’re all one big community and opera speaks to everyone and singing lifts everyone. Making it fun, making it inclusive that was what we really enjoyed. The feeling it just surges through you.” – Audience feedback from The Festival of Outback Opera 2023.

To view the full program, accommodation, attraction information and to purchase tickets to the 2024 Festival of Outback Opera go to


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