TALKS WITH MASTER SINGERS AND TEACHERS
COMPRISING INTERVIEWS WITH CARUSO, FARRAR, MAUREL, LEHMANN, AND OTHERS
Author of "Piano Mastery, First and Second Series," "Home-Help in Music Study," "Self-Help in Piano Study"
WITH TWENTY PORTRAITS
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
1917, by OLIVER DITSON COMPANY
1918, 1919, by THE MUSICAL OBSERVER COMPANY
1920, by FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
It has long been a cherished desire to prepare a series of Talks with famous Singers, which should have an equal aim with Talks with Master Pianists, namely, to obtain from the artists their personal ideas concerning their art and its mastery, and, when possible, some inkling as to the methods by which they themselves have arrived at the goal.
There have been unexpected and untold difficulties in the way of such an undertaking. The greater the artist the more numerous the body-guard which surrounds him—or her; the more stringent the watch over the artist's time and movements. If one is able to penetrate this barrier and is permitted to see the artist, one finds usually an affable gentleman, a charming woman, with simple manners and kindly intentions.
However, when one is fortunate enough to come in touch with great singers, one finds it difficult to draw from them a definite idea of the process by which they have achieved victory. A pianist can describe his manner of tone production, methods of touch, fingering, pedaling; the violinist can discourse on the bow arm, use of left hand, on staccato and pizzicati; but the singer is loath to describe his own instrument. And even if singers could analyze, the description might not fit any case but their own. For the art of singing is an individual art, the perfecting an instrument hidden from sight. Each artist must achieve mastery by overcoming difficulties which beset his own personal path.
Despite these obstacles, every effort has been put forth to induce artists to speak from an educational standpoint. It is hoped the various hints and precepts they have given, may prove of benefit to singers and teachers. Limitations of space prevent the inclusion of many other artists and teachers.
150 West 80 Street, New York City.
ENRICO CARUSO ... The Value of Work
GERALDINE FARRAR ... The Will to Succeed a Compelling Force
VICTOR MAUREL ... Mind Is Everything
A VISIT TO MME. LILLI LEHMANN
AMELITA GALLI-CURCI ... Self-teaching the Great Essential
GIUSEPPE DE LUCA ... Ceaseless Effort Necessary for Artistic Perfection
LUISA TETRAZZINI ... The Coloratura Voice
ANTONIO SCOTTI ... Training American Singers for Opera
ROSA RAISA ... Patience and Perseverance Win Results
LOUISE HOMER ... The Requirements of a Musical Career
GIOVANNI MARTINELLI ... "Let Us Have Plenty of Opera in America"
ANNA CASE ... Inspired Interpretation
FLORENCE EASTON ... Problems Confronting the Young Singer
MARGUERITE D'ALVAREZ ... The Message of the Singer
MARIA BARRIENTOS ... Be Your Own Critic
CLAUDIA MUZIO ... A Child of the Opera
EDWARD JOHNSON (EDOUARDO DI GIOVANNI) ... The Evolution of an Opera Star
REINALD WERRENRATH ... Achieving Success on the Concert Stage
SOPHIE BRASLAU ... Making a Career in America
MORGAN KINGSTON ... The Spiritual Side of the Singer's Art
FRIEDA HEMPEL ... A Lesson with a Prima Donna
WITH THE MASTER TEACHERS
DAVID BISPHAM ... The Making of Artist Singers
OSCAR SAENGER ... Use of Records in Vocal Study
HERBERT WITHERSPOON ... Memory, Imagination, Analysis
YEATMAN GRIFFITH ... Causation
J.H. DUVAL ... Some Secrets of Beautiful Singing
THE CODA ... A Resume
Enrico Caruso Frontispiece
Giuseppe de Luca
THE VALUE OF WORK
Enrico Caruso! The very name itself calls up visions of the greatest operatic tenor of the present generation, to those who have both heard and seen him in some of his many roles. Or, to those who have only listened to his records, again visions of the wonderful voice, with its penetrating, vibrant, ringing quality, the impassioned delivery, which stamps every note he sings with the hall mark of genius, the tremendous, unforgettable climaxes. Not to have heard Caruso sing is to have missed something out of life; not to have seen him act in some of his best parts is to have missed the inspiration of great acting. As Mr. Huneker once wrote: "The artistic career of Caruso is as well known as that of any great general or statesman; he is a national figure. He is a great artist, and, what is rarer, a genuine man."
And how we have seen his art grow and ripen, since he first began to sing for us. The date of his first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, was November 23rd, 1903. Then the voice was marvelous in its freshness and beauty, but histrionic development lagged far behind. The singer seemed unable to make us visualize the characters he endeavored to portray. It was always Caruso who sang a certain part; we could never forget that. But constant study and experience have eliminated even this defect, so that to-day the singer and actor are justly balanced; both are superlatively great. Can any one who hears and sees Caruso in the role of Samson, listen unmoved to the throbbing wail of that glorious voice and the unutterable woe of the blind man's poignant impersonation?
IN EARLY DAYS
Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, the youngest of nineteen children. His father was an engineer and the boy was taught the trade in his father's shop, and was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. But destiny decreed otherwise. As he himself said, to one listener:
"I had always sung as far back as I can remember, for the pure love of it. My voice was contralto, and I sang in a church in Naples from fourteen till I was eighteen. Then I had to go into the army for awhile. I had never learned how to sing, for I had never been taught. One day a young officer of my company said to me: 'You will spoil your voice if you keep on singing like that'—for I suppose I was fond of shouting in those days. 'You should learn how to sing,' he said to me; 'you must study.' He introduced me to a young man who at once took an interest in me and brought me to a singing master named Vergine. I sang for him, but he was very discouraging. His verdict was it would be hopeless to try to make a singer out of me. As it was, I might possibly earn a few lire a night with my voice, but according to his idea I had far better stick to my father's trade, in which I could at least earn forty cents a day.
