ARTS (Music & Voice)

Nellie Melba
Australia Crest

Operatic soprano singer born in Melbourne in 1861 as Helen Mitchell who captivated the world with her voice and charm.

Nellie Melba
Nellie Melba


Helen studied singing under the auspices of Italian-born tenor Pietro Cecchi.

After a failed marriage to Charles Armstrong she made concert appearances in Melbourne before travelling to Europe. She then studied with Mathilde Marchesi in Paris before debuting in Brussels in 1887 in the role of Gilda in Rigoletto.

She then adopted the stage name of Melba after her home city and in 1888 made her London debut in Lucia di Lammermoor.

Nellie Melba as Desdemona in Otello 1924
Nellie Melba as Desdemona in Otello 1924


She appeared regularly at Covent Garden and in the major opera venues in Europe and America, with her light, lyrical soprano voice bringing her acclaim in such roles as Mimi in La Boheme, Violetta in La Traviata and the title role in Lakme.

Nellie toured her homeland in 1902-03 and much more after 1909. A concert in 1913 funded the Melba Hall. She also gave classes at the Melbourne Conservatorium and raised money for the Red Cross.

In 1918 she was created a Dame of the British Empire.

In 1926 she performed her farewell concert at Covent Garden and in 1927 she sang the National Anthem at the opening of the new (now the old) Parliament House in Canberra.

She made her farewell concert in Australia in 1928.

Dame Nellie Melba, aged 69, performed her final farewell in Sydney in 1931 and was buried in Melbourne. She died in hospital when septicaemia set in.

Besides her voice, she will be remembered for two dishes created in her honour - Peach Melba, an icecream dish by celebrated French chef Georges Escoffier and Melba Toast, of unknown origin.

Nellie Melba on $100 note
Nellie Melba on $100 note



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