Born Helen Porter Mitchell in Melbourne, Australia in 1861, Nellie Melba would rise to fame as a singer. Her life was everything you'd expect from a diva: foods named for her, command performances and a scandalous royal affair.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Commissioner, you stuff you missed in from low, unwelcome upon how we try treaty be well It is another provide calves, but this one is really about the biography of a famous singers. Specifically, we won't get to deepen the opera terminology or anything on this one. And this was suggested on Twitter and I, as often happens to hazard, someone suggest something on social. If we do down the right then, who suggested it did gets lost through the ages because it becomes very impossible to search. So I apologise to the person that suggested her. I do not remember your name, It made me excited because not only did it involve research of a in the traditional sense of the word diva like a premiere opera talent. I also get or to french chef, though he is part of the story is fairly brief, but that made it exciting to me. So what
today about deem Milly Melba, and this is actually gonna be a two part or because she's one of those people that they want you really dig into. biography. She did so many things in her career was so long and she's really fascinating. She was basically the equivalent of a modern day mega star in her time? She was confident. with smart. She was talented. She was beloved by the full of her home country, Australia, but she was also an international star. She was a feature performer on stages throughout the world. She was basically a worldwide phenomenon in terms of singing, and she was some criticized during her career as coming across us old as a singer rather than being passionate, but many Considered her voice to be one of ultimate purity and clarity, she really focused a lot on technique, but regret This is where anybody stood on it for four decades. She really commanded the opera scene and she drew crowds in occur. There was nothing short of globe trotting. So that's your time out today.
Nellie, was born, Helen Porter, Mitchell or may nineteenth. Eighteen sixty one a Melbourne, Australia, her father David Mitchell, was a building contractor and we're nor of some renown, and he supported us is eight our work? They movement in the MID eighteen fifties David and his wife, Bela added Doubt Mitchell had ten children all told what to do and they are household, was full of music. The Mitchell's loved it David sang in the choir at the Scots church. He also, violin, though just casually at home? He wasn't liquor. Concert, violinist and isabella plates. instruments and she made it a priority to teach all of their children music. That means that Nellie did start seeing At a very young age, she appeared at the Richmond Public Hall when she was just six and she eventually learn to play the piano with great skill
but she was a little bit of its farm boy and she wasn't considered a musical undercut by any means. Her humming of all things was recognised as being quite lovely, and she would hum, throughout her life, eventually the vocal exercise, rather than a way to make her own music. In addition to the music that her mother taught her Nellie also got a more general academic education. She was taught additional support by her aunts, and then she also attended boarding school and later Presbyterian Ladys College, I was in college with no, we truly blossomed and began more seriously, studying and excelling in music, elocution and painting Nellie Finish School. eighteen eighty, although sadly it was not a time of celebration. Her mother, in one of her sisters, had both died. Charles me, the family, to Mackay and Queensland, where he had purchased a sugar mail given that the new environment might really help everybody deal with their grief.
December, twenty second of eighteen, eighty two solely to twenty one, Nellie married Charles Nesbitt Armstrong and she had met him this year after the family had moved. He was both did Andy. Gentlemen. Any was three years older than Nellie, but Mary, The mechanical was really difficult for Nellie to settle into the We had a son George in October of eighteen, eighty three, but this didn't fix anything. She didn't feel any real happiness. She care for her son, but she didn't feel fulfilled and it didn't make their marriage very happy, Charles also alleged to have been violent with Nellie and just a few months after George was born. Nellie on January, nineteenth of eighteen. Eighty four after separating from Charles knowing moved to Melbourne to make a fresh start and pursue a career in singing the marriage, in their their trousers analyses lives would stay connected for some time and will thus becoming by that back to that, in a little bit
in Melbourne. She took vocal lessons from Pietro, Jackie and accomplished Opera singer in its own right he also had a fascinating life in his own right. He was born in Rome and he first work as an architect under papayas, the ninth, and then you she's architecture career during the nineteen, forty italian revolutionary unrest, and that's when he too to opera. He would have on stages all over the world during his career, including on the stage of the previous podcast topic, Le Stella, their relation between Nellie and Jackie would grow contentious over the years, but the beginning, he really thought she was destined to be a star and that her voice would captivate audiences everywhere, with guidance from a teacher with that kind of faith in our talent, Nellie focused exclusively on developing her skill. And the dedication really paid off her australian singing debut at the Melbourne Town Hall on May seventeenth of eighteen, eighty four audiences fell in love
