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WITH MELBA IN LONDON

A MOTOR DRIVE. GRAMAPHONE RECORDS. By Mrs Malcolm Ross. Madamo Melba is a delightful travelling companion, and wo nil—there wore five of us—enjoyed the journey back from Paris, made,_of course, inyluxury. And, notwithstanding. tho attractions of Paris, it was; delightful to. : como back to the civility and courtesy of-',the' English official, after our experiences of French " politessc." . Tho country, too, looked glorious. Wc passed through miles of cherry and apple trees in full blossom, and the wild flowers and woods were .something never to forget. There is nothing like England in spring, 1 am sure. On arriving in London on Tuesday evening Madame went straight off to tho R-ilz Hotel, and, in the ordinary course of events, Mio would have been invisible till the Saturday, when she was to give her great concert in the Albert Hall. Rut in the interval the King had died, and the concert was immediately postponed. It was my privilege, therefore, to see Madame make her reappearance in London in opera, and London gave her a magnificent welcome. Patient enthusiasts had waited from morning for the doors to oponjand many wero content with seats where they could hear, but could see nothing of the singer. • As Mimi in "La Boheme" Melba looked a girl, and sang like an angel. I had gone to Covent Garden the Saturday before, when "Faust," with Madame Elvina as Marguerite, pathetic, slim, and sweet-voiced, was given. But then the boxes were mostly empty, and a beggarly array of unoccupied benches was to be seen in the stalls, and the audience was cool and languid. Melba, on.the other hand, faced a packed' house —a,sea of faces.reaching far up into tho mists of the dome, ■■ every box in the tiers ; filled; some unduly so, and every seat occupied on the floor, even the benches all round crowded. The applause at the end of each act was deafening, .and riiingled with the cheers were Australia cboees and appreciative remarks in various strange tongues. Dozens of times she was recalled to face the enthusiasm, and the flowers she received filled two rooms, one little trophy of .lilies being Bft high > It was a notable (assembly, too—dukes and duchesses, personages political, social, military, and clerical. With very few exceptions, unenviably ; noticeable, by the way, all women wore black, owing to the King's death; the diamonds were glorious, and half shutting one's eyes, a constant Wpplo of light scintillated over the mass of people below,-,and gleamed from the knots :of folk in [the boxes..- One lady' ...wore in!, her hair an aigrette of black'. ;fcalhorV> foot high, each filament tipped'" ;with diamonds, while a'gorgeous diamond; in long,, festoons was. round "her .'lhroat&Sj.Another-.liad her -hair braided '$jth ;di,amonds,. and a chain of largo sijigle-i'stones. showed*, as.. hei,.'. wonderful ermine coat'slipped back;''"lt would have been interesting to know what the audience,, was worth in hard cash that night. The hush of'the-house 'during'the' performance; was remarkable.-,. It;was t only at : tho fall of the curtain'-any applause was heard, and• then the repressed : enthusiasm found full vent. I went behind afterwards to see Madame Melba, crossing .the great desert of stage with some trepidation, owing to the many trap-doors, and climbing the narrow stairs to her dressing-room. Thero I found her still with the pallor of Miini's deathbed on her face, receiving enthusiastic congratulations from a- crowd of friends. Sho was touched and. charmed with, her welcome. At'thd v {oot'!,of the stairS;a'little', knot of frieii'ds—amoiig Nvhomi-jwa's la.dy Susan York'e-4vas '■ watiing to'carry" lier off to supper after her triumph. • Oho wonderful afternoon; I spent in motoring in Madame Melba's splendid Daimler to Hinde Head. We left at 2, got back.at 8, and, though we made more than one stop, we did 120 miles, Coming home we went, at times, at a high speed, the "scouts" informing us by signal if thero were any police "traps" in the vicinity. From London to. Hinde Head the curving road winds through exquisite country, under avenues of glorious trees in full wonder of spring leaf. ' Occasionally the road dips into lanes, with tall banks massed with primroses and wild hyacinths, and it often passes through little old-world villages, with fascinating thatched houses, with oali beams and latticed windows, framed in ivy and Virginia creeper. One hamlet 'was-complete in every detail—the lovely manor "house, stately amid'"its' eenturyoloV:tre,es; and' vivid;;,lawns, otho- glqaming geeseftjlio inu.'JwiQiijloV red-curtained windows and burly landlord standing under his creaking sign, and the village pump in the centre of the/narrow street, shaded b'y an 'elm so old that it has, like'so many of these aged trees,' to be reinforced with concrete. Only were wanting the village idiot and the rest of the picturesque inhabitants in print gowns, sunbonnets, anad smocks. Instead, a flock of sableclad folk were filing along to the hoary, ivy-grown, grey church. Fifty miles from London the mourning for the King was as deep as in the capital, and old-grand-sires and liny children, the one too old, the .other, too young, to know London in its sorrow; all wore scraps of black.

