Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Amadio (1883–1964)

by Mimi Colligan

This article was published:

John Amadio (1883-1964), musician, was born on 15 November 1883 at Christchurch, New Zealand, eighth child of Samuel Biddle Taylor, merchant, and his wife Eliza, née Wilson. Widowed in November 1884, Eliza took the family to Wellington, where in 1890, aged 39, she married a 22-year-old carpenter and flautist Henry Antonio Amadio, whose surname her children assumed. Under his stepfather's guidance John displayed early talent as a flautist; his half-brother Adrian also played the flute while his older brother Henry Henville took up the clarinet, oboe and bassoon.

About 1900 the Amadio family moved to Australia, first to Sydney and then to Melbourne. In 1901 John was engaged as principal flautist with J. C. Williamson's Italian Opera Company. Next year (Dame) Nellie Melba reputedly offered to take him on tour with her to England but his stepfather decided that he was too young. During Melba's 1911 Australian tour, however, he was principal flute for her opera company. He played in the Marshall Hall orchestra in 1903-12, performed in concerts as soloist or in association with visiting and local artists, and in 1909-20 taught the flute at the University Conservatorium of Music. On 6 January 1915 at Brighton he married the pianist Leonora Soames Roberts.

In July 1918 Amadio toured New Zealand. Next year he decided to further his career abroad, and gave a farewell concert in Melbourne on 28 November. In Europe he accompanied Luisa Tetrazzini on tour and gained international repute as a virtuoso flautist; Sir Henry Wood remarked of his playing with the Hallé Orchestra, 'the finest tone I have ever heard'.

Amadio and his wife had separated in 1919, and in 1925 she divorced him, naming Florence Austral as co-respondent. Amadio and Austral were married soon after, and for the next fifteen years they made concert tours of Europe, America and Australia as associate artists. Their visits to Australia in 1930 and 1934-36 were greeted with enthusiasm by both the press and the critics; his warm playing of Bach and Mozart prove a popular complement to Austral's operatic arias and lieder. In 1934 the couple gave a series of recitals for the Australian Broadcasting Commission; like Austral, Amadio made many recordings, his first in 1920. In 1936 he appeared as associate-artist with the organist (Sir) William McKie.

By 1940 Austral and Amadio had gone their separate ways. During the war years Amadio played with London orchestras, notably the International Ballet, and in concerts for the Armed Forces. In 1947 he returned to Australia, playing for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, occasionally as soloist, and was principal flute in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 1956. From 1959 he lived in Melbourne in semi-retirement, caring for his ailing sister Lenna (Evelyn) Gunderson, of whom he was particularly fond. His main public appearances were at open-air concerts at the Myer Music Bowl, and it was at a rehearsal for one of these that he died of coronary occlusion on 4 April 1964, aged 80. He was survived by two daughters of his first marriage, one of whom was Judy (Lenore), a flautist and music teacher.

Charming yet rather aloof in his personal relations, Amadio kept his warmth for his music. A superb technician, although by strict aesthetic standards something of a showman, his musicality gave him great rapport with singers for whom he played obbligatos: the soprano Glenda Raymond has spoken of him as unequalled as an intuitive accompanist. Other members of the family noted for their musicianship include his nephews Clive and Neville, sons of Harry Henville Amadio.

Select Bibliography

  • I. Moresby, Australia Makes Music (Melb, 1948)
  • Australian Musical News, 1914-16, Feb 1923, Sept 1936
  • Gramophone and Talking Machine News, Apr 1924
  • Listener In, 28 July 1934
  • Argus (Melbourne), 29 Nov 1919, 15 Sept 1925, 18 July, 3 Aug 1934
  • A.B.C. Archives (Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mimi Colligan, 'Amadio, John (1883–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Taylor, John Bell

15 November, 1883
Christchurch, New Zealand


4 April, 1964 (aged 80)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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