australian colonial history
meg dillon
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
Frieze in Hepburn Springs Cottage

Master Printmakers of 1920s & 1930s

Victor Zelman 1877 to 1958

Early Zelman Family History

Alberto Zelman (senior), a trained musician from Trieste, Austria, arrived in Sydney in 1871 and toured Australia and New Zealand with the Cagli-Pompei Opera Company. He returned to Melbourne in 1872 when the company came under the control of W.S. Lyster, a well-known local music entrepreneur. Alberto (senior) started conducting operas in Melbourne in May 1872. Shortly after this in 1873, he married Harriet Elizabeth (Emily) Hodgkinson, a 22-year-old musician at the Fitzroy Registry Office. They had four sons Alberto (junior), Ernest, Victor and Alfred. Alberto (senior) became a much loved figure in Melbourne’s growing musical scene that entertained the middle class with both classical and light music. All his sons gained some training in musical instruments, with Alberto (junior) becoming an outstanding musician and teacher. He continued his father’s legacy and took over his mantel of one of the premier musical authorities in Melbourne. He founded the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1907 and continued his stellar career until his premature death in 1927. Both father and son encouraged and promoted the careers of many female musicians at a time when this was quite unusual. Melbourne loved the air of the culturally exotic that was attached to the talented Zelman family, at a time when society was both staid and Anglo-centric. This fascination was enhanced by the mystery of their origins in Europe. While some stories suggest Alberto Zelman (senior) was the son of Samual Victor Zelman (1805 – 1859) a linguist who was musically educated in Trieste. Alberto (junior) provided a far more romantic version of their family origins to Tabletalk magazine. He claimed his father was the son of a poet from Florence, Italy, who had become involved in one of the many radical political movements that swept Europe in the early 1800s. He fled to Trieste, which at that time was under the rule of the Austrian Habsburg Empire, Trieste was the key port city of the Habsburg Empire. It was a dynamic cultural and trading centre where people of all nationalities and religions were welcomed. European Jews in particular flocked to the city as all civil restrictions on their livelihoods had been lifted, so many joined the professions and merchant class that emerged. A modern form of Jewish culture and religion was led by reforming rabbis which attracted young secular Jews, many of whom also embraced freethinking or Freemasonry. and changed his family name to “Samual Victor Zelman” to conceal his identity from Florentine spies. He lived there safely after this and never revealed to his son his original Italian name, except to say his Christian name had been Vittorio.
Victor Zelman: Early > Victor Zelman: Early >
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
australian colonial history
history of australia

Master Printmakers of

1920s & 1930s

Victor Zelman 1877 to

1958

Early Zelman Family History

Alberto Zelman (senior), a trained musician from Trieste, Austria, arrived in Sydney in 1871 and toured Australia and New Zealand with the Cagli-Pompei Opera Company. He returned to Melbourne in 1872 when the company came under the control of W.S. Lyster, a well-known local music entrepreneur. Alberto (senior) started conducting operas in Melbourne in May 1872. Shortly after this in 1873, he married Harriet Elizabeth (Emily) Hodgkinson, a 22- year-old musician at the Fitzroy Registry Office. They had four sons Alberto (junior), Ernest, Victor and Alfred. Alberto (senior) became a much loved figure in Melbourne’s growing musical scene that entertained the middle class with both classical and light music. All his sons gained some training in musical instruments, with Alberto (junior) becoming an outstanding musician and teacher. He continued his father’s legacy and took over his mantel of one of the premier musical authorities in Melbourne. He founded the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1907 and continued his stellar career until his premature death in 1927. Both father and son encouraged and promoted the careers of many female musicians at a time when this was quite unusual. Melbourne loved the air of the culturally exotic that was attached to the talented Zelman family, at a time when society was both staid and Anglo-centric. This fascination was enhanced by the mystery of their origins in Europe. While some stories suggest Alberto Zelman (senior) was the son of Samual Victor Zelman (1805 – 1859) a linguist who was musically educated in Trieste. Alberto (junior) provided a far more romantic version of their family origins to Tabletalk magazine. He claimed his father was the son of a poet from Florence, Italy, who had become involved in one of the many radical political movements that swept Europe in the early 1800s. He fled to Trieste, which at that time was under the rule of the Austrian Habsburg Empire, Trieste was the key port city of the Habsburg Empire. It was a dynamic cultural and trading centre where people of all nationalities and religions were welcomed. European Jews in particular flocked to the city as all civil restrictions on their livelihoods had been lifted, so many joined the professions and merchant class that emerged. A modern form of Jewish culture and religion was led by reforming rabbis which attracted young secular Jews, many of whom also embraced freethinking or Freemasonry. and changed his family name to “Samual Victor Zelman” to conceal his identity from Florentine spies. He lived there safely after this and never revealed to his son his original Italian name, except to say his Christian name had been Vittorio.