The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has released rare footage of ‘Queen of Song’ Dame Nellie Melba from 1927 that was discovered in a box in an Adelaide lawyer’s office, after sitting undisturbed for more than 50 years:
As well as being the latest surviving footage of Melba in Australia, it is also the longest single film of her in existence and reveals a rare side of her – relaxing with family and friends on her Coombe Cottage estate outside Melbourne.
Next Wednesday marks 160 years since Melba’s birth, on 19 May 1861.
Dame Nellie Melba was unquestionably Australia’s most famous woman in her lifetime. Conquering the opera stages of the British Isles, Europe, America and home, the Queen of Song imperiously controlled her image, career and legacy in an era when few other Australians – men or women – possessed such international standing in their chosen field.
This 10-minute film at Coombe Cottage represents the last known surviving moving images of Dame Nellie Melba in Australia.
Melba said to the Melbourne Leader in 1912, ‘I am enjoying myself immensely at Coombe Cottage. They have made me a darling little home – I love it.’ And she loved it never more so than when surrounded by her family, as this film discovery has revealed.
The unknown Kodak-appointed cinematographer has left us the longest single film of the internationally celebrated Australian soprano in existence.