Josephine Ridge, who has previously worked with the Australian Ballet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Festival, will take over from current boss Brett Sheehy in 2013.
Festival president Carrillo Gantner told the Herald Sun: "[She was] the standout candidate from an extremely strong local and international field. Josephine understands the brief. She knows our industry inside out - both here and abroad - and she is ready to meet the new challenges."
Ridge added: "I'm extremely excited to be returning home to helm one of this country's most respected and diverse arts festivals. Great festivals embrace their community and I already have a good understanding of the personality, tastes, style and culture of Melbourne."
Melbourne Festival organisers were slammed late last year by comedians such as Dave Hughes and Wil Anderson when they announced that they planned to move their event from October to March, causing a clash with the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Anderson said at the time: "It just doesn't make sense. It might be a good idea for the Melbourne Festival, but it's only going to hurt the Comedy Festival."
Adelaide Festival promoters soon joined the protest, saying that they should find "another slot in the year" because there are "a number of festivals in that early part of the year in Australia".