From Melba to Sutherland - Australian Singers on Record (4CD)

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From Melba to Sutherland: Australian Singers on Record is the first-ever comprehensive survey of the recordings of Australia’s greatest singers – in a unique new four-CD set from Decca, complete with biographies of each of the 80 artists, rare photographs, all contained within a 68-page booklet.

Why has there been such an extraordinary procession of world-class Australian singers over such an extended period of time? The question is often asked, but there are no easy answers. For Australia to have produced Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Sutherland, two of the most famous singers of the twentieth century, is in itself something like a miracle. But there are so many more – some 80 wonderful singers in total.

The compilation has been meticulously researched by music historian Roger Neill and recording industry expert Tony Locantro. It covers a wide range of musical genres, from opera to music hall and from art song to variety. Co-producer Roger Neill has said: ‘Thirteen years in the making, From Melba to Sutherland is truly a once-in-a-lifetime project – the first-ever comprehensive survey of recordings by Australia’s greatest singers.'

Included with the issue is a detailed booklet covering all of the recordings with brief biographies and rare photographs of the singers, and an overview of their teachers. Each of the recordings has been expertly remastered from best-available original sources.

Aside from Melba and Sutherland, other world-famous Australians included are: Peter Dawson, a baritone who concentrated his career on the newly-emerged recording medium, selling some thirteen million records in the fifty years from 1904. Florence Austral, an outstanding Wagnerian soprano. June Bronhill, who followed Joan Sutherland as Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden, but who chose to make her career in operetta and musical comedy with spectacular success. Malcolm McEachern, the bass half of the best-selling Flotsam and Jetsam duo who was equally accomplished in classical repertoire. Dame Joan Hammond, whose ‘Oh my beloved father’ from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi was one of the best-selling classical discs of all time. Florrie Forde, one of the greatest music hall artists, whose hit songs included ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush’, ‘Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your Troubles’, and Richard Watson, the Adelaide-born bass who was a long-time principal with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, singing the comic bass-baritone roles of the Savoy Operas.

Alongside these greats, several outstanding Australian singers have been re-discovered, their lives and recordings researched afresh. Many of them had become just names, nothing more. They include: Syria Lamonte, the first woman singer to be recorded professionally in Britain in 1898. Frances Saville, a leading soprano in Mahler’s famous company in Vienna, who re-introduced several of the great Mozartian roles to the repertoire. Andrew Black, the only top-flight singer of Melba’s generation who moved from Britain to Australia. Violet Mount, who, unable to break into the opera houses of Europe, made an outstanding career on the music halls singing operatic arias as the masked ‘L’Incognita’. Lorna Sydney, who went to further her career in Vienna, but was interned as an alien during World War II. She became a leading member of the Vienna State Opera at the cessation of hostilities.

Also there are many extremely rare recordings included in the anthology, some of them existing in just a single instance. For example, there is a private recording of the great Australian baritone, Harold Williams, singing a rousing Cobb and Co song, ‘John Bax’. Another great rarity is an unpublished test pressing by Florence Austral singing Brünnhilde’s ‘Battlecry’ from Wagner’s Die Walküre.

This high prestige project has been actively supported throughout by Richard Bonynge and the late Dame Joan Sutherland, who have written: ‘It is wonderful to be able to hear these exceptional voices, singers of real quality. It is a mammoth collection and Australia can be proud to share her artists with the world.’

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Disc listing:

CD 1: Melba, the Marchesi school and other early singers

CD 2: More early singers · Wagner and the dramatics · Music Hall and Variety

CD 3: Musical Theatre, Radio, Comedy · Singers after World War II

CD 4: More singers after World War II · Sutherland and her circle

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Tracklisting includes:


The Boys' Brigade
Hamilton Hill (baritone)

Oh! Oh! Antonio!
Florrie Ford (soprano)


C’est l’histoire amoureuse (Manon)
Evelyn Scotney (soprano)


Marie Narelle (soprano)


Nymphes et Sylvains
Joseph Browning Mummery (tenor), John Brownlee (baritone)

Bishop, H R:

Lo! Here the gentle lark
Violet Mount (soprano)


I passed by your window
Eileen Boyd (contralto)

Bless this house
Essie Ackland (contralto)


Is this all you can bring? (from Albert Herring)
Sylvia Fisher (soprano)


Onaway, awake beloved
Harold Williams (baritone)


Regnava nel silenzio...Quando rapito in estasi (from Lucia di Lammermoor)
Stella Power (soprano)


The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38: Jesu! by that shuddering dread
Horace Stevens (bass-baritone)


Ah! Je ris de me voir (from Faust)
Nellie Melba (soprano)


Samson: Honour and arms scorn such a foe
Peter Dawson (bass-baritone)

O ruddier than the Cherry (from Acis and Galatea)
Malcolm McEachern (bass)

Hill, Alfred:

Waiata Poi

James, W G:

Six Australian Bush Songs
Peter Dawson (bass-baritone)


Ben Bolt
Walter Kirby (tenor)


No! Pagliaccio non son! (from I Pagliacci)
Joseph Browning Mummery (tenor)


Alfred O'Shea (tenor)


New Year Song
Ada Crossley (contralto)


Obéissons quand leur voix appelle (from Manon)
Frances Saville (soprano)

Metcalf, John W:

Irene Ainsley (contralto)


Darby and Joan
Ella Caspers (soprano)

Moss, K:

The floral dance
Peter Dawson (bass-baritone)


Addio dolce svegliare (from La Bohème)
Joseph Browning Mummery (tenor), John Brownlee (baritone)

Un bel di vedremo (from Madama Butterfly)
Rosina Buckman (soprano)

Amore o grillo (from Madama Butterfly)
Lionello Cecil (tenor)


Du bist wie eine Blume, Op. 25 No. 24
Dorothy Helmrich (mezzo-soprano)

Scott, C:

Gertrude Johnson (soprano)

Sullivan, A:

Time was when love and I were well acquainted (from The Sorcerer)
Andrew Black (baritone)

When a felon's not engaged in his employment (from The Pirates of Penzance)
Richard Watson (bass)


The Whistling Bowery Boy
Albert Whelan (tenor)


Comin' thro the rye
Syria Lamonte (soprano)


Miserere d'un' alma gia vicina (from Il Trovatore)
Frances Alda (soprano)

Follie! Follie! Delirio vano è questo…Sempre libera (from La traviata)
Lalla Miranda (soprano)

La luce langue (from Macbeth)
Margherita Grandi (soprano)


Old John Bax
Harold Williams (baritone)


Dich, teure Halle (from Tannhauser)
sung in English
Elsa Stralia (soprano)

Hojotoho, hojotoho, heiaha, heiaha! (from Die Walküre)
Florence Austral (soprano)

Welches Unholds List (from Götterdämmerung)
Florence Austral (soprano), Frederick Collier (bass-baritone)

Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort 'Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene' (from Götterdämmerung)
Marjorie Lawrence (soprano)