Competitors of Royal South Street's Herald Sun Aria were the first performers on the Her Majesty's Theatre stage on Friday since the theatre re-opened after lengthy conservation works.
Kimberley Colman was the first opera singer to take the stage on Friday afternoon since the last performance at the 143-year-old theatre was held in December 2017.
"It is a lovely venue so it is exciting to be the first back on the stage," she said.
Royal South Street chief executive Brett Macdonald said being back in the beloved theatre felt surreal, an occasion that required the hard work of the Royal South Street and Her Majesty's Theatre teams to happen.
"To be ready not only for the Aria which is a prestigious event, but for its 95th year, is a great way to return," he said.
"I am actually told that after the last renovations in the late 80s the event we returned with was also the Arias, so it is a nice link."
Conservation works to Her Majesty's Theatre included addressing structural problems with the stage and cracked support beams in the roof.
New lighting, plaster work and new curtains were also part of the work that was funded with $5.3 million from the City of Ballarat and a $2 million grant from Heritage Victoria.
Mr Macdonald said the re-opening of the theatre secured the future of Royal South Street. The organisation operated at a loss last year with low competitor and audience numbers.
"As much as the comps ran well at Founders Theatre and Federation Uni were great hosts, it is nine kilometres out of town," he said.
"It is really important for the Ballarat community and our competitors and audiences to be in the CBD.
"Her Majesty's is something we have got that other competitions don't have. It is 140 years of history, an amazing stage and it is about the stories too. South Street is a generational tradition. You speak to people whose mum's performed and their kids are now performing - that is why it means so much to people."
The semi final of the Herald Sun Aria will be held at the theatre on Saturday night where Australia's best operatic talent will compete for a $30,000 prize.
Three weeks of dance will kick off at the Her Majesty's Theatre stage with the Energetiks Dance Competition on Friday.
Visit royalsouthstreet.com.au/ for more information.