Australia's event calendar springs back to life with COVID-

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If there's one thing Australians love more than sunshine, it's a party, and with COVID-19 cases largely under control the lead up to summer has become increasingly jam-packed with events for Aussies to kick back and enjoy.

On Nov. 1, the country recorded its first day with zero infections and deaths since early June, paving the way for a more audacious lifting of restrictions, and the rapid pencilling in of events.

Cocktail parties, art exhibitions, restaurant pop-ups, film festivals, live music, dance and more were hastily scheduled for the remainder of spring and into summer.

To celebrate and support the return of live music, the State of New South Wales launched a series of 1,000 concerts, dubbed Great Southern Nights, which will see many of the country's favorite musical acts return to the stage after months away.

One of those taking part is a singer-songwriter, Rita B, whose real name is Bianca Meier. She plans to soothe audiences with her honest tales of love and life when she performs in one of Sydney's inner-city arts enclaves, Newtown.

Meier told Xinhua that she had done online performances during the lockdown, but felt they could not compare to the sense of connectivity she feels in front of a live audience.

"It is an incredible emotional experience," Meier said of live music. "Catharsis and community are I think the two words that sum it up the best."

When she takes to the stage Meier says she hopes to create a space where she can relate to audiences through her music and create moments of connection -- a feeling the pandemic left in short supply.

"I am given the platform to express myself in one way to an audience, that in turn might react in an emotionally different way but with a common sense of resonance and connection, which thus contributes oneness."

She sums up the notion of an Aussie Summer without live music in one word -- "horrible!"

Another unthinkable for Australians during the long hot summer was the potential absence of sport. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as a highly anticipated series of cricket matches between Australia and India were given the go ahead.

A central fixture of Australia's sporting calendar is the Boxing Day Test, played every year the day after Christmas at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

This year, the city of Melbourne endured the strictest lockdowns of all of Australia, bringing under control a second wave of infections which saw positive tests peak at over 700 a day in early August.

On Friday Victoria celebrated a full week with zero new cases or deaths, with authorities planning to further roll back regulations.

"In relation to the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, we are working in partnership with the Victorian government and the Melbourne Cricket Club, with plans to safely host spectators at the iconic event," Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said.

If even the suggested figure of 25,000 spectators are allowed in, filling roughly a quarter of the stadium's capacity, it will be a significant boon for the city which struggled through the past several months of lockdown.

In another major milestone this week, the iconic white sails of the Sydney Opera House rung with the sound of music for the first time in over half a year, marking the start of a very special summer program.

In all things a firm focus was on the local, with Australian talent given a chance to step up and take the place of international acts ruled out by COVID-19.

While the Opera House's famous concert hall and theaters will only be allowed to function at half capacity for social distancing reasons, the program is quintessentially Australian including Indigenous dance, comedy and cabaret.

New South Wales (NSW) Minister for the Arts Don Harwin described the return of live performances to the Opera House as symbolic of the city's shift back to normality.

"The Opera House was built to serve the people of NSW so it is wonderful to see its theaters and venues reopening, helping to reinvigorate and rebuild our community following the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus pandemic," Harwin said.


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