While not a familiar name unless you're a history or music geek these days, Dame Nellie Melba was one of the most influential singers of her day . Not much is known about Melba's early life. She was born Helen Porter Mitchell, in Richmond, now a suburb of Melbourne Australia (the source of her stage name Melba). From what little we know, her early life was difficult. Her mother died while she was young, and conflicts with her family were frequent during her career. While her marriage seemed unhappy as well, only producing one son, her mother in law helped her with social introductions during her early career.
Madam Melba was an infamous diva as well. The night John McCormack debuted at the London opera, he attempted to take a bow with her, and she pushed him back, declaring that, "In this house, no one takes a bow with Melba." She was also infamous for getting in the way of other singer's careers. The public, however, loved her.
His next creation in her honor started as a special dessert created for a fancy dinner to celebrate her performance in Wagner's opera Lohengrin, which has a swan boat as a plot device.
Such a classic dish is simple to make your own, and while I include the origional below compliments of Practically Edible, here are also some variations by modern chefs!
Nigella Lawson's version.
Bobby Flay's Grilled Peaches "Melba"
Bon Appetite's Peach Melba Shortcakes
Here is a recording of Dame Nellie Melba singing. I, however, take no reponsibility for the typo in the title. Enjoy!