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Browning Mummery

1888 – 1976

Joseph Browning Mummery (1888-1974), was born in inner suburban Melbourne to a musically-inclined family who fostered his interest in singing. He served an apprenticeship as a mechanic, but claimed that his 'thoughts were always on singing', taking lessons and devoting all his 'spare cash and spare time to music'. Mummery's professional singing break came when he successfully auditioned for a touring Italian opera company. He took a month's leave to perform with them in Melbourne, later giving up his full-time job to join the company when it was taken over by J.C Williamson in 1920. In 1921, Mummery went to England and a year later was engaged by the English National Opera Company. By 1926, after further study in Italy, he had made nineteen gramophone recordings and had been contracted at one point to His Master's Voice. Mummery was selected by Nellie Melba to perform in her farewell season of La Bohème at Covent Garden in 1926. In the USA between 1929 and 1932, he became popular as a radio performer, later broadcasting for the BBC on his return to Britain. He remained in Melbourne following his 1934 tour of Australia and became a teacher, but continued to make occasional broadcasts and appearances in Australia and New Zealand. The 'rather Edwardian' Mummery is considered Australia's most celebrated tenor of the interwar years, his repertoire including lead roles in operas such as Madam Butterfly, The Magic Flute and Tosca. In retirement he lived in Canberra, where he died.

Updated 2018
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