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Image Dame Nellie Melba in a procession at Lilydale, 1902

TLF ID R2791

This is a black-and-white photograph that shows the arrival of operatic soprano Nellie Melba (1861-1931) in a procession at Lilydale in Victoria during her 1902 tour of Australia and New Zealand. Melba is seated in a buggy at the front of the procession. The procession, which is made up of people in buggies and men on horseback, extends down the hill into the township. Melba's buggy has just passed through an archway emblazoned with the words 'Australia's Gifted Daughter'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows Dame Nellie Melba in this period - christened Helen Porter Mitchell and nicknamed Nellie as a child, the singer took Melba as a stage name in honour of her hometown, Melbourne; after a moderately successful career in Australia, Melba went to Paris in 1886 to train with the celebrated vocal teacher, Mathilde Marchesi; international success followed her European operatic debut in Brussels in 1887 with Melba appearing in all the major opera houses and establishing herself as 'prima donna' (principal woman soloist) at London's Covent Garden.
  • It shows Dame Nellie Melba during her 1902 concert tour of Australia and New Zealand - this was the first return Melba made to Australia after her international debut and she was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds whenever she made an official appearance; Melba regularly returned to Australia to perform.
  • It suggests that Melba was treated as a celebrity in Australia - the most famous Australian of her generation, Melba is regarded as Australia's first celebrity; by 1902 Melba was considered the leading soprano on the international stage and earned more money for a single performance than any other artist in the world.
  • It suggests that Australians' celebration of Melba was informed by patriotism - Melba's international success came at a time when Australia was uncertain about its identity as a nation and still saw England as culturally, politically and industrially superior; Melba aroused a new pride and confidence in Australian potential, which is reflected in the banner 'Australia's Gifted Daughter'.
  • It shows an aspect of Lilydale in 1902 - Melba had a long association with Lilydale; her family regularly spent time at their country house there and her father, David Mitchell, owned a number of businesses in the area; in 1909, Melba purchased property at nearby Coldstream where she built Coombe Cottage, which became her base when in Australia; the people of Lilydale proudly claimed Melba as one of their own and she was buried at Lilydale Cemetery.
  • It indicates that the horse-drawn vehicle was the main mode of transport in this period - Melba rides in a partly covered but open-sided buggy that is drawn by four horses; the buggy may be either a 'phaeton' or 'surrey' carriage, both of which were made of sturdy wood with four wheels, leather folding top and leather upholstery.
  • It suggests that the wearing of hats in public was customary in this period - even the little girl, who watches from the side of the road as Melba goes by, is wearing a hat.
Year level

9; 10

Learning area
  • Arts
  • Arts/Music

    Other details

    • Content provider
    • Copyright holder
    • Organisation: National Library of Australia
    • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    Access profile
    • Colour independence
    • Device independence
    • Hearing independence
    Learning resource type
    • Image
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    • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements