[Editor: This is part 4 of “Some Australian women”, a series of articles on the achievements of women in Australia. Published in The Illustrated Sydney News, 23 May 1891.]
Some Australian women:
The name of Madame Carandini (née Marie Burgess) is so firmly bound up with the establishment of good opera in the early days, and the lady who bears it has contributed so long and so largely to the development of high class music in the Colonies, that she may justly take premier place among Australian vocalists. Going with her parents to Tasmania when quite a child, her father having been ordered change of climate by his medical, advisers, Miss Burgess at seventeen married the Marquis Carandini, an Italian nobleman, whose patriotism had stripped him of property and exiled him from his country.
Madame Carandini began her public career in Sydney as far back as 1846, and for a period of over thirty-three years occupied a foremost position as a vocalist, and continued a prime favourite throughout Australia. With her beautiful voice and artistic refinement, she charmed not only the dwellers in the city, but made her name a household word in the far-removed townships of the bush, extending her repute with her travels (accompanied by her daughters) to India and California. Among several eminent teachers, under whom this talented lady studied, was Sara Flower, with whom she appeared in English opera at the Victoria Theatre, in Sydney. She was the first prima donna to sing in complete opera in Melbourne, to which city she removed in 1854. At the Melbourne Theatre Royal Madame Carandini supported the celebrated Catherine Hayes, and as opera, and afterwards as concert, singer, was the most popular vocalist of her day. In retiring into private life a few years ago, the mantle of this distinguished artist fell upon her daughter Rosina.
Mrs. E. H. Palmer (née Rosina Carandini), the eldest daughter of the late Marchese Carandini di Sazano was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and from an early age showed great taste and love for music. At first it was thought she would be a pianiste, always taking, as she did, the first prize in pianoforte competitions at the schools she attended. After being under the tuition, in Hobart, of Mr. F. A. Parker, senior, for singing, Miss Carandini, at fourteen years of age, played and sang the part of Adalgisa to her mother’s Norma, and was so successful that, from thenceforth, she gave her chief attention to the cultivation of her vocal powers. For some years she travelled with her mother and sisters, giving concerts in the different colonies. (Of these sisters, all musically distinguished, one is now the wife of Sir Henry Moreland, of Bombay, and another is married to Sir Norman Campbell, Bart.)
Finally, Mrs. Palmer settled in Melbourne, where she holds the premier position as a soprano, and has one of the largest connections as a teacher of singing. In oratorio she is always chosen as principal soprano. In classical vocalism, as also in ballad singing, this artiste stands unrivalled in Australia. She has supported all the eminent English artistes who have visited the Colonies, and accompanied Mr. Charles Santley in his concert tour through New South Wales and Queensland, and later on, was specially sent for to sing at his farewell concerts in Adelaide. Mrs. Palmer’s family ties and responsibilities have prevented her ever paying a visit to Europe, though some years back a visit was made to America, where she received lessons from the renowned teacher, Mancusi, who, on hearing her sing, said he had nothing to teach her, as she was ‘already a finished artiste.’ A return to Australia was necessitated on account of her mother’s health. It is sufficient to add that so great an authority as Mr. Santley, considers Mrs. Palmer the best artiste he has heard in the Colonies, and thinks it a thousand pities she has not sung in London.
Madame Lucy Chambers, a well-known, and up to the time of her retirement from public life, most popular contralto singer, was born in Sydney, being the daughter of the late Dr. Charles H. Chambers, of that city. When Catherine Hayes came to Australia, she heard Miss Chambers sing, and at once offered to take her to Italy and supervise her vocal education as a cantatrice. This offer could not then be accepted, but, subsequently, the young lady went to London and studied under Garcia. After a further course of lessons from Romani in Italy, she made a most successful début as Azucena in ‘Il Trovatore,’ at Pagliano Opera House. She afterwards appeared at La Scala, Milan, during three carnival seasons, continuing her triumphs in various cities on the Continent. At Turin, she sang with Adelina Patti at the Regio Theatre.
In 1870, Madame Chambers returned to Australia, where for many years, she held the position of prima contralto. On leaving the lyric stage some years ago, this artiste settled in Melbourne, and entered upon the teaching profession, since which time she has still further covered herself with honours, by presenting to the public several pupils of great talent and proficiency. Among these are Miss Alice Rees (now Madame Vogrich, settled in New York), and Miss Ada Bloxham, who has since won the degrees of A.R.C.M. and F.R.S.C. ; and other promising vocalists, all of whom are fast making reputations for themselves in the musical world.
Mrs. Emery Gould was favourably reputed as an amateur vocalist before her visit to Europe, whence she departed in 1885, returning four years later in the enjoyment of the high musical degrees of L.R.A.M., Artist, London ; L.R.A.M., Professor, London ; and S.M.R.A.M., Rome. Having, after only ten weeks’ study in Italy’s capital, graduated at Santa Cecilia, one of her examiners there being the celebrated composer, Marchetti, Mrs. Gould proceeded to the Royal Academy, London, where she took, at the end of her term, the two separate degrees above mentioned, an achievement of which dual character, had never before been recorded in the annals of the Academy.
