[Editor: A biographical article about Nellie Melba, published in Songs That Never Die, by Henry Frederic Reddall, 1894.]
Madame Nellie Melba.
Of all the talented and charming prime donne who delight the eyes and ears of the American public, Madame Melba is, without doubt, the leading favorite of to-day. This brilliant singer, who is gifted with a voice of wonderful sweetness and sympathy of tone, was born in Melbourne, Australia, from which town she takes the name of Melba. Her father was a well-known organist, whose greatest pleasure was to teach his little daughter music, and train her beautiful voice. She was a willing and apt pupil, and made such rapid strides in the art which she loved, that her father, anxious to give her advantages which it was impossible to obtain in Melbourne, sent her to Paris where she followed a strict course of study under Madame Marchesi, who has given us more good singers, perhaps, than any other teacher of the present day.
Madame Melba sang in concerts and opera in many of the large towns of Europe, but her first great success in a really great rôle, was at the Grand Opera House in Paris, where she appeared in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet on November 4, 1889; her Juliet on that occasion being pronounced a complete and perfect success, and gaining for her many admirers. She has sung many great rôles since then, amongst others, Lucia, Marguerite, etc., etc., but it is as Juliet that she is always at her best ; and it is with the ever popular opera of Romeo and Juliet that we always associate her name.
She is fond of America and of American audiences, and has appeared more often in this country than any other prima donna. In 1895 she made an extensive concert tour, visiting all the larger towns as far west as Kansas City, giving thirty-eight concerts in all, and being greeted with large audiences wherever she appeared.
Her re-appearance in New York at the termination of her tour in the opera of Romeo and Juliet, was the occasion of an almost royal reception. Every seat in the house was sold three weeks before the date announced for the representation. The enthusiastic welcome she received was such as might have made a queen feel envious.
At the close of the season, the ladies of New York showed their admiration and appreciation of their favorite artist by presenting her with a handsome diamond ornament of great value.
Personally, Madame Melba is very attractive, and possesses in an unusual degree that indefinite something of which we speak as “magnetism,” and which, to the artist, is almost as necessary as talent and good looks.
Henry Frederic Reddall (editor). Songs That Never Die: Being a Collection of the Most Famous Words and Melodies Enriched with Valuable Historical and Biographical Sketches of Renowned Authors and Composers, W. J. Holland, New York, 1894, [page 12] [the pages in the biographical section of the book are not numbered; the numbering of pages appears to exclude the photographic pages]