After returning to Melbourne to live permanently with George at Doonside, Nellie started her singing career. Following are the performances we have found.
July 21 1884
After Oedipus at Colonus at the 93rd concert for the Metropolitan Liedertafel at the Melbourne Town Hall, Nellie sang ‘Variations de concert sur le carneval de Venice’ (Benedict) with orchestral accompaniment. (1)
August 21, 1884
Nellie sang ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ from Lucia at a soiree at Allan’s to advertise a new piano. (1)
August 25, 1884
Nellie at the Athenaeum Hall, Collins Street, Melbourne in a benefit concert for 13-year-old Ernest Hutcheson. Nellie sang an extract from Mireille (Gounod) and a duet with Armes Beaumont. (1)
A pupil of Max Vogrich, Hutcheson has a distinguished career as a pianist in America and became president of the Julliard School in 1937. (1)
December 13, 1884
Nellie sang ‘I heard a voice’ and ‘The pilgrim’ at the Metropolitan Liedertafels’ farewell to Julius Buddee. (1)
Saturday, January 24, 1885
Nellie performed at a concert at Sorrento to raise money for a fence around the cemetery. Sorrento was a favourite summer holiday place for the Mitchell family. While there is conflict over who organised the concert – Nellie or George Coppin – she sang ‘The angel at the window’ (Tours) and ‘Sing sweet bird’ (Ganz). The concert raised £20 for the cemetery. (Radic pg.19, Hetherington pg. 43, Murphy pg.11).
February 13, 1885
Concert with Chevalier Eduardo Fittipaldi at (Mechanics Institute?) Mrs Armstrong sang: ‘Ah! fors’e lui’ from La Traviata (Verdi) and ‘Sing Sweet Bird’ (Ganz). Other performers: Miss Dickinson, Miss Younger, M Younger, Signor F P Santamaria, and Miss Bromfield. (Research from staff at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat)
April 13, 1885
At a Melbourne Liedertafel’s production of Brahms’ Rinaldo Nellie sang ‘The shadow song’ from Dinorah (Meyerbeer) and ‘When the heart is young’™ by Dudley Buck. (1)
April 17, 1885
Ballarat Liedertafel Concert in the Alfred Hall, Mrs Armstrong sang: ‘Ombra leggiera’; ‘O World! thou art wondrous fair’; ‘When the heart is young’ and quartet ‘Though the world with transport, bless thee’ with Mrs Carter and Messrs A & J L Hollander. Other performers were Signor Modini, Mrs Carter, Mr A. C. Carnegie, Mr V. Woolcock, Mr A. Hollander, and Mr J. L. Hollander.
Note: One of the principal features of the programme, however, was the singing of Mrs Armstrong, a lady who has been singing at the metropolitan concerts. Mrs Armstrong has a pleasing penetrating soprano voice, and albeit Mr Robson asked the indulgence of the audience owing to her voice being slightly affected by a cold, her first number, the grand scena “Ombra Leggiera” established her at once as a favourite. (Ballarat Star April 18, 1885) (4)
May 29, 1885
Ballarat Liedertafel Concert in the Alfred Hall. Mrs Armstrong ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ from Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti); encores ‘Because of thee’ and ‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls’ (Balfe). Trio of ‘Through the world’ with Messrs Woolcock and Vercoe. Other performers: Miss Bessie Jukes, Mr A. Slack, Mr R. L. Nicholl, Mr V. Woolcock, Mr R. J. Dunn, Mr J. T. Vercoe, Mr A. Hollander and the Liedertafel chorus and orchestra of 26 instruments. Note: Mrs Armstrong last night received quite an ovation on each appearance. (Ballarat Star May 5,1885) No account in the Ballarat Courier. (4)
August 4, 1885
As the female soloist for the Metropolitan Liedertafel’s Kruse concert she sang ‘Lo, the orb of day’ (Schubert) with the Liedertafel choir; Recit. And cantata from Beatrice di Tena (Bellini) and the duet ‘Sulla tomba’ from Lucia di Lammermoor with Armes Beaumont. (1) Johann Kruse, an Australian violinist returned to Australia for a concert tour in June and July 1885 and returned to Europe on August 11, 1885.
