Arts Centre Melbourne's opera collection features the world's largest and most significant collection of material relating to the career of soprano Dame Nellie Melba. The development of opera in Australia can be traced through the Centre's extensive programme and photography collections.
Highlights in this area include a rare carte-de-visite photographic album featuring opera stars of the 1850 and 1860s, and silk programmes from the 1860s and 1870s documenting performances by the Lyster Grand Opera. Company and personality collections continue the story from the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd Archive, which documents Williamson-sponsored opera tours between the 1920s and the 1960s to collections documenting the careers of Stella Power, the 'Little Melba'; Dame Joan Hammond and Gertrude Johnson and the National Theatre.
Costume and set designs for the Australian Elizabethan Opera, The Australian Opera and Victoria State Opera by artists such as Louis Kahan, Tim Walton, Anne Fraser and Kenneth Rowell provide a more visual insight into the evolution of opera staging in Australia while costumes such as Dame Joan Sutherland's 'Violetta' gown worn during her triumphant 1965 Australian season, and those worn by Suzanne Steele, Marie Collier, John Brownlee and artists from Melbourne's Chamber Made Opera offer a more tangible connection to the artform.
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