Long before the likes of Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy or Savage Garden hit the international charts, another Australian singer was making huge waves all over the world.
Such was the adulation that greeted opera star Dame Nellie Melba that it was dubbed “Melba Mania” by the media in response to crowds mobbing the singer wherever she went in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
And now another internationally acclaimed Australian soprano is breathing new life into Melba’s life and music.
Lorina Gore, of Kangaroo Valley, has released A Toast to Melba, recorded with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, reviving Melba’s favourite songs.
Lorina said it was a labour of love, as “we have a similar taste in music”.
“A lot of the music that she sang are the songs that I love, although some of them have been out of fashion for a while.”
A Toast to Melba is being officially launched on Friday, June 15, at Bistro One46 in Kangaroo Valley, where Lorina will sing a few songs from the album, and sign copies of the CD.
For the night chef Gerald Poelzl has put together a special menu featuring some of the food Dame Nellie loved to serve, along with modern takes on dishes including the peach melba and melba toast created for the opera star.
Melba’s favourite cocktails are even being researched to ensure one is offered to all guests when they arrive for the launch and three-course dinner, starting at 6.30 for 7pm.
For bookings call Bistro One46 on 4465 2820.
The recording released on ABC Classics is a major achievement for Lorina, who said she “accidentally became an opera singer”.
Instead she had her heart set on musical theatre when she started singing lessons at the age of 14.
Lorina said she had never been exposed to classical music until she did work experience at high school, and the only musical work option available was with Opera Australia.
She was impressed by the sets, the costumes, the orchestras and the voices that came through crisp and clear without amplification.
“I got to sit in on some rehearsals in the Sydney Opera House, and I was really amazed,” Lorina said.
A couple of years later when she started tertiary studies at the Australian National University’s School of Music, she had the choice of studies in only jazz or classical music, and chose classical, but still had her heart set on musical theatre until she heard another great Australian operatic star – Dame Joan Sutherland – sing a piece from Lucia di Lammermoor.
“I remember hearing that and thinking ‘ah, I want to sing that one day’,” Lorina recalled.
After finishing university in 2001 Lorina landed a role working with Opera Australia’s schools program, before winning a scholarship to study and perform overseas.
She returned to Australia in 2008 when she was offered a position as a principle singer with Opera Australia, and has been with the company ever since, winning acclaim and awards for a range of roles performed in Australia and overseas.