Sunday's episode of
"Downton" portrays Melba as a guest performer of the Crawley household, serenading the family after dinner with the aria "O Mio Babbino, Caro" from Puccini's opera "Gianni Schicchi."
The events of the fourth season of "Downton Abbey" take place in 1922. Puccini wrote "Gianni Schicchi" just a few years before in 1918, making it a relatively new piece of music as far as the Crawley family is concerned.
Melba -- whose real name was Helen Porter Mitchell -- was famous for her diverse repertoire, including Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme." The singer was one of the biggest opera stars of her generation and even had the tea-time snack Melba toast named in her honor.
In Sunday's episode, the old-fashioned Earl of Grantham (
The Telegraph's opera critic Rupert Christiansen faulted the episode, writing that Melba would never have tolerated such treatment from her hosts. He also criticized Te Kanawa's singing, singling out her "sharp unsteady intonation, heavy vibrato and tastelessly swooping portamento."
Fans of Te Kanawa may remember that she memorably sang "O Mio Babbino, Caro" on the soundtrack for the 1986 movie "A Room with a View," which starred "Downton Abbey's"