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.”

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 made at least two issued sides for Victor – 1927 Polonaise from Mignon and Valse from Mireille (the issued takes were both number 34.)

Download – Luella Melius sings Ach, ich fühl’s

Download – Luella Melius sings Der Hölle Rache

(mp3 files – right click the link, then select “Save as” or click the play button)

Il Flauto Magico – Ah! lo so, piu non m’avanza (Pamina’s Aria)
Il Flauto Magico – Gli angui d’inferno (Queen of the Night Aria)
His Master’s Voice DA 723
Matrices Bb 6476-1, 6477-1 (7-53091/2)
Recorded 10th August 1925 in Room 1 at Hayes
Orchestra, George W. Byng
Luella Melius, soprano

Pamina’s aria plays in score pitch at 78rpm, and the Queen of the Night Aria plays in C minor (a transposition of a tone downwards) at the same speed, so that Melius produces a string of top E flats, rather than top Fs.

Pamina’s aria has the following text visible under the label, inscribed into the wax master:


10 Aug 25



Palmina’s Aria

Magic Flute

Luella Melius

(And “Palmina” is what actually appears there, it’s not my misprint!)

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