"But my young friend would not give up so easily. He begged Vergine to hear me again. Things went a little better with me the second time and Vergine consented to teach me.
"And now began a period of rigid discipline. In Vergine's idea I had been singing too loud; I must reverse this and sing everything softly. I felt as though in a strait-jacket; all my efforts at expression were most carefully repressed; I was never allowed to let out my voice. At last came a chance to try my wings in opera, at ten lire a night ($2.00). In spite of the regime of repression to which I had been subjected for the past three years, there were still a few traces of my natural feeling left. The people were kind to me and I got a few engagements. Vergine had so long trained me to sing softly, never permitting me to sing out, that people began to call me the Broken Tenor.
THE FIRST REAL CHANCE
"A better chance came before long. In 1896 the Opera House in Salerno decided to produce I Puritani. At the last moment the tenor they had engaged to sing the leading role became ill, and there was no one to sing the part. Lombardi, conductor of the orchestra, told the directors there was a young singer in Naples, about eighteen miles away, who he knew could help them out and sing the part. When they heard the name Caruso, they laughed scornfully. 'What, the Broken Tenor?' they asked. But Lombardi pressed my claim, assured them I could be engaged, and no doubt would be glad to sing for nothing.
"So I was sent for. Lombardi talked with me awhile first. He explained by means of several illustrations, that I must not stand cold and stiff in the middle of the stage, while I sang nice, sweet tones. No, I must let out my voice, I must throw myself into the part, I must be alive to it—must live it and in it. In short, I must act as well as sing.
"It was all like a revelation to me. I had never realized before how absolutely necessary it was to act out the character I attempted. So I sang I Puritani, with as much success as could have been expected of a young singer with so little experience. Something awoke in me at that moment. From that night I was never called a 'Broken Tenor' again. I made a regular engagement at two thousand lire a month. Out of this I paid regularly to Vergine the twenty-five per cent which he always demanded. He was somewhat reconciled to me when he saw that I had a real engagement and was making a substantial sum, though he still insisted that I would lose my voice in a few years. But time passes and I am still singing.
RESULTS OF THE REVELATION
"The fact that I could secure an opera engagement made me realize I had within me the making of an artist, if I would really labor for such an end. When I became thoroughly convinced of this, I was transformed from an amateur into a professional in a single day. I now began to take care of myself, learn good habits, and endeavored to cultivate my mind as well as my voice. The conviction gradually grew upon me that if I studied and worked, I would be able one day to sing in such a way as to satisfy myself."
THE VALUE OF WORK TO THE SINGER
Caruso believes in the necessity for work, and sends this message to all ambitious students: "To become a singer requires work, work, and again work! It need not be in any special corner of the earth; there is no one spot that will do more for you than other places. It doesn't matter so much where you are, if you have intelligence and a good ear. Listen to yourself; your ear will tell you what kind of tones you are making. If you will only use your own intelligence you can correct your own faults."
This is no idle speech, voiced to impress the reader. Caruso practices what he preaches, for he is an incessant worker. Two or three hours in the forenoon, and several more later in the day, whenever possible. He does not neglect daily vocal technic, scales and exercises. There are always many roles to keep in rehearsal with the accompanist. He has a repertoire of seventy roles, some of them learned in two languages. Among the parts he has prepared but has never sung are: Othello, Fra Diavolo, Eugen Onegin, Pique Dame, Falstaff and Jewels of the Madonna.
Besides the daily review of opera roles, Caruso examines many new songs; every day brings a generous supply. Naturally some of these find their way into the waste basket; some are preserved for reference, while the favored ones which are accepted must be studied for use in recital.
I had the privilege, recently, of spending a good part of one forenoon in Mr. Caruso's private quarters at his New York Hotel, examining a whole book full of mementos of the Jubilee celebration of March, 1919, on the occasion when the great tenor completed twenty-five years of activity on the operatic stage. Here were gathered telegrams and cablegrams from all over the world. Many letters and cards of greeting and congratulation are preserved in this portly volume. Among them one noticed messages from Mme. Schumann-Heink, the Flonzaley Quartet, Cleofonte Campanini and hosts of others. Here, too, is preserved the Jubilee Programme booklet, also the libretto used on that gala occasion. Music lovers all over the world will echo the hope that this wonderful voice may be preserved for many years to come!
A LAST WORD
The above article was shown to Mr. Caruso, at his request, and I was asked a few days later to come to him. There had been the usual rehearsal at the Opera House that day. "Ah, those rehearsals," exclaimed the secretary, stopping his typewriter for an instant; "no one who has never been through it has any idea of what a rehearsal means." And he lifted hands and eyes expressively. "Mr. Caruso rose at eight, went to rehearsal at ten and did not finish till after three. He is now resting, but will see you in a moment."
Presently the great tenor opened the door and entered. He wore a lounging coat of oriental silk, red bordered, and on the left hand gleamed a wonderful ring, a broad band of dull gold, set with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. He shook hands, said he had read my story, that it was quite correct and had his entire approval.
"And have you a final message to the young singers who are struggling and longing to sing some day as wonderfully as you do?"