• The head is.a lofty hill, crested with golden gorse, and heather that already' was'-purpling and soon would be glorious. From it the lovely country is seen on all sides for many miles—rolling • downs, woods, ranges of bliie hills, silver threads of rivers—a magnificent prospect. The air is sweet and fresh, and blase London folk often leave the grime and exhausted atmosphere of the city • to enjoy the healthy breezes. One of the most fascinating features of the enchanting drive were the lodges to the great houses. The latter, often a mile away through parks and, avenues, and nestling among great plantations, we rarely saw as we'whizzed by. . Hut Hie lodges were lovely, many very old, nearly all overgrown with crcencrs and shaded by trees, and most of them absolutely satisfying in the point of picturcsqucness. When, pleasures pall, and;the grasshopper becomes a burdenas a dear old lady expressed her feelings on board when she had to dress in a ftilc and felt her years—l have made arrangements to be appointed lodge-keeper in one of these romantic cottages at the. t-lr.lely gates. ! The duties would he light and jilcarant, and the glimpses—rather fleeting, perhaps, owing to the influx of motors—of the outer world would accentuate the rustic peace of the wide brick . hearth over whoso blazing logs the lcettlo would swing ."voni a large black hook! But 1 must tell you in Guilford there is a well-known curiosity shop, and hero we ■'■alted and got out to see what the old man had, for Melba delights in old curiosity shops. She bought a pair of "saltcellars and a pair of pepper cruetscharming old Sliellield plate. When wo got back to the motor she put them.in my lap and said: "A little souvenir of your first motor-drive with me in England" I felt quite overwhelmed, for I never dreamt, though she .asked me if 1 liked them, (hat they wero for me.-We got back to the Eitz in a howling rain- ; storm, and Madame, who had had a. big day, -was tired a little, but very jolly.So she went to bed and wo had dinner in her room. The waiters set the table outside the door, and we pulled, at iii and waited on ourselves. Great ' funand great chattering! She insisted-on my eating plover's eggs and English whitebait. Melba V rooms at the. Rita were beautiful. They were the same rooms that tho young King of Spain had occupied on ;i former occasion,.''when Madame, going into occupation afterwards, found that Alphonso, boy-like, hi(d written his name on the wall-paper. Madame, who knows the King quite well, had met him in one of the passages a few days before, and,he not, knowing she was there, and coming suddenly upon her, danced round.her in .boyish glee. .Flowers were everywhere, sent- r by her friends, baskets of roses and clematis yards high, inasse3 of lilac and carnations—all worth their weight in money' at that lime. Some time later I went to her postponed concert, which was extraordinary, not only for the excellence of the programme, but for the marvellous audience that tilled the huge Albert Hall from floor to ceiling. There were said to be nine thousand;'present, and this despite the

ten thousand or so women who were making ready for the suffragette demonstration. The London Symphony Orchestra played magnificently, under the baton of its gifted .leader, Mr Landon Ronald, whose exquisito compositions every singer knows. Madame Melba sang, as an encore, one—" Down in a forest "—with wonderful sweetness, the composer playing the accompaniment. Mr Landon Ronald's father was Henry Russell, who wrote " Cheer, boys,' cheer," and many patriotic songs our fathers used to sing. He married a Jewess, and Mr Landon Ronald-somewhat resembles Disraeli, only is of a more refined typo. He is a delightful personality, with a charming wit, and an artist to the tips of his delicate fingers. Backhaus was the solo pianist at the concert, and it goes without saying that his items were wonderful. Madamo Melba intensely admires tlio great player, and slipped round to our box to listen to his solo. She herself got a great ovation, applause thundering out from floor to ceiling, and lovely flowers being handed up. At the end of one song, an immense pale blue aeroplane was let down from the ceiling. From it hung a large basket filled with pink roses and hanging foliage. Ono other experience out of those with Melba in London there is just space to refer to—an experience that few have ever had. Wo were the guests of the Gramaphone Company, in whose roonw Madame was making some new records. Landon Ronald was there, and led the orchestra for her accompaniment. It was Melba's birthday, and, the management hud, as a surprise, arranged a champagne luncheon for us, with a large birthday cake with one candle and a silken banner to "Tlio Queen of Song." The whole performance was most interesting, and it was also _ equally interesting to listen to the " inside running " of musical affairs with such' people as Melba and Landon Ronald present. Mr Lemmone was with us, and Madame could not keep from commenting on the fact that we three had met only the year-before at dinner at the other-end of'the world, in Auckland, New Zealand. When we got back Madame's rooms were filled with glorious flowers—gifts from her frends,— and wo all went off with breast-knots of white carnations and purple orchids.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT19100820.2.129

Bibliographic details

WITH MELBA IN LONDON, Otago Daily Times, Issue 14917, 20 August 1910

Word Count
1,753

WITH MELBA IN LONDON Otago Daily Times, Issue 14917, 20 August 1910

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