New Aussie Musical based on Life of Opera Star Dame Nellie Melba
11 Aug – Sept 9 | Hayes Theatre
Rehearsals for MELBA, a new Australian musical developed through New Musicals Australia, have commenced with the show’s premiere season running from August 11 to September 9 at the Hayes Theatre Co.
Starring Emma Matthews as the Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba, the stellar cast includes Annie Aitken, Michael Beckley, Caitlin Berry, Andrew Cutcliffe, Blake Erickson, Genevieve Lemon, Adam Rennie and Samuel Skuthorp.
“It’s wonderful to be able to bring the story of Australia’s first international superstar to the stage with such an amazing ensemble of Sydney’s best performers,” said producer Kerry Comerford. “Before she was Melba, brought to life by the sensational Emma Matthews, she was just Nellie Armstrong and I’m excited about the casting of Annie Aitken who captures Nellie’s ambition, drive and talent to perfection.”
Australia’s Wayne Harrison returns to Sydney to direct this new musical. “I’ve always been a Melba fan,” says Wayne. “As a kid I thought it was cool that you could have a dessert named after you. As a dramaturg I thought it was extra cool that one of her boyfriends was the first Australian playwright to have his work produced on Broadway. As a director I welcome the opportunity to discover Melba as a ‘New Woman’ and a mother, juggling both at the turn of a new century, just as Australia became a Federation and her son, raised by hand or by proxy, became a symbol of what this new nation might be. As a coda, the things that keep me in Melba’s orbit: she was a great singer, she always remained Australian, and she was a superstar, long before the word had been invented.”
This new musical is adapted from the book “Marvelous Melba” by Ann Blainey.
Dame Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell at the family home Doonside at Richmond Victoria on May 19, 1861. While at Leigh School and later Presbyterian Ladies College, Nellie showed great promise playing the organ, piano and singing. Encouraged by teachers and family, Nellie took singing lessons which she continued afterwards with Pietro Cecchi, an Italian singer living in Melbourne.
Emma Matthews is a highly acclaimed and awarded soprano having received more Helpmann Awards than any other individual artist, nine Green Room Awards, the Mo Award and the Remy Martin Australian Opera Award. Matthews, a regular guest with Opera Australia, state opera companies, symphony orchestras, and major festivals is Australia’s most highly awarded soprano.
Dame Nellie Melba was the most celebrated singer of her generation. Lauded on more than three continents as a phenomenon, her life was the stuff that dreams are made of, but her journey to the top was not always untroubled. Nellie Mitchell originally from Melbourne, to the stages of opera houses across Europe, MELBA charts the life of a woman who was determined to be the best in a conservative world. Melba’s life was filled with triumph and tragedy, stardom and shame – a story that is little known beyond her stellar career.
Nellie Melba performs tirelessly to rise as opera’s greatest star. Upon her entering Europe’s glittering social circles Nellie is quickly romanced by the dashing heir to the French throne, the Duc D’Orleans. With her lover and child firmly by her side it looks as though nothing can stop Melba… until her husband learns of her affair!
MELBA adapted by Ann Blainey’s book “Marevelous Melba”
Book & Lyrics by Nicholas Christo
Music by Johannes Luebbers
Directed by Wayne Harrison
Musical Director Michael Tyack
Producer Kerry Comerford