Royal Opera House brings the past to life as the Lady de Grey photo archive goes online.

Dame Nellie Melba is among a host of Victorian star turns unveiled by Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House in a rare collection of photos dating from 1890-1914.

The collection belonged to Gwladys Robinson, Lady de Grey who went on to become Marchioness Ripon. An avid patron of the Royal Opera House, Lady de Grey enjoyed friendships with many leading singers, actors, composers and musicians and most of the photos carry signatures or personal wishes and dedications. She died in 1917, leaving her two large albums of photographs to the Opera House, but this is the first time they have been available to view online.

Taking centre stage in the collection is Dame Nellie Melba with whom Lady de Grey was particularly close. She introduced the Australian star soprano to Covent Garden after seeing her perform at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels. Following an unsuccessful debut in 1888, Melba was initially reluctant to return, but with Lady de Grey’s persuasion she was encouraged to sing again a year later to great acclaim.

Lady de Grey’s patronage gave her influence over all major...