Luella Melius

Luella Melius is a far from well known singer.

“Luella Melius, soprano, born 21st August 1892, Appleton, Wisconsin. Date of death unknown. Her actual name was Mrs. W. Fulton Melhuish. She began her training in Chicago as a child, and then studied under Jean de Reszke in Paris. She debuted at the Vienna Volksoper under Weingartner at the start of the 1920s and gave guest appearances in Paris, Madrid, Naples and Berlin, including Gilda at the Paris Opera in 1924. In the 1925/6 season she was at the Chicago opera as Gilda in “Rigoletto” and as Rosina in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (alongside Schipa and Bonelli). She guested in 1926 at the San Francisco Opera as Lucia di Lammermoor and as Gilda. As her career developed she broadcast for the BBC, and then American radio. She took part in numerous opera broadcasts in the 1920s. In 1926-27 she was a guest artiste at some German houses. In 1932 she created a vocal school in New York, at which such important figures as Marguerite Sylva, Adamo Didur, Carolina Lazzari and EH Gauthier taught. Records: First acoustics in England with HMV (1925); later in the USA early electrical Victors. All show a technically confident coloratura soprano.”

In common with many singers, it appears that Melius shaved some years off her age, apparently a decade. Evidence suggests she was born Luella Chilson in 1882, in Appleton Wisconsin. She married Elmer Ohrman, a banker and broker of Swedish parentage, and performed under the name Luella Chilson-Ohrman. They divorced, and by the 1920s she was married to William Fulton Melhuish, performing as Luella Melius.

Time Magazine notes in October 1923 that she was heading to Europe for a year of concerting, including Gilda in Paris. On November 30th 1925, Time had this to say:

“It is rapidly becoming a convention for the critics of Chicago to hail every week as a great artist some singer hitherto ungraced by U.S. laurels. Two weeks ago it was Baritone Bonelli. Last week it was Luella Melius, coloratura singer, born in Appleton, Wis. She made her debut in Rigoletto. Staid people have been foolish enough to believe that a modern audience could not be more than politely moved by the graceful insipidities of the old score – that the days were past when a perfect trill was a signal for young men in evening clothes to unhitch the horses of a prima donna’s carriage and pull her home themselves. The Chicago enthusiasts stopped short of this. But they held up the performance after she had sung the “Caro Nome,” and gave Luella Melius ten curtain calls at the end of the act. Old Critic Glenn Dillard Gunn declared that he remembered only three such scenes in the last 25 years; others compared Miss Melius with Gali-Curci. Even the most reserved could not help agreeing that her voice is very good.”

There are notes of concerts in various parts of the USA in the late 1920s.

It may be that Melius’s visit to Europe was longer than planned, or that she returned in 1925. Certainly the Gramophone Company made a number of recordings with her, starting with tests in May of that year, and six issued sides in August.

  • 8th May 1925: LUELLA MELIUS with Mme ADAMI, piano
    Cc 6101-1, -2 Verdi – La Traviata: Ah, fors’è lui (in Italian)
    Cc 6102-1, -2 JB Wekerlin – Fleur des Alpes (Swiss echo song) (in French)
    (Test matrices)
  • 5th August 1925: LUELLA MELIUS, with Orchestra conducted by George W Byng
    Cc 6439-1▲?, -2▲? Delibes – Lakmé: Pourquoi dans les grands bois
    Cc 6444-1▲?, -2▲? Delibes – Lakmé: Bell song – Where is the young Hindu maid
  • 6th August 1925: LUELLA MELIUS, with Orchestra conducted by George W Byng [B Studio]
    Cc 6452-1▲?, -2▲? JB Wekerlin – Les fleurs des Alpes, Swiss echo song (in French)
    Cc 6453-1▲?, -2▲? Benedict – La capinera (in French) with GORDON WALKER, flute
  • 6th August 1925: LUELLA MELIUS, with Orchestra conducted by George W Byng [Room 1]
    Bb 6454-1, -2 JB Wekerlin – Les fleurs des Alpes, Swiss echo song
    Take 2 issued on 7-33071 DA722
    Bb 6455-1, -2 Benedict – La capinera with GORDON WALKER, flute
    Take 1 issued on 7-33072 DA722
  • 10th August 1925: LUELLA MELIUS, with Orchestra conducted by George W Byng [Room 1]
    Cc 6474-1, -2 Delibes – Lakmé: Pourquoi dans les grands bois
    Take 2 issued on 2-033103 DB883
    Cc 6475-1, -2, -3 Delibes – Lakmé: Where is the young Hindu maid (Où va la jeune hindoue)
    Take 3 issued on 2-033102 DB883
    Bb 6476-1, -2 Mozart – Il Flauto Magico: Aria di Pamina – Ah lo so
    Take 1 issued on 7-53091 DA723
    Bb 6477-1, -2 Mozart – Il Flauto Magico: Aria della Regina della Notte – Gli angui d‘inferno
    Take 1 issued on 7-53092 DA723

