Performing Arts Collection
Opera Collection
Opera Collection

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.

Abbott, Guenda
Set Designer, Guenda Abbott (nee Bainton) studied in England at the Royal College of Art, London. The Guenda Abbott Collection includes photographs, programmes, scrapbook covering the areas Theatre / Opera / Design. Date Range 1935 - 1944.
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Angelau, Grace
Mezzo Soprano Grace Angelau was born in Philadelphia, USA. Grace Angelau's personal archive includes a scrapbook, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, radio scripts. A collection of costumes and accessories from the Australian National Memorial Theatre also includes large collection of Grace Angelau's performance attire.
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Austral, Florence
Florence Austral material includes news clippings, photographs, programmes. Opera 1930 - 1961.
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Bardon, Henry
Henry Bardon (1921-1991) designed sets for various Australian Opera productions including La Traviata, The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutti and Madame Butterfly. Collection holdings include set designs and working drawings.
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Bronhill, June
This collection documents the career of a significant Australian opera singer. Collection consists of scrapbooks, costume accessories, costume designs, photographs and paper-based material kept by June Bronhill.
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Browne, Herbert
The Herbert Browne collection includes programmes, scripts, vocal scores. Operetta 1929 - 1931
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Chamber Made
Chamber Made Opera's collection includes costumes, business documents, photographs, programmes and posters,1990s. A new acquisition to the collection in 2011 extends this collection even further.
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Cleveland, Paul
Designer Paul Cleveland held a range of design and production roles at th ABC, including Senior Designer and Acting Supervisor of Production Facilities. Holdings dating from this period include costume and set designs. Date Range c 1960 - 1970s.
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Collier, Marie
Ballarat born Marie Collier (1927 - 1971) was invited to join the Royal Covent Garden Opera Company as the principal soprano in 1956. The Performing Arts Collection holds a collection of photographs, scrapbooks, and programmes documenting Collier's career. In 1995 the Collection acquired three of her costumes from the Covent Garden production of Tosca. Opera - Date Range: 1952 - 1972.
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Colman, Hugh
Hugh Colman is one of Australia's pre-eminent theatre, dance and opera designers.
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Elms, Lauris
The Performing Arts Collection holds a small collection of material relating to Lauris Elms, including a costume, artwork, photographs and programmes. Notable items include a gown worn by Lauris Elms in ABC tour of El Amor Brijo, 1961. In addition, the Public Art Collection holds a sketch of Elms by Louis Kahan from his Music Makers series.
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Fraser, Anne
Anne Fraser began her career as an advertising designer before working with the National Theatre in Melbourne. In 1955 she became the first full-time designer for the Melbourne Theatre Company. Collection holdings include contracts, correspondence, designs, documents, magazines, news clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, scripts. Design (Opera / Theatre / Ballet) 1933 - 1994.
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Gilbert & Sullivan
A general subject area collection relating to Gilbert & Sullivan includes cards, libretti, photo albums. Operetta 1888 - 1942.
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Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Victoria
Collection holdings relating to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Victoria include membership form and rules, programmes, tickets. Operetta 1936 - 1939.
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Hammond, Dame Joan
Dame Joan Hammond (1912 - 1996) Australian Soprano. The Performing Arts Collection holds an extensive collection of sound recordings, both audio tapes and albums. Also included are photographs, programmes, correspondence, objects, and sheet music. Opera 1927 - 1996.
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Hawkes, Ponch
Ponch Hawkes has been a member of Circus Oz since its inception in 1978, working as a resident lighting designer and the company’s photographer. Hawkes has also been commissioned by Chamber Made Opera, Melbourne Workers Theatre and Malthouse Theatre, all of which are represented in the Performing Arts Collection.
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J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd
When the curtain finally came down on J.C.Williamson Theatres Ltd, it became apparent that a repository was required for a century's worth of company records. With the support of Lady Viola Tait, thousands of documents were recovered and donated to the Performing Arts Collection in 1980.
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Johnson, Gertrude
Gertrude Emily Johnson (1894 - 1973) Soprano. The Performing Arts Collection holds the most comprehensive collection relating to Gertrude Johnson in the country. It contains Gertrude Johnson's own papers and photographs, her Queen of the Night costume and various musical scores including works by composers and friends Esther Rofe, May Brahe, Cyril Scott, Landon Ronald, Percy Grainger, Molly Carew and Edith Harrhy.
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Kahan, Louis
Louis Kahan (1905 - 2002) artist and designer. Kahan was surrounded by opera and music all his life. The Performing Arts Collection contains set models, masks and drawings by Kahan, in addition to an extensive collection of designs. There are also 105 sketches in the Public Art Collection by Louis Kahan.
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Kosky, Barrie
Barrie Kosky is an Australian theatre and opera director, born in Melbourne in 1967, currently based in Berlin. The Collection provides a broad overview of Kosky's performance career, focusing on his direction of productions for a variety of Australian companies including Victorian State Opera, Opera Australia and Sydney Theatre Company.
