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FRANK ST. LEGER, CONDUCTOR & PIANO ACCOMPANIST to NELLIE MELBA

This cover was entered on Ebay because of its prominent roller cancel of BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION/ ALWAYS ASK FOR/ AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTS with a circular MELBOURNE/ 24 SE–11-P/ 1924 postmark on the blue 3d KGV Head stamp. It was addressed to Frank St. Leger Esqr., c/o Chicago Civic Opera Assocn, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago Ill. USA. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

However, the addressee was of much more interest for he had a strong association with Dame Nellie Melba, the great Australian singer. Douglas Francis "Frank" St. Leger (May 30, 1890-December 26, 1969) was a British-American conductor of Indian Birth. He was born in Madras, to-day’s Chennai, India to British parents, and at age of 16 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied piano and conducting. He graduated with several honours.

Between1912 and 1914, St. Leger, toured as pianist for the Cherniasky Trio. He served in the Australian army for two years, following which he was appointed the pianist and conductor for the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. His position with Melba brought St. Leger to the United States in 1917. Subsequently he held positions with the American Opera Company, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, and beginning in 1929, a staff position with the Civic Opera of Chicago.

In 1932 he was engaged as music director of the Houston Symphony orchestra and served 3 seasons as its music director. He resigned following the season of 1934-35 for a position as director of the Central City Opera in Colorado. In 1939 he was an assistant conductor for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He remained at the Metropolitan for the following eleven years, holding subsequent positions as regular conductor, musical secretary, and company assistant manager in charge of repertory.

St. Leger departed New York in 1950, and in 1953 joined the musical faculty of Indiana University as Professor of music. Upon his retirement in 1963, he was designated emeritus professor of music. In his retirement he continued part-time in Indiana, coaching voice and opera. Frank St. Leger and his wife Kay were parents of a son, Hugh, and Frank St. Leger died in Bloomington, Indiana, at the age of 79.

All the above information was found at Wikipedia, and it was the only website found that had a biography of Frank St. Leger. All that follows was located in the National Library of Australia’s newspapers dated from 1914 up to 1924, and they documented some 10 years of Frank St. Leger’s association not only with Nellie Melba but with Australia, and confirmed that he served in WWW1 with the Australian Army.

He conducted 85 professional musicians as well as the Cherniasky Trio, Leo, Jan and Mischel in a concert at the Kings Theatre, Melbourne on 1 July 1914 as advertised in The Argus (Melbourne) and a concert was also performed on 21 January 1915, as described in The Advertiser (Adelaide). An unusual article in The Sydney Morning Herald 2 August 1916 entitled MELBAS’S APPEAL FOR RUSSIANS concerning the raising of funds with a concert during WWW1, mentioned that "Mr. Frank St. Leger will play the score on a grand piano, and he left the military camp near Melbourne, where he is in training for the front, at Mme. Melba’s telegraphed request"! A further short para in The Sydney Morning Herald of 9 May 1917 states that "Mr. Frank St. Leger, who acted as Pianist for Madame Melba during her last American tour, is at present an inmate of Caulfield Military Hospital[Victoria]. He recently returned from active service in Egypt.

The Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 1918 recorded that Dame Melba returned to Melbourne after a successful operatic tour of America and that Mr. Frank St. Leger had been her accompanist. The last finding of an association of Frank St. Leger with Melba and Australia was found in The Sydney Morning Herald dated 10 July 1924 where Frank St. Leger was to be the conductor for a Melbourne concert of Faust, in which Melba was to play her favourite role of Margurite. A photo of Frank St. Leger is seen as Figure 2.

 

 
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