A New Melba?: The tragedy of Amy Castles
Crossing Press, $49.95 pb, 300 pp, 0957829191
The roll-call of Australian female singers of the past resounds like a comforting resurrection of anachronisms: Ada Crosley, Florence Austral, Gertrude Johnson and the epitome of stardom, Melba. The name Amy Castles represents another thing, as Jeff Brownrigg’s recent addition to the cultural history of early Australian songbirds attests. Born into a Catholic and unmusical background in Bendigo in 1880, she was destined to suffer a condition not unknown to musical novitiates: vastly more hype than talent or accomplishment.