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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Fri., Nov. 29, 2013, midnight

From our archives, 100 years ago

Two of the “greatest artists in the world of music” played a combined concert at the Spokane Armory – and Spokane went, more or less, insane.

Soprano Nellie Melba, “queen of song,” and Jan Kubelik, “magician of the violin,” played for an insatiable audience of 3,000. 

And when I say insatiable, I mean, insatiable. Here’s the account of what happened at the end of Melba’s performance:

“Three recalls, gracious smiles and silent thanks would not suffice,” the newspaper’s music critic wrote. “So Melba sang ‘Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.’ ” … The customary three bows would not satisfy this audience. Four times they recalled her to the platform until, laughing and shaking her head with mute protest of ‘No,’ she appeared at last for the 10th time in her opera cloak, having come back from the street to say ‘good night.’ ”

What sparked this enraptured response? The critic described the great Australian soprano as “gracious and yet intensely feminine, with a personal charm that swept her hearers into a perfect passion of admiration.” He said that at one moment she was “the tragic songstress, expressing the sorrow of the ages in a burst of tragedy, the next moment, the Scotch lassie, smiling, coquettish and knowing, singing her way into the hearts of all mankind.”

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