"Tell them to study, to work always,—and—to sacrifice!"
His eyes had a strange, inscrutable light in them, as he doubtless recalled his own early struggles, and life of constant effort.
And so take his message to heart:
THE WILL TO SUCCEED A COMPELLING FORCE
"To measure the importance of Geraldine Farrar (at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York) one has only to think of the void there would have been during the last decade, and more, if she had not been there. Try to picture the period between 1906 and 1920 without Farrar—it is inconceivable! Farrar, more than any other singer, has been the triumphant living symbol of the new day for the American artist at the Metropolitan. She paved the way. Since that night, in 1906, when her Juliette stirred the staid old house, American singers have been added year by year to the personnel. Among these younger singers there are those who will admit at once that it was the success of Geraldine Farrar which gave them the impetus to work hard for a like success."
These thoughts have been voiced by a recent reviewer, and will find a quick response from young singers all over the country, who have been inspired by the career of this representative artist, and by the thousands who have enjoyed her singing and her many characterizations.
I was present on the occasion of Miss Farrar's debut at the greatest opera house of her home land. I, too, was thrilled by the fresh young voice in the girlish and charming impersonation of Juliette. It is a matter of history that from the moment of her auspicious return to America she has been constantly before the public, from the beginning to end of each operatic season. Other singers often come for part of the season, step out and make room for others. But Miss Farrar, as well as Mr. Caruso, can be depended on to remain.
Any one who gives the question a moment's thought, knows that such a career, carried through a score of years, means constant, unremitting labor. There must be daily work on vocal technic; repertoire must be kept up to opera pitch, and last and perhaps most important of all, new works must be sought, studied and assimilated.
The singer who can accomplish these tasks will have little or no time for society and the gay world, inasmuch as her strength must be devoted to the service of her art. She must keep healthy hours, be always ready to appear, and never disappoint her audiences. And such, according to Miss Farrar's own words is her record in the service of art.
While zealously guarding her time from interruption from the merely curious, Miss Farrar does not entrench herself behind insurmountable barriers, as many singers seem to do, so that no honest seeker for her views of study and achievement can find her. While making a rule not to try voices of the throng of young singers who would like to have her verdict on their ability and prospects, Miss Farrar is very gracious to those who really need to see her. Again—unlike others—she will make an appointment a couple of weeks in advance, and one can rest assured she will keep that appointment to the day and hour, in spite of many pressing calls on her attention.
To meet and talk for an hour with an artist who has so often charmed you from the other side of the footlights, is a most interesting experience. In the present instance it began with my being taken up to Miss Farrar's private sanctum, at the top of her New York residence. Though this is her den, where she studies and works, it is a spacious parlor, where all is light, color, warmth and above all, quiet. A thick crimson carpet hushes the footfall. A luxurious couch piled with silken cushions, and comfortable arm chairs are all in the same warm tint; over the grand piano is thrown a cover of red velvet, gold embroidered. Portraits of artists and many costly trifles are scattered here and there. The young lady who acts as secretary happened to be in the room and spoke with enthusiasm of the singer's absorption in her work, her delight in it, her never failing energy and good spirits. "From the day I heard Miss Farrar sing I felt drawn to her and hoped the time would come when I could serve her in some way. I did not know then that it would be in this way. Her example is an inspiration to all who come in touch with her."
In a few moments Miss Farrar herself appeared, and the young girl withdrew.
And was this Farrar who stood before me, in the flush of vigorous womanhood, and who welcomed me so graciously? The first impression was one of friendliness and sincerity, which caused the artist for the moment to be forgotten in the unaffected simplicity of the woman.
Miss Farrar settled herself comfortably among the red silk cushions and was ready for our talk. The simplicity of manner was reflected in her words. She did not imply—there is only one right way, and I have found it. "These things seem best for my voice, and this is the way I work. But, since each voice is different, they might not fit any one else. I have no desire to lay down rules for others; I can only speak of my own experience."
THE QUESTION OF HEALTH
"And you would first know how I keep strong and well and always ready? Perhaps the answer is, I keep regular hours and habits, and love my work. I have always loved to sing, as far back as I can remember. Music means everything to me—it is my life. As a child and young girl, I was the despair of my playmates because I would not join their games; I did not care to skate, play croquet or tennis, or such things. I never wanted to exercise violently, and, to me, unnecessarily, because it interfered with my singing; took energy which I thought might be better applied. As I grew older I did not care to keep late hours and be in an atmosphere where people smoked and perhaps drank, for these things were bad for my voice and I could not do my work next day. My time is always regularly laid out. I rise at half past seven, and am ready to work at nine. I do not care to sit up late at night, either, for I think late hours react on the voice. Occasionally, if we have a few guests for dinner, I ask them, when ten thirty arrives, to stay as long as they wish and enjoy themselves, but I retire.
"There are gifted people who may be called natural born singers. Melba is one of these. Such singers do not require much technical practice, or if they need a little of it, half an hour a day is sufficient. I am not one of those who do not need to practice. I give between one and two hours daily to vocalizes, scales and tone study. But I love it! A scale is beautiful to me, if it is rightly sung. In fact it is not merely a succession of notes; it represents color. I always translate sound into color. It is a fascinating study to make different qualities of tonal color in the voice. Certain roles require an entirely different range of colors from others. One night I must sing a part with thick, heavy, rich tones; the next night my tones must be thinned out in quite another timbre of the voice, to fit an opposite character."
