The Queen of Farewells has her final farewell.
The most famous opera singer in the world, Nellie Melba, retired officially in 1926 at Covent Garden but had so many farewell tours and concerts subsequently that the sarcastic expression ‘Doing a Melba’ became a byword. This is one of those final farewells. Set in her dressing room in the space of one evening, Melba talks to her friend and writer Beverley Nichols, reminiscing about her career and her fears of growing older. A snapshot of a superstar on the cusp of old age and irrelevancy, this show is a bittersweet look at what it means for women to age in the spotlight.
Form and Style
The show is presented in Melba’s dressing room, a room full of pictures of Melba herself and her jewels. A table heaped with gin and lamingtons. A safe place for Melba to retreat to and reminisce. Comedy and drama go hand in this show about ego and being a star. A small intimate performance that invites the audience in to eavesdrop on a private conversation.
Community and Audience Engagement
Workshops on adaptation and biography Feminist Theatre making workshop Artist talks.
Pictures. Reviews. Posters. Testimonials. Media release.
“Directed by Susie Conte and written by Dawn Farnham, Melba is a heartfelt, intimate performance. Held at Lady Beaufort, the audience is placed barely a foot away from the performers, who are not elevated or on a stage. Rather, they are on the same level as the audience, making the show seem much more than a mere interpretation of the characters and more “real”, as if we are eavesdropping on conversations that really did happen… Susie Conte expertly portrays Nellie Melba, presenting the perfect amount of sassy and spoilt – exactly what you’d expect from a world famous diva. It was easy to believe that Conte was truly an internationally acclaimed soprano – her acting appeared so effortless and natural that at times, it was truly easy to forget that she was playing a role.” (Isolated Nation)
“The grand dame is very nicely played by director Susie Conte, whose Melba is temperamental, narcissistic and bossy, but also very likeable. Melba is said to have a wonderful presence, and Susie Conte captures this feeling well. She is joined onstage by an excellent Liam Longley as her companion and secretary Beverley Nichols, who is attempting to ghost write Melba’s autobiography ‘Melodies and Memories’ – a device that allows for some lovely moments of humour as Melba reminisces…this short show is a little treasure.” (Stage Whispers)
Enter the dressing room of Dame Nellie Melba herself – there are jewell-draped mannequins, a tiny-waisted dress on a hanger, fully stocked bar cart, lamingtons piled high and splendid furniture, fitting for a diva. Melba, played to perfection by Susie Conte is the diva to end all divas – she had so many ‘farewell tours’ it became common vernacular to ‘do a Melba’ (Move over John Farnham!) Conte is every bit the overindulgent, self-absorbed diva, yet she breathes charm into the character. Melba drinks herself to distraction, gorges on lamingtons, laments her failing voice, and provides little tidbits to English author, Beverly Nichols (Liam Longley) – ghostwiter of Melba’s ‘autobiography. Longley and Conte play off each other perfectly – their banter and repartee are at times sharp but there is clearly great affection between the two. Melba is a touching and funny vignette into the trials and tribulations of a diva who is perhaps past her prime but not willing to admit it. (Fourth Wall Media)
MELBA, presented by tempest theatre, is a deceptively light-hearted look at Dame Nellie Melba’s refusal to give up the spotlight.Writer Dawn Farnham has created a bittersweet vignette exploring the concepts of public life, ego, and women’s roles as objects of beauty and desire. The Dame herself is fabulous. Just as a Dame should be. A perfect balance of the self-absorbed diva and a woman struggling with her creeping fear of obscurity. (Gutter Culture)
Writer – Dawn Farnham
Director – Susie Conte
Dame Nellie Melba – Susie Conte
Beverley Nichols – Liam Longley
AvailabilityJanuary 2022 onwards
ArtformsDrama, Opera, Theatre
AudienceWomen/men age 40+, opera lovers, biographical work, love a good story, enjoy reminiscing about the past
Bump In1 hour
Bump Out1 hour
CostsWeekly Fee: $8,000
Cost per performance: $1,500
*Above fees do not include travel costs
Company ContactsSusie Conte
0425 866 894
Venue FormatProscenium arch, black box, thrust, in the round.
Show Warnings: N/A
First Possible Performance: 2 hours post bump-in.
Minimum Break Between Shows 1 hour
Minimum Stage Width: 3-4 metres
Minimum Stage Depth: 5 metres
Minimum Stage Height: 3 metres
Staging and set description: dressing room set, chairs, tables, lamps.
Lighting to be provided by the company: side lamp.
Lighting requirements to be provided by the venue: basic lighting wash.
Audio to be provided by company: Qlab.
Audio Requirements to be provided by the venue: basic speakers.
No. of additional staff to be provided by the venue: 1
Dressing rooms required: 2