her and critics raved over her justice checking had expected really large knollys career as a performer, and she did dreamily welfare herself financially right out of the gate. We're going to talk more about that factory of lilies early career in just a moment, but first we are going to pause for a word from one of our sponsors. Hapag has listeners have you ever wanted to share a love story with someone, but you may be wanted to do it in a really unique in interesting way, or you were struggling to get the exact rate words in place. Will you don't know to worry about that. You can put it into a book, and that is where love book comes in love books, help customers express their sentiments that there working hard to make their own unique thing and each book is completely customizable. Most customers use them to list the reasons why they love someone. But you can you all kinds of things you can create characters, it look like yourself and the recipient, radon outfits and accessories you can pay
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to expand her audience and so in eight early eighteen. Eighty six, her father David Mitchell, was sent as a commissioner to the indian and colonial exhibition in London and Nellie the advantage of this trips timing to accompany him and feel out her european performing options. See London instantly burger didn't exactly love her bag. She gave one small performance. Wasn't it terrible outing. But nobody was writing re reviews about it. There was no standing up fearing by any means. She met with composer Sir four Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan Fame, but he wasn't really wound with her either. He told her the dusky practising a that if she did so prove enough. He might give her a small role in an upcoming production. See you things that that would be a terrible downers. Kosovo told after you have been told your great so many times ok, but this lukewarm
variants in London, in fact, did not determinedly at all. She had additional plans through the wife of the Austro Hungarian consulted. Melbourne Nellie had arranged a meeting in Paris with german singer and teacher material Casey belly from our crazy. This of one was far more impressed and the people of London had been our case. He felt that checking managed to give Knollys voice, strengthen endurance that ie really given her the tools to develop it beyond that. So part of that from that Nellie received under my case. He had nothing to do with music and everything to do with cultivating a persona and her social connections. The younger women was books to sing in salons and private events so that she can work on her social graces and meet composers and other people who were connected to Europe's music scene spawned ends and the mentor also encouraged her students to take a stage name, because all of this time, Nellie had been appearing as Nellie Armstrong
tour, also encouraged her students to take a stage name because all of this time, Nellie had been appearing as Nellie Armstrong, Nellie Husband, Charles Armstrong, had actually travelled with Europe, but their marriage was never really stable. Just the same Charles resisted, idea of getting a divorce. He during the military George stay with now Charles, with visit his wife and his son from time to time, It reminds me of have you ever known a couple where someone takes a job, far away to try to keep the marriage together, because that way there not grading against each other, all the time it's like that's what was in play. He actually knows that people have taken jobs, far away purporting that that was just how it worked out, and I have always had the seed of wondering if that was what was really going on. people that work and live in several places. Just because of logistics- but I definitely have known if she heard there, like we
each other. But when we're together we make each other crazy. So if we can limit that only have good times together, it works out. So I think that may have been part of the the impetus for George referred Charles to join the military I'm not towards her teeth of eighteen. Eighty seven Nelly Maes heard a view as an opera singer in Brussels. Now we mentioned before that he she had made singing the abuse, but this is really the first time that she was focusing on Opera and in this she started verities Rigoletto as guilder the daughter of the title character, this appearance at that Royal Dilah today marks the first time she eared under what would become heard known stage name of Nellie Melba nephew during where Melba came from, as name it was an honour of her home City Melbourne. The night the view. Files and Nellie had a huge fry and finally, after doesn't dragging things out, this ended their tumultuous, vivier marriage in terms of their relationship.
with each other, but they were still legally married for several more years after that. Rigoletto and specifically Nellie in it with such a success that she soon had other high profile rules, including parts in Le Traviata to deliver more. Although this have Mahler remarked after her La Traviata performance that he would rather listen to a clarinet, seven one after her operatic debut, she returned to London to perform LUCA at Covent Garden. But those we celebrated elsewhere. London still had not warm to even under a new name. She made her Annabelle showing, but she just couldn't seemed to breaking the law and an opera is seen as a star and she was only offered smaller parts than she had been playing elsewhere.
