Melba Recordings

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News from Melba Recordings

Go behind the scenes for insights on our recordings, our artists and our future plans. Follow our artists' schedules and share the excitement of their journeys.

Interview with Maria Vandamme - Gig Magazine (UK)

Tuesday, 1 August 2006 - 12:00am

The groundbreaking Australian label Melba Recordings is making international waves.

Its founder Maria Vandamme explains where it’s heading…

When we decided to record the State Opera of South Australia’s Ring cycle on SACD we did it for the cultural and moral imperative. The fact that we secured government funding for the project prompted a couple of people to get their knickers in a knot and that helped knock sports off the front pages of the papers for five minutes.

That can only be good for the arts in this country; Australia’s image is of a sports-mad beach lifestyle and good films. People don’t know about our eight really good orchestras.

The fact remains that we wouldn’t have got the money for the Ring if there hadn’t been a much bigger camp supporting us – governments don’t fritter away cash on vanity subjects.

All the great labels have started from one person’s vision and with a very strong initial idea. And we’re setting a benchmark for technical excellence (I challenge anyone who says SACD is not going to be a format to catch on).

We’re doing what no-one else has done in Australia before. We have very good domestic labels but there’s been an urgent need for a company to champion Australian music and musicians internationally. We have an indecent amount of artistic talent but Australians don’t necessarily want to live in New York, Paris or London because of the lifestyle here. Someone like soprano Cheryl Barker is well known for her work with English National Opera but otherwise our classical artists are relatively unfamiliar to global audiences.

I see us really succeeding as a truly international label championing native Australian talent and music. We’re making a recording with a horn virtuoso called Lin Jiang, described by Barry Tuckwell as one of the great horn players of his generation.

We’re also recording Sydney Symphony principals as soloists and making a recording of Haydn piano sonatas with Geoffrey Lancaster. We’ve recorded Steve Davislim, a fantastic tenor, in Strauss songs with Simone Young (Britten folk songs and Handel arias follow). We haven’t started with contemporary music but I am talking with Brett Dean about a lot of projects.

Melba has a staff of only four, which means we can be very lean and mean when we make a recording or film (I’ve made a documentary about Massenet, shot in the composer’s house just before it was sold).

So far, it couldn’t be better and the Ring reviews have been unprecedented. I’m very excited – and I’m also very optimistic.


Paul Cutts