With the Brussels success behind her Melba could have chosen to appear in any number of European houses. Instead she accepted the reluctant invitation of Augustus Harris, the manager of Covent Garden, who had been pressured into making the offer to include her in his first season by Lady de Grey, a patron he could not afford to ignore. She had heard Melba at the Monnaie and was determined to have her in England. As the wife of Earl de Grey (later the Marquess of Ripon), a wealthy member of Covent Garden’s committee of management, and as a leader of a social set that included the Princess of Wales, Harris had to listen to her. But Gladys de Grey was more than that. She was a devotee of opera, an aficionado, an expert. But her passion for opera was tempered by shrewd musical judgement. In Melba’s case the judgement went in her favour.
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