Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dame Nellie Melba

The famous opera singer of the late Victorian era and early 20th century Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) was a Richmond gal! She was born Helen 'Nellie' Porter Mitchell in Richmond, Melbourne and took the stage name Melba as a reminder of her Melbourne childhood. 
Dame Nellie Melba
There are many reminders of Dame Nellie in Richmond. The pretty Dame Nellie Melba Memorial Park is within walking distance of the Cottage in Coppin Street - between Bridge Road and Swan Street. It's a 'dog on leash' park but certainly worth a visit (with or without dog!!)
The Dame Nellie Melba Memorial Park (look closely you might see the sign!)
Dame Nellie frequently requested that she be accompanied by a Wertheim Piano which were produced at their Richmond factory between 1908 and 1935. Although Wertheim Piano's are still being made today as is the case with so much manufacturing these days - they are made in Korea and of course China!  At its height the factory employed over 400 people. Since 1935 the factory has been a Heinz food processing plant and then at the beginning of television in Australia in 1955 it became the GTV Channel 9 studios and offices. Located in Bendigo Street (near Swan Street) as with so much in the area the enormous landholding is now being converted into - yes you've guessed it - yet more apartments!
The former Wertheim Factory and GTV Channel 9 studios en route to more apartments!
While on the subject of apartments - I was saddened to see that the Melba Conservatorium of Music which was located at 45 York Street finally closed at the end of 2008. So after a little more than a century the building was sold for a cool $4 million. After an inordinate amount of time searching Google for a photo of the building I am saddened to say that it seems to have been wiped out of existence! I do recall going to a Wagner Society Soiree there (obviously before 2008!) and it was a charming building.  I think it is sad that not even the Melba name has been retained.
The Melba Conservatorium of Music today!
Heritage listed Melba Hall in Royal Parade, Parkville is part of the Victorian College of the Arts under the 'umbrella' of Melbourne University. They have a wide variety of concerts and there's not a bad seat in the house. If you're a music lover it's certainly worth a visit.
Heritage listed Melba Hall, Parkville (wikipedia)
Of course Dame Nellie also left her legacy in both the famed Peach Melba and Melba Toast! Both of them were created for her by the French Chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel in London. He created the Peach Melba in her honour in 1892 and to this day it is still a favourite combining summer peaches and a raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream.
Peach Melba (wikipedia)
Escoffier (in conjunction with the hotel proprietor Cesar Ritz) also created Melba Toast - a dry, crisp, thinly sliced toast. It is thought to date from 1897 when it was created for her due to illness.

And on a final Melba note (!) her international fame ensured that even today she is represented on our currency - the $100 bill. Have you ever noticed this before? I must admit I hadn't!

$100 for Dame Nellie Melba!
Bowen Cottage client comment this week: We'll definitely be returning - and for a longer stay!

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