Asked if she can hear herself, Miss Farrar answered:
"No, I do not actually hear my voice, except in a general way; but we learn to know the sensations produced in muscles of throat, head, face, lips and other parts of the anatomy, which vibrate in a certain manner to correct tone production. We learn the feeling of the tone. Therefore every one, no matter how advanced, requires expert advice as to the results.
"I have studied for a long time with Lilli Lehmann in Berlin; in fact I might say she is almost my only teacher, though I did have some instruction before going to her, both in America and Paris. You see, I always sang, even as a very little girl. My mother has excellent taste and knowledge in music, and finding I was in danger of straining my voice through singing with those older than myself, she placed me with a vocal teacher when I was twelve, as a means of preservation.
"Lehmann is a wonderful teacher and an extraordinary woman as well. What art is there—what knowledge and understanding! What intensity there is in everything she does. She used to say: 'Remember, these four walls which inclose you, make a very different space to fill compared to an opera house; you must take this fact into consideration and study accordingly.' No one ever said a truer word. If one only studies or sings in a room or studio, one has no idea of what it means to fill a theater. It is a distinct branch of one's work to gain power and control and to adapt one's self to large spaces. One can only learn this by doing it.
"It is sometimes remarked by listeners at the opera, that we sing too loud, or that we scream. They surely never think of the great size of the stage, of the distance from the proscenium arch to the footlights, or from the arch to the first set of wings. They do not consider that within recent years the size of the orchestra has been largely increased, so that we are obliged to sing against this great number of instruments, which are making every possible kind of a noise except that of a siren. It is no wonder that we must make much effort to be heard: sometimes the effort may seem injudicious. The point we must consider is to make the greatest possible effect with the least possible exertion.
"Lehmann is the most painstaking, devoted teacher a young singer can have. It is proof of her excellent method and her perfect understanding of vocal mastery, that she is still able to sing in public, if not with her old-time power, yet with good tone quality. It shows what an artist she really is. I always went over to her every summer, until the war came. We would work together at her villa in Gruenewald, which you yourself know. Or we would go for a holiday down nearer Salzburg, and would work there. We always worked wherever we were.
"How do I memorize? I play the song or role through a number of times, concentrating on both words and music at once. I am a pianist anyway; and committing to memory is very easy for me. I was trained to learn by heart from the very start. When I sang my little songs at six years old, mother would never let me have any music before me: I must know my songs by heart. And so I learned them quite naturally. To me singing was like talking to people.
CONTRASTING COLORATURA AND DRAMATIC SINGING
"You ask me to explain the difference between the coloratura and the dramatic organ. I should say it is a difference of timbre. The coloratura voice is bright and brilliant in its higher portion, but becomes weaker and thinner as it descends; whereas the dramatic voice has a thicker, richer quality all through, especially in its lower register. The coloratura voice will sing upper C, and it will sound very high indeed. I might sing the same tone, but it would sound like A flat, because the tone would be of such totally different timbre.
TO THE YOUNG SINGER
"If I have any message to the young singer, it would be: Stick to your work and study systematically, whole-heartedly. If you do not love your work enough to give it your best thought, to make sacrifices for it, there is something wrong with you. Then choose some other line of work, to which you can give undivided attention and devotion. For music requires this. As for sacrifices, they really do not exist, if they promote the thing you honestly love most.
"Do not fancy you can properly prepare yourself in a short time to undertake a musical career, for the path is a long and arduous one. You must never stop studying, for there is always so much to learn. If I have sung a role a hundred times, I always find places that can be improved; indeed I never sing a role twice exactly in the same way. So, from whatever side you consider the singer's work and career, both are of absorbing interest.
"Another thing; do not worry, for that is bad for your voice. If you have not made this tone correctly, or sung that phrase to suit yourself, pass it over for the moment with a wave of the hand or a smile; but don't become discouraged. Go right on! I knew a beautiful American in Paris who possessed a lovely voice. But she had a very sensitive nature, which could not endure hard knocks. She began to worry over little failures and disappointments, with the result that in three years her voice was quite gone. We must not give way to disappointments, but conquer them, and keep right along the path we have started on.
"Modern music requires quite a different handling of the voice and makes entirely different demands upon it than does the older music. The old Italian operas required little or no action, only beautiful singing. The opera houses were smaller and so were the orchestras. The singer could stand still in the middle of the stage and pour out beautiful tones, with few movements of body to mar his serenity. But we, in these days, demand action as well as song. We need singing actors and actresses. The music is declamatory; the singer must throw his whole soul into his part, must act as well as sing. Things are all on a larger scale. It is a far greater strain on the voice to interpret one of the modern Italian operas than to sing one of those quietly beautiful works of the old school.
"America's growth in music has been marvelous on the appreciative and interpretive side. With such a musical awakening, we can look forward to the appearance of great creative genius right here in this country, perhaps in the near future. Why should we not expect it? We have not yet produced a composer who can write enduring operas or symphonies. MacDowell is our highest type as yet; but others will come who will carry the standard higher.
"The singer must be willing to admit limitations of voice and style and not attempt parts which do not come within the compass of her attainments. Neither is it wise to force the voice up or down when it seems a great effort to do so. We can all think of singers whose natural quality is mezzo—let us say—who try to force the voice up into a higher register. There is one artist of great dramatic gifts, who not content with the rich quality of her natural organ, tried to add several high notes to the upper portion. The result was disastrous. Again, some of our young singers who possess beautiful, sweet voices, should not force them to the utmost limit of power, simply to fill, or try to fill a great space. The life of the voice will be impaired by such injurious practice.
