Theatre programme for a matinee concert organised and performed by Australian opera singer Madame Nellie Melba and English actor Cyril Maude at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne on Tuesday 24 July, 1917. Their photographs feature on the inside pages. Inside the programme is a paper insert with the printed song 'A Voice in the Desert' performed during the concert as well as two loose newspaper clippings reporting on the concert. The concert was organised in aid of the 'State War Council's Amelioration Fund for Wounded Soldiers and their Families in Want or Distress'. The cover was designed by Australian artist Norman Lindsay particularly for this event. Other performers include flautist John Lemmone, Betty Murray, Dorothy Cumming and the Lady Susan Fitzclarence. Songs and opera arias performed by Melba include Scenes 1 and 2 from Verdi's 'Otello' and 'Nymphes and Sylvains' by Bemberg.

Cyril Maude was born in London in 1862 and had a long and distinguished career as an actor and theatre manager. One particular success was his performance with wife and actor Winifred Emery at London's Theatre Royale of 'School for Scandal in 1900, a scene from which features in this programme. It was during a tour of Australia and New Zealand by his company in 1917 that this concert was orchestrated.

Melba worked tirelessly for the World War I war effort in Australia, as well as in North America. She was personally affected by the War, losing five of her own relations at Gallipoli, as well as many friends in England. Her numerous benefit concerts raised huge sums for local and overseas causes. She became a highly visible public figure at this time, both due to her performances and also her patriotic speeches at concerts and in the press, aiming to rouse the Australian public to action. She earned a nickname at this time, the 'Queen of Pickpockets', for never losing an opportunity to extract money from people for the war cause. For her services towards the war effort King George V made Melba Dame Commander of the British Empire. It was a new honour instituted by King George V to reward citizens of the empire for outstanding war work.

Physical Description

Quarto cream paper programme. The front cover has a gold border and gold printed text and a sketch in black and white. Inside pages feature a photograh of a young Melba as Marguerite in 'Faust' and a photograph of Cyril Maude in suit and hat. Reverse cover has the programme running order. The interior contains a paper insert with the printed poem/song 'A Voice in the Desert' as well as two loose newspaper articles.


Dame Nellie Melba is one of Australia's most famous cultural icons and exports. Her operatic achievements were acknowledged both nationally and internationally and her World War I fundraising efforts earned her Dame Commander of the British Empire. These items enhance the Museum's modest collection relating to Melba by providing images of her in key operatic roles as well as documenting her Melbourne performances. Theatre programmes of Melba's Melbourne performances are particularly significant being hard to find in the market. Exceptional is the World War I fundraising concert, with the Norman Lindsay cover especially designed for this concert, which documents Melba's significant Wartime fundraising activities.

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