It’s curious that in these last days of acoustical recording at Hayes, Melius attempted four items electrically, but that her issued HMV recordings were ultimately made acoustically – and in fact the acoustic recordings of the Wekerlin and Benedict items were preferred over the electrical versions recorded the same day. On Melius’s final HMV recording day, Noel Coward was recording electrically at Hayes, as were Jack Hylton’s Kit Kat Band. And it appears that Melius was followed into the studio by tenor Tudor Davies who made 4 unissued acoustic sides, before going into Studio B and recording two of the same items electrically, one of which was issued.

Melius also attempted at least five titles for Victor. These necessitated many takes across twelve sessions from January 1926 to April 1927. Only the Polonaise from Mignon and Valse from Mireille were issued, and in both cases, the issued take was number 34.

CVE 34265 – Gounod – Mireille – Valse: O légère hirondelle
CVE 34266 – Thomas – Mignon – Polonaise: Je suis Titania
BVE 34999 – Benedict – La capinera
BVE 35400 – Saint-Saëns – Parysatis – Le rossignol et la rose
BVE 37382 – David – Perle du Brasil – Charmant oiseau
Luella Melius
, soprano with orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon
Takes 1-3 and 5-8 of BVE34999, and all of BVE 37382 with Clement Barone, flute

  • Camden, New Jersey
    7th January 1926
    CVE 34265-1, -2 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-1, -2 (Destroy)
  • 18th January 1926
    CVE 34265-3, -4, -5 (Destroy -3, -5, Hold -4)
    CVE 34266-3, -4, -5, -6 (Destroy -3, -5, -6, Hold -4)
  • 25th February 1926
    CVE 34265-6, -7, -8, -9 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-7, -8, -9 (Destroy)
  • 26th February 1926
    CVE 34265-10, -11, -12, -13 (Destroy -10, -12, Hold -11, -13)
    CVE 34266-10, -11, -12 (Destroy/hold -10, Destroy -11, -12)
  • 9th April 1926
    CVE 34265-14, -15, -16 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-13, -14, -15, -16, -17 (Destroy)
  • 12th April 1926
    CVE 34265-17, -18, -19 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-18, -19, -20 (Destroy)
    BVE 34999-1, -2,-3 (Destroy)
    BVE 35400-1, -2,-3 (Destroy)
  • Camden, New Jersey. Church Bldg.
    21st May 1926
    CVE 34265-20, -21, -22, -23 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-21, -22, -23, -24 (Destroy -21, -22, -24, Unk. -23)
    BVE 34999-4 (?)
  • 27th May 1926
    CVE 34265-24, -25, -26, -27 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-25, -26, -27 (Destroy)
  • 28th May 1926
    CVE 34265-28, -29, -30, -31 (Destroy)
    CVE 34266-28, -29, -30, -31 (Destroy)
    BVE 34999-5, -6, -7 (Destroy)
    BVE 34999-8 (Hold)
    BVE 35400-4, -5,-6 (Destroy)
  • 10th January 1927
    CVE 34265-32, -33, -34, -35 (Hold -32, Destroy -33, -35)
    Take 34 issued on Victor 6627, assigned Gramophone 2-033122 but not issued
    CVE 34266-32, -33, -34, -35, -36 (Destroy -32, -35, Hold 33, -36)
    Take 34 issued on Victor 6627, assigned Gramophone 2-033121 but not issued
    BVE 35400-7, -9 (Destroy)
    BVE 35400-8 (Hold)
    BVE 35400-10 (Master)
  • 28th January 1927
    BVE 37382-1, -2 (Destroy)
    BVE 37382-3 (Hold)
    BVE 37382-4, -5, -6 (Destroy)
  • 13th April 1927
    BVE 37382-7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13 (Destroy)

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