"What do I understand by vocal mastery? It is something very difficult to define. For a thing that is mastered must be really perfect. To master vocal art, the singer must have so developed his voice that it is under complete control; then he can do with it whatsoever he wishes. He must be able to produce all he desires of power, pianissimo, accent, shading, delicacy and variety of color. Who is equal to the task?"
Miss Farrar was silent a moment; then she said, answering her own question:
"I can think of but two people who honestly can be said to possess vocal mastery: they are Caruso and McCormack. Those who have only heard the latter do little Irish tunes, have no idea of what he is capable. I have heard him sing Mozart as no one else I know of can. These two artists have, through ceaseless application, won vocal mastery. It is something we are all striving for!"
MIND IS EVERYTHING
Mr. James Huneker, in one of his series of articles entitled "With the Immortals," in the New York World, thus, in his inimitable way characterizes Victor Maurel:
"I don't suppose there is to be found in musical annals such diversity of aptitudes as that displayed by this French baritone. Is there an actor on any stage to-day who can portray both the grossness of Falstaff and the subtlety of Iago? Making allowance for the different art medium that the singing actor must work in, and despite the larger curves of operatic pose and gesture, Maurel kept astonishingly near to the characters he assumed. He was Shakespearian; his Falstaff was the most wonderful I ever saw."
And then Iago: "In the Maurel conception, Othello's Ancient was not painted black in black—the heart of darkness, but with many nuances, many gradations. He was economical of gesture, playing on the jealous Moor as plays a skillfully handled bow upon a finely attuned violin. His was truly an objective characterization. His Don Giovanni was broadly designed. He was the aristocrat to the life, courtly, brave, amorous, intriguing, cruel, superstitious and quick to take offense. In his best estate, the drinking song was sheer virtuosity. Suffice to add that Verdi intrusted to him the task of "originating" two such widely sundered roles as Iago and Falstaff. An extraordinary artist!"
One evening we were discussing the merits of various famous singers of the past and present. My friend is an authority whose opinion I greatly respect. He is not only a singer himself but is rapidly becoming a singing master of renown.
After we had conferred for a long time, my friend summed it all up with the remark:
"You know who, in my opinion, is the greatest, the dean of them all, a past master of the art of song—Victor Maurel."
Did I not know! In times gone by had we not discussed by the hour every phase of Maurel's mastery of voice and action? Did we not together listen to that voice and watch with breathless interest his investiture of Don Giovanni, in the golden days when Lilli Lehmann and the De Reszkes took the other parts. Was there ever a more elegant courtly Don, a greater Falstaff, a more intriguing Iago?
In those youthful days, my friend's greatest ambition was to be able to sing and act like Maurel. To this end he labored unceasingly. Second only to this aim was another—to know the great baritone personally, to become his friend, to discuss the finest issues of art with him, to consult him and have the benefit of his experience. The consummation of this desire has been delayed for years, but it is one of the "all things" which will surely come to him who waits. Maurel is now once more on American soil, and doubtless intends remaining for a considerable period. My friend is also established in the metropolis. The two have met, not only once but many times—indeed they have become fast friends.
"I will take you to him," promised friend Jacque,—knowing my desire to meet the "grand old man"; "but don't ask for too many of his opinions about singers, as he does not care to be quoted."
Late one afternoon we arrived at his residence. At the moment he was in his music room, where, for the last hour he had been singing Falstaff! If we could only have been hidden away in some quiet corner to listen! He came running down the stairway with almost the agility of a boy, coming to meet us with simple dignity and courtesy. After the first greetings were over we begged permission to examine the many paintings which met the eye everywhere. There was a large panel facing us, representing a tall transparent vase, holding a careless bunch of summer flowers, very artistically handled. Near it hung an out-of-door sketch, a garden path leading into the green. Other bits of landscape still-life and portraits made up the collection. They had all been painted by the same artist—none other than Maurel himself. As we examined the flower panel, he came and stood by us.
"Painting is a great art," he said; "an art which requires profound study. I have been a close student of this art for many years and love it more and more."
"M. Maurel aims now to express himself through the art of color and form, as he has always done through voice and gesture," remarked my friend.
"Art is the highest means of expression," went on the master, "whether through music, painting, sculpture, architecture or the theater. The effort to express myself through another art-medium, painting, has long been a joy to me. I have studied with no teacher but myself, but I have learned from all the great masters; they have taught me everything."
He then led the way to his music room on the floor above. Here were more paintings, many rare pieces of furniture and his piano. A fine portrait of Verdi, with an affectionate autograph, stood on a table; one of Ambroise Thomas, likewise inscribed, hung near. "A serious man, almost austere," said Maurel, regarding the portrait of Verdi thoughtfully, "but one of the greatest masters of all time."
Praying us to be seated, he placed himself on an ottoman before us. The talk easily drifted into the subject of the modern operatic stage, and modern operas of the Italian school, in which one is so often tempted to shout rather than sing. The hero of Mozart's Don Giovanni, who could sing his music as perhaps no one else has ever done, would not be likely to have much patience with the modern style of explosive vocal utterance.
"How do you preserve your voice and your repertoire?" I questioned.
M. Maurel gazed before him thoughtfully.
"It is entirely through the mind that I keep both. I know so exactly how to produce tone qualities, that if I recall those sensations which accompany tone production, I can induce them at will. How do we make tones, sing an aria, impersonate a role? Is not all done with the mind, with thought? I must think the tone before I produce it—before I sing it; I must mentally visualize the character and determine how I will represent it, before I attempt it. I must identify myself with the character I am to portray before I can make it live. Does not then all come from thinking—from thought?
