Image courtesy of Visit Victoria
Coombe Yarra Valley is a unique gourmet and cultural destination that was once home to world-famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. Visitors are treated to a world-class dining experience showcasing award-winning Coombe Farm wines, set against a historic, scenic background with seven acres of gorgeous gardens.
A wine tasting, a private event or wedding, a tour of the garden and gallery, or simply an amazing meal in the a la carte restaurant are all possible at Coombe Yarra Valley.
Born Helen ‘Nellie’ Porter Mitchell, Dame Nellie Melba is Australia’s most famous operatic soprano.
Melba was the first Australian to acquire international renown as a classical musician, born on May 19, 1861. She was dubbed “the most famous woman in the world” at the height of her fame.
Melba studied and performed in Melbourne before emigrating to Europe to pursue a singing career. In 1886, she studied in Paris and worked in Brussels before establishing herself as the top lyric soprano at Covent Garden in London in 1888. She appeared in almost every European city before making her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in 1893.
Her friends included notable painters, performers, and royalty, and she was known for her flamboyance and immaculate sense of taste. Escoffier, the renowned French chef who notably invented the dessert Peach Melba in her honour, is a close friend.
After building Coombe Cottage in 1912, she went to Australia regularly and became involved in the teaching of singing at the Melbourne Conservatorium. She sang until the last months of her life, making many ‘farewell’ engagements before passing away in 1931.
Dame Nellie Melba’s father, David Mitchell, was born in Scotland in 1829 and completed a stonemasonry apprenticeship before arriving in Australia in 1852.
After arriving, he went to the goldfields, working as a builder in Bendigo before returning to Melbourne in 1856, where he established a building contracting firm and brickworks in Burnley St, Richmond. He married Isabella Dow, and they had eleven children together. Helen, his eldest surviving child, would become Dame Nellie Melba.
His construction and economic activities were numerous, and his influence was extensive. He was a significant stonemason and employer in accepting the 1856 “Eight Hours” labour movement, commemorated by the current Labour Day public holiday. The Menzies Hotel in William St (1857); Scots Church in Collins St (1873-1874); Presbyterian Ladies College in East Melbourne (1874); the Masonic Hall in Collins St (1888); and the Equitable Insurance Building in Collins St (1888) were all designed by him (1893). The Exhibition Building in Carlton, which he opened in 1880, was his most ambitious project.