had no interest in stepping down to supporting roles. After having been the featured performer, though she said goodbye to London and headed back to Brussels, she soon appeared as a failure in hamlet which opened in Paris on May eighth. Eighteen, eighty nine. She once again got re reviews. During this time, things were emotion to try to bring her back to London once more So I want an audience is: had not really raved over nearly melba as a whole. She did gain some admirers in her appearance. Is there and one he was glad to gray wife of Earl Degree, Frederick, Robinson and lady. The grey was a patron of the arts. She was also close friends with Oscar Wilde, and After now, we left London for the second time, lady degree wrote to the singer and she really asked her and played with her. Too he's returned to England to sing once again now
was moved by the grave letter and she did agree to appear again in a London stage, but she was also committed to her of failure. Role already at this point, there were returned to Covent Garden, had to wait until she had wrapped up her Paris production. And she did wrap it up and finally sing again it coming garden. It was unjust this of eighteen, eighty, nine and Nellie appeared in Romeo and Juliet in the the starring role so who, following the medium of the third times the charm Appearance in London was what Nellie Melba with later refer to, as quote the great nights that marked the start of her sex with english audiences. It was also the beginning of a long relationship with Covent Garden. Well, there had been reluctant to book her. They were initially she events
was one of the very few performers to have a permanent private dressing room at the theatre for decades. Nellie was so happy in London from that point on that she purchased a home in Great Cumberland place. The men had it remodelled to look like verse. I she lived there for more than you decades, so we are about to get to the food part and talking about the chef that I referenced at the top of the episode. But before we do, let's have a brief word from one of our sponsors. This episode of stuff you missed in history, glances brought. You buy. Norton three sixty with Lifelong- let's just say your shopping
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where'd, you Debbie Debbie dot com. That's w w dot com to joint Debbie Debbie today, with a limited time, offer under the part. I wondered about as soon as highly gave me. This outlined, which is the food part, early on in her time in London, Nellie Melba may, the acquaintance of August scoff yea, who would come to be known as the king of ships when you think of France showed cuisine, you ve probably got a good sense of the food aesthetic, but he really made famous he would fact. These these really lavish eleven course meals and his kitchen always have to have a skilled Societe in residence. He favoured. Seasonal ingredients in his work and streamlining professional kitchens became the industry standard of organization. He ran several restaurants, and enduring the eighteen nineteen nineteen hundreds and Nellie love those restaurants. She died coffee is establishments with regularity,
and according to legit, at one point, she sent the chef tickets to one of her performances, which was the staging of vagueness low in green and in this particular production. One of the set pieces was a large beautiful swan shaped boat so moved, was s coffee by the performance that, when no appeared in his restaurant. The next day he created a custom dish for her featured fresh peaches. They were ice cream with an ice carving of a swan and it was serving a silver dish. He called his creation pursue sing which is peaches worthwhile, but this involved there, and by the time s coffee, I featured it on the menu at the London writs Karlsson. He added a raspberry puree and change the name to push Melba yes or peach. Member as we have been covered in the United, but that is not the only food items the discovery I named for the diva, these
He goes that an eighty ninety seven while Nellie Melba was dining in one of his skull fees. Restaurants. She told the share that the bread that shit serve was much too thick, allegedly because she was trying to maintain her figure and there always been this sort of issues surrounding, in terms of the public eye that she was a not too heavy to some of the orange many roles that she was into she was probably very conscious of her figure, but to solve this problem peace, the singer, while still keeping read in the meal. mafia is said to have gone to the kitchen and cut the thinnest possible slice of bread he could before he then toasted it an allegedly. This is how melba toast was born. That was the question I wondered when he gave me outline
we mention Melias private dressing room at Covent Garden a little bit ago, and while that may sound like quite a perk, it was the least of the benefits and power that she enjoyed during her time there. She had the good fortune to be there. At the same time, the theater was flourishing and have these enormous productions and huge cast that drew enormous crowds And now was celebrated and she rubbed elbows with high society, She used her social power to shut down any rivals, the dear to challenge her status. my business. I was working on this and reading about ways she would. deal with rivals and we'll talk about another one of them later. I couldn't help, but think of the movie showgirls, which is a wonder, is a bad thing, but Sir Melias Lady, the gray, were great friends and the gray opened a lot of society doors for the singer
Nellie saying in command performances before royalty throughout the world, and she achieve the level of fame that ensured that she was basically mobbed wherever she trembled, like I'm, not kidding. I say, international superstar on the personal front, Nellie had met Felipe Duke of early on in eighteen. Ninety he was the heir of the Durban claimant, to the throne of France and the poor. became what would become a scandalous and damaging relationship because with them, or not at all, careful about being seen together in public. There are reports of the two of them being spotted the couple for London, Paris, Brussels, Saint Petersburg and more. They were down brazen about their their affair, and it became news. My let Milly was still married to Charles at this point, although they really didn't have any real contact with one another, but one romance with the Duke of Borneo, became public knowledge in part because he was clearly following her on her performance tours Charles finally file for divorce in it
point. He used this news item to accuse Nellie of adultery There was also legal action against the leap in the mix, so this will claim, though sputtered out, for reasons which have never been made entirely clear. There has been a lot of spectrum by various historians that Charles was pressure to drop his suit due to the high profile me you're of Chile's paramour, like he may have been getting some pressure from people connected to the French Royal Lineage Finance for Felipe. He had been engaged to Princess Marguerite of early on which covered, but that engagement was called off. Amid all this scandal, as though issues are being done away with in whatever mysterious way. That would happen. It left the duke to travel the world. But you know I never really rekindled their romance and that's actually work we're gonna cliff. Hang this one, because it is sort of a pause moment in her life
The next time around. We are going to talk more about her career and kind of the latter half of it in and how she developed in they very modern and current and much beloved deaths per one of Dame Nellie Melba She's had been made Dame yet at this point in the story, but she will be that so that all the diverse boiler by its government do you also have them listener, may offer us people may have noticed- and I have mentioned before that I am trying to go through some of our our physical male. Could we have so much of it, and I really appreciate the people make the effort to send something through the mail. So I have three postcards for various listeners. One is from our listener, Sarah, says hello from Saint Petersburg. I realize now that I probably should have bought a larger card, I'm currently in turning at the. U S consulate here, listen you too. During my lunch breaks the listening for the past year, or so I just want to say that I love the podcast
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