"Again: I can think out the character and make a mental picture of it for myself, but how shall I project it for others to see? I have to convince myself first that I am that character—I must identify myself with it; then I must convince those who hear me that I am really that character." Maurel rose and moved to the center of the room.
"I am to represent some character—Amonasro, let us say. I must present the captive King, bound with chains and brought before his captors. I must feel with him, if I am really going to represent him. I must believe myself bound and a prisoner; then I must, through pose and action, through expression of face, gesture, voice, everything—I must make this character real to the audience."
And as we looked, he assumed the pose of the man in chains, his hands seemed tied, his body bent, his expression one in which anger and revenge mingled; in effect, he was for the moment Amonasro.
"I have only made you see my mental concept of Amonasro. If I have once thoroughly worked out a conception, made it my own, then it is mine. I can create it at any moment. If I feel well and strong I can sing the part now in the same way as I have always sung it, because my thought is the same and thought produces. Whether I have a little more voice, or less voice, what does it matter? I can never lose my conception of a character, for it is in my mind, and mind projects it. So there is no reason to lose the voice, for that also is in mind and can be thought out at will.
"Suppose I have an opposite character to portray,—the elegant Don Giovanni, for example"; and drawing himself up and wrapping an imaginary cloak about him, with the old well-remembered courtly gesture, his face and manner were instantly transformed at the thought of his favorite character. He turned and smiled on us, his strong features lighted, and his whole appearance expressed the embodiment of Mozart's hero.
"You see I must have lived, so to say, in these characters and made them my own, or I could not recall them at a moment's notice. All impersonation, to be artistic, to be vital, must be a part of one's self; one must get into the character. When I sing Iago I am no longer myself—I am another person altogether; self is quite forgotten; I am Iago, for the time being.
"In Paris, at the Sorbonne, I gave a series of lectures; the first was on this very subject, the identification of one's self with the character to be portrayed. The large audience of about fifteen hundred, contained some of the most famous among artists and men of letters"; and Maurel, with hands clasped about his knee, gazed before him into space, and we knew he was picturing in mental vision, the scene at the Sorbonne, which he had just recalled.
After a moment, he resumed. "The singer, though trying to act out the character he assumes, must not forget to sing. The combination of fine singing and fine acting is rare. Nowadays people think if they can act, that atones for inartistic singing; then they yield to the temptation to shout, to make harsh tones, simply for effect." And the famous baritone caricatured some of the sounds he had recently heard at an operatic performance with such gusto, that a member of the household came running in from an adjoining room, thinking there must have been an accident and the master of the house was calling for help. He hastily assured her all was well—no one was hurt; then we all had a hearty laugh over the little incident.
And now we begged to be allowed to visit the atelier, where the versatile artist worked out his pictures. He protested that it was in disorder, that he would not dare to take us up, and so on. After a little he yielded to persuasion, saying, however, he would go up first and arrange the room a little. As soon as he had left us my friend turned to me:
"What a remarkable man! So strong and vigorous, in spite of his advanced age. No doubt he travels those stairs twenty times a day. He is as alert as a young man; doubtless he still has his voice, as he says. And what a career he has had. You know he was a friend of Edward the Seventh; they once lived together. Then he and Verdi were close friends; he helped coach singers for Verdi's operas. He says it was a wonderful experience, when the composer sat down at the piano, put his hands on the keys and showed the singers how he wanted his music sung!
"Early in his career Maurel sang in Verdi's opera, Simone Boccanegra, which one never hears now, but it has a fine baritone part, and a couple of very dramatic scenes, especially the final scene at the close. This is the death scene. Maurel had sung and acted so wonderfully on a certain occasion that all the singers about him were in tears. Verdi was present at this performance and was deeply moved by Maurel's singing and acting. He came upon the stage when all was over, and exclaimed, in a voice trembling with emotion: 'You have created the role just as I would have it; I shall write an opera especially for you!' This he did; it was Othello, and the Iago was composed for Maurel. In his later years, when he seldom left his home, the aged composer several times expressed the wish that he might go to Paris, just to hear Maurel sing once more.
"It is very interesting that he was led to speak to us as he did just now, about mental control, and the part played by mind in the singer's study, equipment and career. It is a side of the question which every young singer must seriously consider, first, last and always. But here he comes."
Again protesting about the appearance of his simple studio, the master led the way up the stairways till we reached the top of the house, where a north-lighted room had been turned into a painter's atelier. With mingled feelings we stepped within this modest den of a great artist, which held his treasures. These were never shown to the casual observer, nor to the merely curious; they were reserved for the trusted few.
The walls were lined with sketches; heads, still life, landscapes, all subjects alike interested the painter. A rugged bust of Verdi, over life size, modeled in plaster, stood in one corner. On an easel rested a spirited portrait of Maurel, done by himself.
"My friends tell me I should have a larger studio, with better light; but I am content with this, for here is quiet and here I can be alone, free to commune with myself. Here I can study my art undisturbed,—for Art is my religion. If people ask if I go to church, I say No, but I worship the immortality which is within, which I feel in my soul, the reflection of the Almighty!"
In quiet mood a little later we descended the white stairway and passed along the corridors of this house, which looks so foreign to American eyes, and has the atmosphere of a Paris home.
The artist accompanied us to the street door and bade us farewell, in his kindly dignified manner.
