Orchestra Victoria

Orchestra Victoria

Opera and Ballet Orchestra

• Founded 1969


One of just two specialist pit orchestras in all of Australia, Orchestra Victoria serves in that capacity with Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet, of which it became a wholly owned subsidiary in 2014. Nevertheless, the orchestra maintains a busy schedule of independent concerts and also has a strong educational presence in Melbourne, where it is headquartered (Victoria is the Australian state of which Melbourne is part). Orchestra Victoria was established in 1969 as the Elizabethan Melbourne Orchestra. With a skill set unlike that of other Australian ensembles of the day, the orchestra quickly attracted international talent, appearing with such conductors as Richard Bonynge and Carlo Felice Cillario, and accompanying Dame Joan Sutherland, Rudolf Nureyev, and other international-caliber stars in concert. Starting with a roster of 32 players, the orchestra gradually expanded to full symphonic size. In 1986, the Victorian Arts Centre assumed ownership of the group, and its name was changed to the State Orchestra of Victoria. It became fully independent in 2001 and changed its name once again to Orchestra Victoria, taking up residence at an army band barracks in the Melbourne suburb of Albert Park. It was forced to vacate that space in 2016 so that the building could be used as a new primary school, and as of 2018 was using various rehearsal spaces while searching for a new home for its independent concerts. Homelessness did not affect the group's main ballet and operatic assignments, however, nor its recording schedule, which has become busier in the 2010s decade. Most of Orchestra Victoria's recordings have been issued on the ABC Classics label of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the orchestra has been heard frequently on that network. In 2018, Orchestra Victoria released a recording of Léo Delibes' Coppélia on ABC Classics, with Barry Wordsworth as conductor. The orchestra's artistic director is Nicolette Fraillon. Among its roughly 200 appearances a year, the orchestra appears often for youth and school groups, performing such works as Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.