Written in 1975 and premiered at the 1976 Adelaide Festival, it is another ‘Popular Play’ like The Les Darcy Show. Using the Epic Theatre techniques of Bertolt Brecht (without politics), the play encompasses the life of diva Nellie Melba from childhood in Melbourne to her death in Egypt (alleged dying words: “I never did like Aida.”).
A powerful dynamic vivacious women, she bestrode the opera world for decades, rivalled only by Caruso (who appears). The characters who feature are Treacle O’Kane, Madame Marchesi, Buffalo Bill, Lady de Grey, George Bernard Shaw, The Duke of Orleans, Sir Thomas Beecham, Neville Cardus, Oscar Wilde, Frank Wedekind, and the scintillating Mayor of Brisbane.
The actress who plays Melba must be able to sing a few arias and parlour songs. There is a selection of recorded music that is essential to the work. The ABC TV production of A Toast to Melba was shown by the BBC in 1982, the first Australian TV drama put to air by them.