All That Glitters: Showcasing costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection

Gown worn by Jill Perryman as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!, The Gordon Frost Organisation, 1995. Designed by Tim Goodchild. Gift of John Frost, 2001. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Photograph by Jeremy Dillon.

All That Glitters showcases some of the most breath-taking examples of stage costume from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection. The exhibition celebrates the vision behind these costumes, the creativity and skill of those who created them, and the show-stopping performances that brought them to life.

Costume has played an important role in the development of the Performing Arts Collection since its inception in 1977. The spectacular stage wardrobes of Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Edna Everage and Kylie Minogue lie at the heart of this collection and epitomise the drama, exuberance and glamour of theatrical costume at its most dazzling. These stars of the stage, along with magnificent gowns recently donated by Opera Australia and a number of newly conserved pieces from the hit musicals of the 1950s and 1960s have been the inspiration for All That Glitters.

The exhibition draws together a rich selection of costumes by leading Australian designers including Hugh Colman, Roger Kirk, John Truscott, Kenneth Rowell and Kristian Fredrikson. Many of the costumes have been created to form the centre piece for some of the most lavish productions ever staged by companies such as The Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare and Opera Australia.

Cloak worn by Nellie Melba as Elsa in Lohengrin, c. 1891. Designed by Jean-Phillipe Worth
Gift of Pamela, Lady Vestey, 1977. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Photograph by Jeremy Dillon.

Each costume has its own unique story and All That Glitters retells these stories with photographic images of the costumes in performance, capturing some of Australia’s most charismatic performers in action. Large scale productions from the world of opera create a major focus point for the exhibition with three extraordinary gowns created specifically for Dame Joan Sutherland.

Stunning costume jewellery will offer a historic glimpse at the captivating stage persona of performers such as Nellie Stewart, Queenie Paul and Esme Levante whose appearances lit up the Australian stage in the first half of the 20th Century.  Also featured are treasured pieces from a famously extravagant production of Aida first seen in Australia in the 1930s.

All That Glitters presents a dramatic display of treasured costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection, which are unique to Australia’s performing arts heritage.

All That Glitters
Gallery I November 16 – February 23, 2014


Opera Australia – New Acquisition Agreement Announced

This week Arts Centre Melbourne and Opera Australia announced a new acquisition agreement that will see the Opera Australia Archive become part of the Performing Arts Collection.

Arts Centre Melbourne and Opera Australia’s agreement will ensure the preservation of Opera Australia’s substantial archive of production, performance and company material – including costumes from the Dame Joan Sutherland Archive – through a new ongoing donation agreement with Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection.  The new agreement will ensure that the history, repertoire and stage magic of Australia’s pre-eminent opera company will be preserved in perpetuity.

Costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Elettra in Idomeneo, The Australian Opera, 1979.
Designed by John Truscott.

To celebrate the new agreement, five significant items from the initial acquisition – including two Joan Sutherland costumes – have been selected to be displayed in the Smorgon Family Plaza until 28 July.

Chosen to indicate the extraordinary depth and personality of Opera Australia’s repertoire, the display includes:

  • The iconic L’amour sign created by Academy Award-winning designer Catherine Martin for Baz Luhrmann’s staging of La Boheme (1990)
  • Elettra costume, worn by Dame Joan Sutherland for the 1979 staging of Idomeneo, designed by Oscar winner John Truscott
  • Anna Glawari costume, worn by Dame Joan Sutherland for the 1978 production of The Merry Widow, designed by Kristian Fredrikson
  • Countess Almaviva costume created by worn by Joan Carden for the 2001 staging of The Marriage of Figaro created by British designer Michael Stennett
  • Two props designed by Dan Potra for the 2001 Opera Australia commissioned production of Batavia
  • An additional costume from the 1995 production of Nabucco, currently on loan to RMIT Gallery, will join the collection in June.

Costume [detail] worn by Joan Carden as Countess Almaviva in
The Marriage of Figaro, Opera Australia, 2000
At the launch of this new display on Monday, Victorian Minister for the Arts Heidi Victoria MP said, “This new partnership adds another dimension to Arts Centre Melbourne’s impressive Performing Arts Collection, Australia’s largest and most significant collection of performing arts history and a treasure of our state.  It will bring with it memories of many years of great performances and productions for all to enjoy.  Opera Australia couldn’t have chosen a better place to house part of its history, and I thank them for sharing and entrusting these treasures with the people of Victoria and Australia.”

Arts Centre Melbourne Chief Executive Judith Isherwood said, “Our new acquisition partnership with Opera Australia is an important milestone and really cements the national significance of our Performing Arts Collection as Australia’s largest collection of performing arts history and traditions.  While we already have 200 items in the Performing Arts Collection archives are associated with past Opera Australia performances, these have come from individual donations and other collections.  Through our new agreement, the Performing Arts Collection will be directly connected to the archives of one of Australia’s most important performing arts companies and we will be able to better document and preserve the history of opera performance in this country.”

Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini said, “Opera Australia is not just about singers, we are also about creative artists working in design fields including costumes, sets and props.  These artists produce a staggering amount of carefully crafted materials that have to be both spectacular and durable – they get quite a beating over the course of a production run!  We are very happy to be sharing some of these with Arts Centre Melbourne, and are appreciative of their care and curatorial expertise.  We hope that audience members coming to see some of the operas we have at Arts Centre Melbourne this season, will enjoy the opportunity for a sneak peak at the pieces on display, ahead of the performances.”

Costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Anna Glawari in
The Merry Widow, The Australian Opera, 1978.
Designed by Kristian Fredrikson.

Arts Centre Melbourne presents:  Opera Australia Archive Acquisition Display  Arts Centre Melbourne, Smorgon Family Plaza  15 APRIL – 28 JULY, 2013  FREE