As the door closed and we were in the street, my friend said:
"A wonderful man and a rare artist. Where shall we find his like to-day?"
A VISIT TO MME. LILLI LEHMANN
A number of years before the great war, a party of us were spending a few weeks in Berlin. It was midsummer; the city, filled as it was for one of us at least, with dear memories of student days, was in most alluring mood. Flowers bloomed along every balcony, vines festooned themselves from windows and doorways, as well as from many unexpected corners. The parks, large and small, which are the delight of a great city, were at their best and greenest—gay with color. Many profitable hours were spent wandering through the galleries and museums, hearing concerts and opera, and visiting the old quarters of the city, so picturesque and full of memories.
Two of us, who were musicians, were anxious to meet the famous dramatic soprano, Lilli Lehmann, who was living quietly in one of the suburbs of the city. Notes were exchanged, and on a certain day we were bidden to come, out of the regular hours for visitors, by "special exception."
How well I remember the drive through the newer residential section of Berlin. The path before long led us through country estates, past beautifully kept gardens and orchards. Our destination was the little suburb of Gruenewald, itself like a big garden, with villas nestling close to each other, usually set back from the quiet, shaded streets. Some of the villas had iron gratings along the pathway, through which one saw gay flowers and garden walks, often statuary and fountains. Other homes were secluded from the street by high brick walls, frequently decorated on top by urns holding flowers and drooping vines.
Behind such a picturesque barrier, we found the gateway which led to Mme. Lehmann's cottage. We rang and soon a trim maid came to undo the iron gate. The few steps leading to the house door did not face us as we entered the inclosure, but led up from the side. We wanted to linger and admire the shrubs and flowering plants, but the maid hastened before us so we had to follow.
From the wide entrance hall doors led into rooms on either hand. We were shown into a salon on the left, and bidden to await Madame's coming.
In the few moments of restful quiet before she entered, we had time to glance over this sanctum of a great artist. To say it was filled with mementos and objets d'art hardly expresses the sense of repleteness. Every square foot was occupied by some treasure. Let the eye travel around the room. At the left, as one entered the doorway, stood a fine bust of the artist, chiseled in pure white marble, supported on a pedestal of black marble. Then came three long, French windows, opening into a green garden. Across the farther window stood a grand piano, loaded with music. At the further end of the room, if memory serves, hung a large, full length portrait of the artist herself. A writing desk, laden with souvenirs, stood near. On the opposite side a divan covered with rich brocade; more paintings on the walls, one very large landscape by a celebrated German painter.
Before we could note further details, Mme. Lehmann stood in the doorway, then came forward and greeted us cordially.
How often I had seen her impersonate her great roles, both in Germany and America. They were always of some queenly character. Could it be possible this was the famous Lehmann, this simple housewife, in black skirt and white blouse, with a little apron as badge of home keeping. But there was the stately tread, the grand manner, the graceful movement. What mattered if the silver hair were drawn back severely from the face; there was the dignity of expression, classic features, penetrating glance and mobile mouth I remembered.
After chatting a short time and asking many questions about America, where her experiences had been so pleasant, our talk was interrupted, for a little, by a voice trial, which Madame had agreed to give. Many young singers, from everywhere, were anxious to have expert judgment on their progress or attainments, so Lehmann was often appealed to and gave frequent auditions of this kind. The fee was considerable, but she never kept a penny of it for herself; it all went to one of her favorite charities. The young girl who on this day presented herself for the ordeal was an American, who, it seemed, had not carried her studies very far.
EXAMINING A PUPIL
Mme. Lehmann seated herself at the piano and asked for scales and vocalizes. The young girl, either from fright or poor training, did not make a very fortunate impression. She could not seem to bring out a single pure steady tone, much less sing scales acceptably.
Madame with a resigned look finally asked for a song, which was given. It was a little song of Franz, I remember. Then Lehmann wheeled around on the stool and said to us, in German:
"The girl cannot sing—she has little or no voice to begin with, and has not been rightly trained." Then to the young girl she said, kindly, in English:
"My dear young lady, you have almost everything to learn about singing, for as yet you cannot even sing one tone correctly; you cannot even speak correctly. First of all you need physical development; you must broaden your chest through breathing exercises; you are too thin chested. You must become physically stronger if you ever hope to sing acceptably. Then you must study diction and languages. This is absolutely necessary for the singer. Above all you must know how to pronounce and sing in your own language. So many do not think it necessary to study their own language; they think they know that already; but one's mother tongue requires study as well as any other language.
"The trouble with American girls is they are always in a hurry. They are not content to sit down quietly and study till they have developed themselves into something before they ever think of coming to Europe. They think if they can just come over here and sing for an artist, that fact alone will give them prestige in America. But that gives them quite the opposite reputation over here. American girls are too often looked upon as superficial, because they come over here quite unprepared. I say to all of them, as I say to you: Go home and study; there are plenty of good teachers of voice and piano in your own land. Then, when you can sing, come over here, if you wish; but do not come until you are prepared."
After this little episode, we continued our talk for a while longer. Then, fearing to trespass on her time, we rose to leave. She came to the door with us, followed us down the steps into the front garden, and held the gate open for us, when we finally left. We had already expressed the hope that she might be able to return to America, at no very distant day, and repeat her former triumphs there. Her fine face lighted at the thought, and her last words to us were, as she held open the little iron wicket. "I have a great desire to go to your country again; perhaps, in a year or two—who knows—I may be able to do it."