August 20, 1885
Grand Entertainment in the Academy of Music in aid of the Building Fund of the Australian Natives Association. Mrs Armstrong sang: ‘The Jewel Song from Faust’ (Gounod) and encores ‘Bid me goodbye’; ‘Dear Heart’ and ‘Sing sweet bird’. Other performers: lecture by W H Batten on ‘Tom Hood’ (main event), Miss Pitcher, Miss Annie Thomas, Mr J. W, Burton, Mr J, T, Vercoe, Mr J, J, Morgan (ill and didn’t appear). Instrumentalists: G, Herbert RAM, R, G, Claxton and the Phoenix Foundry Brass Band. Note: Mrs Armstrong was in excellent voice, and she sang so well she had to re-appear after each programmed number. (Ballarat Courier August 21, 1885) (* Copy of flyer in Ballarat Gold Museum collection 70.4327. (4)
August 21, 1885
The Kowalski Complimentary Concert at the Alfred Hall. Mrs Armstrong sang ‘Regnava nel silenzio’ from Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti); and encores ‘The fisher maiden’; ‘The angel at my window’ (Tours); ‘La Rose’ (Schubert); duet’Dimmi che m’ami’ with Signor Modini. Other performers: M Henri Kowalski (pianist), Miss Ada Willetts (pianist), Mr George Dawson Coleman (pianist), Signor Modini, Mr George Herbert RAM, and the Ballarat Liedertafel. Note: Mrs Armstrong’s superb voice was heard to advantage in the numbers she gave, and the house would never have tired of hearing her. (Ballarat Courier August 22, 1885). (4)
October 8, 1885
Ballarat Liedertafel Concert in aid of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery at the Alfred Hall. Mrs Armstrong sang ‘Ah fors’e lui’ from La Traviata (Verdi); ‘My faded violet’ (Plumpton); trio ‘Guai se ti sfugge un moto’ from Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti) with Signor Paladini and Mr Gooch. Other performers were Miss Ada Willetts (piano), Mr H. Gordon Gooch (bass), Signor Paladini and Master George Jones (violin). Note: Mrs Armstrong already a firm favourite with Ballarat audiences. (Ballarat Star October 9, 1885). (4)
October 17, 1885
Nellie sang a solo and duet with Armes Beaumont at the Metropolitan Liedertafel’s farewell to Ernest Hutcheson. (1)
October 19 1885
Appeared with the Metropolitan Liedertafel at the Melbourne Town Hall. Nellie sang ‘The erl king’ (Schubert) with orchestral accompaniment; ‘Lo, the orb of day’ with orchestra; ‘qui la voce’ from I Puritani (Bellini) and a duet with Armes Beaumont ‘O that we two were Maying’ by Alice May Smith. (1)
December 4, 1885
Grand Vocal and Instrumental Concert by Mrs Armstrong at Academy of Music. Mrs Armstrong sang ‘Qui lavoce’; and encores ‘Sing sweet bird’; ‘The bird that came in spring’ and ‘Dear heart’. She also sang a ‘O, maritana’ with Armes Beaumont and trio not specified with Armes Beaumont and A. C. Carnegie.
Other performers were the Phoenix Brass band under J. B. Gray, A. C. Carnegie (baritone), Miss Mary Hume (mezzo soprano), Armes Beaumont (tenor), Madame Tasca and Natalie Dawson (accompanist). The agent was A. J. Perkins
(*Copy of flyer in Ballarat Gold Museum collection 70.4335 (5)
Nellie sang with the Sydney Philharmonic Society in the annual Messiah under Henry Kowalski and appeared with the Sydney Liedertafel. (1)
1. T. Radic, Melba the Voice of Australia, The Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1986, pg. 35 – 36.
2. J. Hetherington, Melba: A biography, F.W. Cheshire Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1967, pg. 43.
3. A.G Murphy, Melba: a biography, Doubleday, Page & Co, New York, 1909 pg.11.
4. Research from staff at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat. Go to http://www.hermaj.com/cms/
5. Ballarat Gold Museum