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Lawrence, Marjorie
Australian operatic Soprano, Marjorie Lawrence's collection includes correspondence, photographs, programmes, scrapbooks. Opera 1939 - 1983.
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Lemmone, John
John Lemmone was a flautist and concert director who toured with Nellie Melba. Collection includes a flute, tuning forks, documents, magazines, manuscripts, music, objects, photographs, programmes, sheet music, song albums. Date range 1888 - 1971.
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McBean, Angus
Angus McBean (1904 – 1990) was considered ‘court’ photographer by the British theatre world, capturing most productions in the West End and at the Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Covent Garden, and the Royal Shakespeare Company from the 1930s up until the rise of ‘kitchen sink’ drama in the late 1950s.
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Melba, Dame Nellie
Australia's most famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (1861 - 1931) was born in Melbourne. Melba performed in the great opera houses of the world - the Paris Opera, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera House and Manhattan Opera House in New York, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. Central to the Melba Collection are performance costumes and accessories worn by the singer, which were donated by her grand-daughter Lady Pamela Vestey in 1977.
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Miller, Rita
Scrapbook compiled by and documenting the career of Australian Soprano Rita Miller and her contemporaries. 1921-1961.
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National Theatre Movement
Collection holdings include correspondence, documents, memoirs, photo album, scrapbooks. Theatre / Opera / Ballet 1935 - 1973.
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Northern Light Opera Company
Northern Light Opera Company holdings include an account book, correspondence, minutes, news clippings, photographs, programmes. Operetta 1934 - 1984.
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Opera - general subject area
The performing Arts Collection also holds a small general subject area collection relating to Opera including cards, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks. Opera - general. 1890 - 1993.
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Opera Australia (Victoria State Opera / Australian Opera)
Formed by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1956 and initially named the Australian Opera Company, an amalgamation of The Australian Opera and the Victoria State Opera in 1996 resulted in the current structure and title of Opera Australia. The collection holds designs by Anne Fraser, Barry Kosky, Frank Hinder and Kenneth Rowell, programmes, photographs and costumes.
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Parker, Linda
Linda Parker (d.1994) pianist, soprano and folk singer was born in South Gippsland, Victoria. The Collection includes correspondence, personal documents, scrapbooks, sheet music, programmes, LP's, recorded interviews, medals, photographs and an unpublished autobiography.
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Peking Opera
The Performing Arts Collection holds a number of costumes, masks and ephemeral items used in performances of Peking Opera. These include highly elaborate costumes dating from the 1930s and earlier, and more recent examples from the 1980s.
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Phillips, Dorothy "Thea Philips"
The Performing Arts Collection holds a small amount of photographs of Australian Soprano Dorothea Phillips, known professionally as Thea Philips.
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Pollards Opera Company
Pollards Opera Company collection includes lyrics (handwritten), news clippings, photographs, programmes, scrapbook. Opera / Operetta 1897 - 1938.
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Power, Stella
The Stella Power Collection contains correspondence, edison records, memorabilia, news clippings, objects, photographs, programmes. Opera 1918 - 1977.
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Saville, Frances
Saville performed extensively in Sydney and Melbourne throughout the 1880s. She made her final appearance in Australia in a concert at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne in 1891 before heading to Paris where she began her studies with Mathilde Marchesi.
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Simonsen's Opera Company
Based in Sydney, Simonsen's Opera Company presented a broad range of international opera acts, touring extensively throuhout Australia and New Zealand. The company was often led by Francoise (Fanny) Simonsen, and featured many of her children, among them Leonore Simonsen and Frances Saville.
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Steele, Suzanne
Suzanne Steele was a versatile performer who entertained audiences around the world with opera, musical comedy and popular music. The legacy of Suzanne's love of costuming is a collection of 48 gowns plus accessories which were donated to the Performing Arts Museum in 1987. Opera / Operetta 1956 - 1989.
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Sutherland, Dame Joan
Dame Joan Sutherland (1926 - 2010) Sydney born Mezzo Soprano. Material relating to Joan Sutherland was donated to the Performing Arts Collection at various points in time and from various sources and includes photographs and performance gowns.
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Tate, Jennie
Costume designer Jennie Tate (1947 - 2007) trained at the Melbourne Theatre Company before embarking on a multifaceted career in which she worked in theatre, opera, film and television.
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Triffitt, Nigel
Nigel Triffitt is one of Australia's most innovative and visionary director/designers. Although widely associated with puppetry and visual theatre, Triffitt has worked in almost every field of the performing arts. The collection holds a large number of set models. Theatre 1980 - 1995.
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Walton, Tim
Tim Walton material in the Performing Arts Collection includes artwork, correspondence, costume lists, news clippings, photographs, programmes. Design 1952 - 1975.
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Wilson, Strella
Strella Wilson material includes news clippings, photographs, programmes, photographs from the Sydney Opera House collection, sheet music. Opera / Theatrical 1916 - 1985.
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Wood, Betty
Betty Wood and Raymond Fehmel founded the Mont Albert Choral Society in 1943.
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Opera - Contemporary
Opera - Classical
Opera - Operetta