Journal article

Saint-Saens' poeme lyrique Helene, Nellie Melba and Beyond

Kerry Murphy

Musicology Australia | ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD | Published : 2015


Saint-Saëns' poéme lyrique Hélène of 1904 was not, as is continually claimed, written for the Australian soprano Nellie Melba; however, she premiered it and, for a short while at least, was eager to promote it. Saint-Saëns loved Melba's interpretation of the role of Hélène, and also loved the work, believing it to be the best operatic work he had ever written. Yet its performance at the Paris Opéra in 1919 was described, by one critic, as the 'convulsion before eternal sleep'. This metaphor has been unwittingly continued in the rhetoric surrounding the recently released recording of the work by the Australian label Melba recordings (2008), where its revival has been described as the 'awakeni..

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