Since Mrs. Emery Gould’s return, last year, she has successfully established, in Melbourne, the first Australian vocal school. She teaches her pupils on a scientific basis, adopting the best methods from the different conservatoires in which she has graduated, and more especially those of her last and greatest teacher, Madame Marchesi. Her school has met with unqualified success.
The world-renowned Madame Melba, known better in Melbourne as Mrs. Armstrong, or Miss Nellie Mitchell, is a musical star of the first magnitude, whose triumphs as a European prima donna partake somewhat of the marvellous. But though it almost appears as if she had stepped at a bound into the full blaze of fame, her success is simply the result of great musical capacity, developed by previous years of patient labour and study in her Australian home. Being the daughter of Mr. David Mitchell, the well-known Melbourne contractor, her superior talent had every opportunity of unfolding itself under the advantages of a thorough musical education. Under one master alone she studied for seven years, and also under other teachers for a considerable period. As an instrumentalist she has almost a professional knowledge, acquired by years of regular practice under good instructors.
Thus was her genius trained and directed, and the solid foundation laid which, after a course of instruction from the famous Marchesi, enabled the brilliant Australian, about whom, during her student years, little was heard, to take immediate rank with Europe’s great musical artistes. The lustre of her fame may be gauged by the fact that she receives £100 and £150 a night for singing at private houses, and was paid £2000 for ten nights in St. Petersburg.
Tasmania claims Miss Amy Sherwin, whose sweet voice and cultured tones have so often delighted audiences on this side of the globe, and who, in opera and on the concert platform, made her appearance in London in conjunction with M. Emil de Milywarski, the Russian court violinist, and Herr H. Bast.
We have heard good accounts, too, of Miss Montagu Conyers (Miss Florence Lulman) daughter of Mr. A. Lulman, formerly in the Victorian Civil Service, who, according to the British Australasian, has won high laurels in England as a soprano.
Among Australian instrumentalists, Miss Florence Menck-Meyer takes good place as a pianiste, even in the musical centres of Europe, where, after three years’ study, her talent developed so rapidly as to place her among the prominent musicians of the day. Since that time (about four years ago), her recitals (always from memory), in the various Continental cities, have won for her the highest praise of their severest critics. Miss Menck-Meyer does not confine herself to the interpretation of the works of others, but has herself
written an opera and many smaller compositions.
Youngest in the bright band of musical artistes, cradled in the land of the Southern Cross, is little Elsie Stanley Hall, daughter of Mr. Stanley Hall, the representative of the Sydney Morning Herald in Melbourne. This musical genius was born at Toowoomba, in Queensland, in 1877. Before she could walk, she used to crawl up to the piano stool and pick out the notes of ‘Nelly Bly,’ and at the age of two, accomplished ‘Home Sweet Home,’ and other melodies she had heard as lullabies. In May, 1888, she entered the Stuttgart Conservatoire, and a short time since won an open scholarship at the London College of Music, which entitles her to a free musical education for three years. A composition of this child’s so delighted Herr Pruckner, her master at the Conservatoire, that he asked Mrs. Hall’s permission to publish it in the Musical Zeitung of Stuttgart, which was accordingly done.
Elsie has also a phenomenal voice, but is yet too young to permit of its cultivation. She is now only thirteen years of age, and we hear of her performing in London, selections from the works of Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Weber, and Mosykowski, giving in addition particularly clever compositions of her own. Notwithstanding the smallness of her hands, she executes the most difficult octave passages with wonderful precision and firmness.
Elsie has not been forced or urged in any way to develop her musical proclivities. Her parents simply could not keep her from the piano, and a musician they were obliged to make her. The child is no doubt one of nature’s tone poets. Her inspirations seem borne to her ear from the spirit world, for she tells her friends that she hears the music in the air around her. The same phenomenon has occurred to other geniuses of the highest order. Elsie won the most unqualified approbation of the Stuttgart critics for her performances in that city, previous to her departure for London. Her technique, they write, is marvellous, whilst her style is distinguished by great simplicity. One of her critics says :— ‘Quite an enchanted breath of childhood is spread over everything which the little fingers touch.’ The child-artiste plays her solos without music, according to the same critic, ‘with a sureness, readiness, and expression that had not been learnt from her teachers.’
Little Elsie played ‘by command’ before the Queen of Wurtemburg in Her Majesty’s private reception-rooms at the Royal Palace, in the presence of a brilliant assemblage. The numbers were given entirely from memory, and comprised masterpieces from both old and modern composers, and the Queen afterwards forwarded to the little Australian a jewelled brooch in acknowledgment of the pleasure the performance had afforded her.
Our portraits are from photographs as follows :— Madame Carandini by R. H. Bartlett, Auckland, N.Z. ; Mrs. Emery Gould, and Mrs. Palmer by Johnstone, O’Shannessy and Co., Melbourne ; Madame Lucy Chambers by Barroni and Co., Melbourne ; Miss Amy Sherwin by Tuttle and Co., Melbourne ; Madame Melba by Du Pont, 15 Rue Neuve, Brussels; and Miss Elsie Hall by T. Jacob, Stuttgart, Germany.
The Illustrated Sydney News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 23 May 1891, pages 14-15
L.R.A.M. = Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music
S.M.R.A.M. = [unknown]
[Editor: Corrected “star of tke” to “star of the”; “guaged” to “gauged”; “danghter” to “daughter”.]