Dame Nellie Melba footage found in Adelaide law firm

Rare footage of Dame Nellie Melba has been found in an Adelaide law firm by a lawyer moving into a new office.

The 1927 film is the longest surviving footage of Dame Nellie Melba in Australia, before her death a few years later.

Adelaide patent lawyer Don Angus found the eight-minute-long film in a box of old items when he was cleaning up a retired firm partner’s office several years ago.

He left it there for another year before taking a proper look and realising the possible significance of his find.

He then contacted the National Film and Sound Archive, which today published the footage on its website ahead of the 160th anniversary of Dame Nellie’s birth next Wednesday.

It depicts the soprano with family members at her home Coombe Cottage, in Coldstream, in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

Dame Nellie Melba at Coombe Cottage in 1927 with her pet cockatoo Cocky.(

Spencer Shier/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Mr Angus also had a connection to the late singer, he grew up nearby in Lilydale, and his mother was friends with Dame Nellie’s granddaughter Pamela Vestey.

“What a serendipitous find that a lad who grew up in Lilydale becomes a law firm partner, finds a film from Lilydale and it’s the longest film of Dame Nellie Melba.

“If it was someone else, would they have understood the significance?

“A lot of people might have seen Dame Nellie Melba [and realised] but maybe not.”

It is not clear how the film got into the Collison and Co office, but Mr Angus believed it may have belonged to an unknown previous partner who died.

Black and white photo of Dame Nellie Melba standing holding a long pearl necklace.
Dame Nellie Melba is also famous for giving her name to the dessert peach Melba.(

Wikimedia Commons


Dame Nellie was one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century, perhaps best known for her performance as Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme, at the Royal Opera House in London in 1899.

She was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical vocalist, and one of the first stage performers to be made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.

She died in Sydney in 1931.

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