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MADAME MELBA.

VISIT TO ROTORUA

Birthday Celebrations in Auckland-— [ Dinner at the Grand—Some of the Invited i Guests — The Farewell Concert—A < Triumphant Success -Cordial We'eome ot liolorua—Characteristic Maori Greet- > ing—The Geyser Hotel—Great Native Gathering—Handsome aiui Valuable Presents'—The Wonders of Whakavcwa i —Native Children Fascinated—Madame Intensely Interested in Them—-The Maori Guides— Rotorua's Glorious Autumn Colouring — A Touching Farewel'.{Specially Contributed.) (By Mrs Malcolm Ross.) The great singer had a somewhat ■ strenuous week in Aucklaud. She celebrated tier birthday by giving a dinner at the Grand, at which Army. Navy aud Ministry were represented , in the persons of Captain Steele, of the Indian Army, Captain Bluut, of the H.M.S. Pioneer, the Attorney- < General and Mrs Fiudlay. There were also Mr and Mrs Bloomiield, Mr and Mrs John Alexander, Miss Walker aud Dr Hay, Inspector-General : of Prisons, besides Mrs Purohas, Madame's cousin, aud Mr aud Mrs Malcolm Ross. The hostess wore a lovely Worth gown of paid blue satin channelise, with tassels and embroideries of crystal and mole-coloured beads. Congratulations from many parts of Australia, had beeu pouring in, and so many were the lovely flowers sent that the private drawing-room was a very bower of roses aud chrysautheniums. The uext evemug was her concert, a most triumphaur eudiug to a line season iv New Zealand. She sang with au abandon aud gaiety that electrifi-d her audience, and gave of her lovely voice with royal generosity. The concert was a tremendous success, aud the theatre was crowded. That night Dr aud Mrs Fiudlay and Dr Hay took supper with Madame Next moruiug a crowd saw her oft" by the Rotorua train. At every station she was the subject of much curious interest, aud spoke to mauy with her genial good-humour. It was wet aud dark when Rotorua was reached, but the warmth of the welcome awaitiug atoned for much. As the carriage drove up before the Geyser Hotel at Whakarewarewa, by the flickering light of the portico lamps it could be seen a crowd of Maoris had gathered, aud with musical cries, the rhythm aud harmony of which at once struck Madame Melba, they danced a haka of greeting, the green branches and scarlet gowns flashing picturesquely iv tlie lights. Next came a stately speech from au old chief, and then he aud Maggie —who was leader in the displayshook bauds with the visitor aud her party. That was ouly the preliminary welcome. Indeed, the time has beeu so shore and the welcomes so many that the greetings have merged into the farewells. The Geyser Hotel is a delightful place, and Madame revelled in the quiet, comfort aud freedom from city worries and rush. But the very evening she arrived an entertaiument was arranged iv her honour by Mr Bennett, and to his picturesque hall she drove after dinner. There was a great gathering iv the Maori meet-ing-house, pakeha and Maori. Indeed, over four hundred Natives were present, the largest number siuce the American Fleet was here. For the first time, the front of the buildiug had been installed with electric light—a great boon where an unwary step may lead you into a boiling pool. A most iuteresting programme had been arrauged, the poi dances and the addresses by the old chiefs proving most impressive. So earnest were the latter in their greetings, emphasised by brandished spear or flourished mere, that one might imagine they were thirsting for Madame Melba's blood rather than uttering words of loving welcome. Presents of a mat and weapons were made to the distinguished visitor. The next day, undaunted by the heavy rain, tlie party saw tlie wonders of Whaka. Madame Melba climbed to the Model Pa. perched ou the hill overlooking the geyser land, aud was struck by the courtly manners of the old workman there, who had quite the air of a grand seigneur, as, cap in hand, he welcomed his visitor. Everywhere Madame has been escorted by tlie children, to whom she is charming, playing with them and talking to them,' aud generally bewitching them. Eveu ou her first stroll through Whaka, they clustered on little knolis aud sang fu the sweetest of voices. She was particularly struck with the rhythm, the harmony, the ease, with which different parts were sung, and the pure enunciation. I remember watching her the night before she left, standing in the doorway of the hall, a dozen small children outside, eyeing her with fascinated interest. She made them repeat after her phrases In French, Spauish, Italian and German, aud in almost every case, the quick ear aiding the glib little tongue, repeated correctly. She marvelled at the accuracy of their ears, that let them distinguish delicate niceties in speech. Maggie and Bella Papakura planned a welcome the second night of Madame's arrival, and highly picturesque it proved to be. Tlie pretty girls were dressed in red and garlanded with lycopodium, and when Madame entered—she and her party were the only visitors—they waved their wreaths aud danced their graceful dances with a soug of welcome. The old games and the poi dances— especially the charming canoe onewere fascinating, and Madame was delighted with a little soug of greeting to her, written and composed for the occasion. Maggie has had the words translated, and Miss Bourne and Mr Lemmone have written the melody, so it will not be forgotten. A sequel to this was the presentation to Madame Melba, the last night, by Maggie, on behalf of the Tuhourangi tribe, of a very handsome mat, a greenstone, and a carved walking stick. The Hon. Mr Mackenzie, the Minister for Tourist Resorts, who, with his daughter, was dining with Madame Melba —the Rev. Mr Bennett was her guest the evening before —went also to the meeting, and was accorded some prominence in the speeches of the old chiefs. Ou Saturday afternoon Madame drove to the new Bath House, and was shown over by Doctor Wohlmaun. The comfort aud artistic perfection of the building delighted her, and she declared it was far superior to Harrogate, the English Sanatorium. On Sunday morning Wairoa was visited. It was an April day of smiles and tears, perfect for viewing the lakes and hills. Those who have never been to Rotorua in the late autumn have no idea of the glory of the autumn colouring, the vivid chrome of tlie larches, the gold of the weeping willows, the crimson of the cherry trees, and the bright bronze of y the pollard willows. There are trees at present in the Whaka nurseries that are maguificent in their autumn garb of flame-colour and rose. I believe they are persimmon trees—whatever be their name, their autumn beauty is indescribable and almost startlingly vivid. Madame was enchanted with the drive to Wairoa. She took the reins

herself part of the time aud handled the four spirited horses, defty, for she has been accustomed to riding and driving iv her girlhood. A downpour of rain fell on the way home, but even that did not dash Madame's gay spirits, although one shudders to think what a cold in her case might lose to the world. The only other incident was the ineffective soaping of Wairoa for Madame, Hon. McKeuzie throwing in tlie bag of soap. For au hour the crowds waited, but the geyser refused to play. One of Madame's loyal little admirers said, as she trudged home beside her, "I'm glad you didn't soap Wairoa!" Failure ou the part of Madame Melba to accomplish anything was evidently deemed impossible by the devoted little Maori, and doubtless she iirmly believes that, had the distinguished lady—"the song-bird from beyond the skies," as they called her in the address of welcome— throwu the oag of soap into the geyser, Wairoa would not have been able to resist. The last memories of Rotorua were a cluster of brown faces, songs of farewell, and cries of good-bye. An old chief made his way iuto the carriage beforo the train started, aud gravely assured Madame of his hopes to meet her in Loudou, where the Government wocild send him! Madame begged him to call. Melba has iett Rotorua, aud if it is loug before she forgets the Maoris, it will be louger still before they forget her.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WDT19090527.2.8

Bibliographic details

MADAME MELBA., Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume LX, Issue 9380, 27 May 1909

Word Count
1,369

MADAME MELBA. Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume LX, Issue 9380, 27 May 1909

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