Another ‘Madame Emma” who graced the stages of Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900’s was the French diva Madame Emma Calve. Hers was also a long career yet her first and only tour to the Antipodes came when the singer was 51 years of age.

Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Calve arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia from Marseilles aboard the P. & O. liner SS Morea on 29 March 1910. She disembarked the ship in Melbourne following its arrival in that port at midnight the following Sunday, 3 April 1910.

Her tour was to include New Zealand and so after … performances in Melbourne, Sydney she boarded the SS Wimmera on Wednesday 17 August 1910 for the voyage to Auckland. Her tour was brief – with performances taking place in …, …, and … over the following month. Unfortunately the tour was marred by (ill health) and not all scheduled shows were able to be conducted. Nonetheless, those shows that were performed met with … from the press… Madame Calve returned to … aboard the … from … on …. 1910. Further performances in Australia were conducted in … and … prior to the Diva departing for … aboard the … in …
During her tour Calve was accompanied by her husband Italian tenor Signor Galileo Gasparri and Russian pianist Jacques Pintel.

Although Madame Calve was feted throughout her tour, in her autobiography published in 1921 she refers to her visit in only several paragraphs, viz:

“By way of realising my dream, I accepted an engagement for Australia in 1910. I started on my long tour which was to take me entirely around the globe in March of that year. We sailed from Marseilles one lovely spring day, aboard a luxurious steamer of the Peninsular-Orientale Line.

Our first objective was Perth, in Australia, and from there we toured through all the principal cities of the country. Our reception everywhere was enthusiastic. At Melbourne my local manager greeted me with the news that he had made arrangements for a reception so that the people could have an opportunity of welcoming me properly. The city was plastered with announcements a yard high:


When the day came, I was conducted to a hall where I expected to find not more than a couple of hundred people. What was my alarm when I found myself in a huge, barnlike place, where at least four thousand of Melbourne’s citizens had gathered to greet me!

After visiting Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Wellington, Christchurch, etc., we returned to Singapore and Colombo. …’

Galileo Gasparri

Her companion on the tour, and soon-to-be husband, Italian tenor Galileo Gasparri, was apparently less favoured than her Australian visit in her life story as he receives no mention whatsoever.

Emma Calve never returned to perform in Australia. She passed away at Millau, France at the age of 83 on 6 January 1942.

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