Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

AAR Cloak worn by Dame Nellie Melba as Elsa in Lohengrin, c. 1891. Designed by Jean-Philipe Worth.jpgThe lives of two of Australia’s most talented, world renowned musicians of their time will be revealed in Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger – a new exhibition currently on display at the Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne.

A collaboration between University of Melbourne and Arts Centre Melbourne, Objects of Fame will examine the concept of fame in relation to Australian opera singer Nellie Melba, and innovative pianist and composer Percy Grainger, comparing and contrasting the effects of international fame and highlighting their remarkable achievements.

As the first Australian to reach international stardom as a classical musician and one of the most famous singers of the early 20th century, soprano Dame Nellie Melba is among the nation’s most iconic figures. Her remarkable voice and ardent determination led to a long and auspicious career. Percy Grainger was an eccentric megastar of the European, North American and Australian stages, attracting sell-out audiences for his piano concerts.

Objects of Fame will feature costumes, works of art, personal items, photographs and letters from both well-loved Melbourne-born performers. The exhibition draws equally from the Grainger Museum Collection and the Australian Performing Arts Collection at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Dr Heather Gaunt, Curator, Exhibitions and Collections at the Grainger Museum, is eager for people to connect with the hardships of fame that Melba and Grainger endured.

“Realising that these semi-mythical figures like Grainger and Nellie Melba experienced fame in the way that mega-stars do now – 100 years later – the upsides, the downsides, the media over-exposure, the personal cost of the slog of touring endlessly around the world so that you can be heard to a clamouring public – I think this will resonate immediately with the exhibition audiences,” says Dr Gaunt.

The exhibition looks at Melba’s and Grainger’s international stardom in the modern world, and also highlights their connections to each other. “The fact that Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger knew each other – that their lives intersected both personally and professionally – adds a particularly interesting layer to the exhibition,” says Margaret Marshall, Curator (Theatre) for the Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne.

An online exhibition will also be created, funded and facilitated by the Grainger Museum, incorporating images and text overviews, as well as a video walkthrough – a unique and accessible way to get an overview of the exhibition.

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger
Grainger Museum – University of Melbourne, Royal Parade, Parkville
Exhibition continues to 17 February 2019
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.grainger.unimelb.edu.au for details.

Image: Cloak worn by Dame Nellie Melba as Elsa in Lohengrin, c. 1891. Designed by Jean-Philipe Worth. Gift of Pamela, Lady Vestey, 1977. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection – photo by Jeremy Dillon.