A Sparkling Vintage Life

downton abbey2Hello, Sparklers! For those who caught Episode 2 of Season 4 of Downton Abbey last night, what did you think? I thought Mary overreacted to the gramophone. I wonder if a romance will develop between her and the dark-haired dreamboat (sorry, his name escapes me at the moment). We’re certainly meant to think so. Speaking of romances, I hope Tom and Edna don’t pair off. Not that I think he needs to live a monk’s life as a widower, but I don’t think she’s the girl for him. I was happy when Edith’s beau trounced that cheater at cards and generously shared the winnings, thus earning the earl’s respect. That’s what really should count, right? Good character over social pedigree.

I’m the type who feels a bit overwhelmed when hosting a crowd, so I felt Mrs. Patmore’s pain, lol. I was so dismayed by what happened to Anna, it’s gotten my entire week off to a gloomy start. The woman just can’t seem to get a break.

I enjoyed Kiri Te Kanawa’s portrayal of Dame Nellie Melba and thought it was amusing how the household dickered about where she should “properly” eat and sleep, as both an honored guest and, at the same time, hired entertainment. What to do, what to do? Poor Carson. He tries so hard to be meticulously correct, but the ever-changing world keeps tripping him up at every turn.

Did you know that Nellie Melba was a real person? Wikipedia tells me she was an Australian  opera star, one of the most famous in the early 20th century,  who lived from 1861 to 1933. She became a huge hit in England in 1888, followed by her U. S. debut in 1893. So by the time the Granthams hosted her at their home in 1922, she would have been very famous, indeed.

“Melba” became a popular name for baby girls beginning in the 1880s, peaked in popularity around 1920, and fell precipitously after the star’s death. The famous French chef Escoffier named a beloved 20th-century dessert “Peaches Melba” in Nellie Melba’s honor (peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream–yum! I’ll see if I can scrounge up a recipe for it). In the meantime, here’s a soundbyte of the real Nellie Melba in action, singing Puccini in 1904:

Until next time . . . sparkle on!