For your consideration is rare and valuable find: an original autographed picture of world renowned 1900's Soprano "Dame Nellie Melba" (See below the historical bio of world famous soprano)
I was fortunate to find this rare photograph with original autograph in a trunk containing some of my grandmother's items. My grandmother, who was British and of the same era as Melba, was an opera singer in her own right. My grandmother, a contralto who sang under the name of Alice Desmond, may have been friends with Nellie Melba, or at least acquainted as they were like performers.
The 4x7 inch photograph (not including the cardboard frame) is in wonderful antique condition for being over 100 years old. With the framing it measures 7x10 inches. As computer monitors vary and display at different colors and resolution, you may not see the color of the photo true to form. My computer shows it being a bit more yellow than it really is. It is a sepiatone leaning more towards the grays and blacks. It does not appear to have faded at all. The autograph is perfect, signed “Nellie Melba 1903”.
There are no tears at all on the photograph. If held up to the light, I do see a few very light surface scratches and 3-4 tiny pinhead size surface indentations. None of these flaws are immediately visible , again, you need to look very closely under the light. The photograph displays beautifully. The photograph is mounted on a cardboard frame. The cardboard has yellowing due to age, some staining and on the back of frame is leftover cardstock. It probably was part of an album and pulled off the page. I would imagine the photo could be removed from the cardboard with some kind of solution, but I would guess a professional would and should do it. Please don't try it yourself as this is a very valuable item.
Melba Toast and Peach Melba are named after the great diva!
HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY OF DAME NELLIE MELBA
The following text quoted from the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia 2001–2008.
"Nellie Melba, World Renowned Soprano"
In her lifetime, Dame Nellie Melba achieved international recognition as a soprano and enjoyed an unrivalled 'super-star' status within Australia.
Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell on 19 May 1861 at Richmond, Melbourne. Her Scottish father, David Mitchell, was a building contractor and a good bass vocalist, and her mother, Isabella (nee Dow) was her first music teacher. She was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne and received her early singing tuition from Ellen Christian and the Italian tenor, Pietro Cecchi, who is credited with urging her to make singing her vocation.
After the death of her mother in 1881, followed by that of her youngest sister, Nellie accompanied her father to Mackay in Queensland, where he purchased a sugar mill. She married Charles Armstrong in Brisbane in 1882 and they had a son, George, the following year. The marriage was to end in divorce in 1900.
Returning to Melbourne in 1884, Nellie decided to become a professional singer and gave a number of concerts and recitals. In 1886, she had the opportunity to accompany her father to London. A successful audition with the celebrated Mathilde Marchesi in Paris gave her career the boost that it needed. She began lessons with Marchesi and was introduced to composers such as Delibes, Massenet and Gounod. It was Marchesi who persuaded her to adopt a suitable stage name. 'Melba' was chosen as a contraction of the name of her native city.
In 1887, Melba made her operatic debut in Brussels as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto and went on to sing with great success in London, Paris, Milan, New York and other major cities. Within a few years she was regarded as one of the most accomplished and famous sopranos of her time. Although her initial reception at Covent Garden, London, in 1888 was not especially distinguished, after a successful debut in Paris, she subsequently established herself as Covent Garden's prima donna, and the 'Queen of Song' maintained her own permanent dressing room there. Her most famous operatic role was that of Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème.
Melba's triumphant home-coming in 1902 involved a concert tour of all Australian States and New Zealand. Wherever she went, large and enthusiastic crowds turned out to greet her. She returned to Europe in 1903 but was to come back to Australia many times. In 1909, she toured the Australian outback. In the same year, she bought a property at Coldstream near Lilydale, Victoria, and employed the architect John Grainger (father of the composer, Percy Grainger) to design Coombe Cottage. In 1911, 1924 and 1928 Melba brought the Melba-Williamson Opera Company to Australia.
Based in Australia during the First World War, Melba worked tirelessly to raise funds for war charities. She also gave wartime concerts in North America. For her services to the war effort, Melba was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918. During this period she established a singing school at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in Albert Street, now renamed the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music, providing her services free of charge. She often travelled from Lilydale to teach her 'Melba's Girls'.
Melba's voice was remarkable for its even quality over a range of nearly three octaves, and for its pure silvery timbre. Between 1904 and 1926 she made almost 200 recordings and in 1920 she became the first artist of international standing to participate in direct radio broadcasts.
Dame Nellie Melba gave a number of supposedly 'final' performances. Her final Covent Garden performance was in 1926. In Australia, her final and emotional concerts took place in 1928. In the intervening year, she sang at the opening of Parliament House in Canberra, and was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.
Melba died in Sydney on 23 February 1931 and was buried at the Lilydale Cemetery in Victoria.”
© Reserve Bank of Australia, Reserve Bank of Australia, 2001-2008. All rights reserved.
Note: Photographs show my watermark, of course, the original photos do not.
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