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Nellie Melba was Australia’s first international superstar

Posted in Australia, Historical articles, History, Music, Theatre on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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This edited article about Nellie Melba originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 789 published on 26th February 1977.

Nellie Melba, picture, image, illustration

Madame Melba laying her voice on record in a corner store

One of the most delicious ice cream concoctions you can buy – a Peach Melba – is a strange and unofficial memorial to an Australian girl with a golden voice.

The girl’s real name was Helen Porter Mitchell, but she became known to the world’s opera lovers as Nellie Melba. She took the name from her home town of Melbourne, where she was born on May 19th, 1859.

Her musical talent was soon recognised by her parents, and she learned to play the organ. Her genius, however, was not for the keyboard, but in her own voice.

In 1882 she went to Paris to study singing, and five years later made her début in opera in Brussels.

The critics at once hailed her soprano voice for its purity of tone. Soon the girl from Down Under had become a prima donna, with fans queueing through the night for tickets in London, Paris and New York.

Madame Melba, who is particularly remembered for her roles as Mimi in La Boheme and as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, became a Dame of the British Empire in 1918. She died on February 23rd, 1931.

The Peach Melba ice cream, created in her honour, became her favourite sweet, and now perpetuates her name the world over.

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