She stood there, a noble, commanding figure, framed in the green of her garden, and waved her handkerchief, till our cab turned a corner, and she was lost to our view.
THE MOZART FESTIVAL
Several years later, a year before the world war started, to be exact, we had the pleasure of meeting the artist again, and this time, of hearing her sing.
It was the occasion of the Mozart Festival in Salzburg. It is well known that Lehmann, devoted as she has always been to the genius of Mozart, and one of the greatest interpreters of his music, had thrown her whole energy into the founding of a suitable memorial to the master in his native city. This memorial was to consist of a large music school, a concert hall and home for opera. The Mozarteum was not yet completed, but a Festival was held each year in Salzburg, to aid the project. Madame Lehmann was always present and sang on these occasions.
We timed our visit to Mozart's birthplace, so that we should be able to attend the Festival, which lasted as usual five days. The concerts were held in the Aula Academica, a fine Saal in the old picturesque quarter of the city.
At the opening concert, Lehmann sang a long, difficult Concert Aria of Mozart. We could not help wondering, before she began, how time had treated this great organ; whether we should be able to recognize the famous Lehmann who had formerly taken such high rank as singer and interpreter in America. We need not have feared that the voice had become impaired. Or, if it had been, it had become rejuvenated on this occasion. Mme. Lehmann sang with all her well-remembered power and fervor, all her exaltation of spirit, and of course she had a great ovation at the close. She looked like a queen in ivory satin and rare old lace, with jewels on neck, arms and in her silver hair. In the auditorium, three arm chairs had been placed in front of the platform. The Arch-duke, Prince Eugen, the royal patron of the Festival, occupied one. When Madame Lehmann had finished her Aria, she stepped down from the platform. The Prince rose at once and went to meet her. She gave him her hand with a graceful curtesy and he led her to the armchair next his own, which had evidently been placed in position for her special use.
At the close of the concert we had a brief chat with her. The next day she was present at the morning concert. This time she was gowned in black, with an ermine cape thrown over her shoulders. The Arch-duke sat beside her in the arm chair, as he had done the evening before. We had a bow and smile as she passed down the aisle.
We trust the Mozarteum in Salzburg, for which Mme. Lehmann has labored with such devotion, will one day fulfill its noble mission.
LEHMANN THE TEACHER
As a teacher of the art of singing Madame Lehmann has long been a recognized authority, and many artists now actively before the public, have come from under her capable hands. Her book, "How to Sing,"—rendered in English by Richard Aldrich—(Macmillan) has illumined the path, for many a serious student who seeks light on that strange, wonderful, hidden instrument—the voice. Madame Lehmann, by means of many explanations and numerous plates, endeavors to make clear to the young student how to begin and how to proceed in her vocal studies.
On the important subject of breathing she says: "No one can sing without preparing for it mentally and physically. It is not enough to sing well, one must know how one does it. I practice many breathing exercises without using tone. Breath becomes voice through effort of will and by use of vocal organs. When singing emit the smallest quantity of breath. Vocal chords are breath regulators; relieve them of all overwork.
"At the start a young voice should be taught to begin in the middle and work both ways—that is, up and down. A tone should never be forced. Begin piano, make a long crescendo and return to piano. Another exercise employs two connecting half tones, using one or two vowels. During practice stand before a mirror, that one may see what one is doing. Practice about one hour daily. Better that amount each day than ten hours one day and none the next. The test will be; do you feel rested and ready for work each morning? If not you have done too much the day before."
In regard to registers Madame Lehmann has this to say: "In the formation of the voice no registers should exist or be created. As long as the word is kept in use, registers will not disappear."
In spite of the fact there are many drawings and plates illustrating the various organs of head and throat which are used in singing, Madame Lehmann says:
"The singer is often worried about questions of physiology, whereas she need—must—know little about it.
THE NASAL QUALITY
"The singer must have some nasal quality, otherwise the voice sounds colorless and expressionless. We must sing toward the nose: (not necessarily through the nose).
"For many ills of the voice and tone production, I use long, slow scales. They are an infallible cure.
USE OF THE LIPS
"The lips play a large part in producing variety of tone quality. Each vowel, every word can be colored, as by magic, by well controlled play of the lips. When lips are stiff and unresponsive, the singing is colorless. Lips are final resonators, through which tones must pass, and lip movements can be varied in every conceivable manner."
POWER AND VELOCITY
She humorously writes: "Singers without power and velocity are like horses without tails. For velocity, practice figures of five, six, seven and eight notes, first slowly, then faster and faster, up and down."
SELF-TEACHING THE GREAT ESSENTIAL
No singer can rise to any distinction without the severest kind of self-discipline and hard work. This is the testimony of all the great vocalists of our time—of any time. This is the message they send back from the mountain top of victory to the younger ones who are striving to acquire the mastery they have achieved. Work, work and again—work! And if you have gained even a slight foothold on the hill of fame, then work to keep your place. Above all, be not satisfied with your present progress,—strive for more perfection. There are heights you have not gained—higher up! There are joys for you—higher up, if you will but labor to reach them.
Perhaps there is no singer who more thoroughly believes in the gospel of work, and surely not one who more consistently practices what she preaches, than Amelita Galli-Curci. She knows the value of work, and she loves it for its own sake. There is no long cessation for her, during summer months, "to rest her voice." There is no half-day seclusion after a performance, to recover from the fatigue of singing a role the night before. No, for her this event does not spell exhaustion but happiness, exhilaration. It is a pleasure to sing because it is not wearisome—it is a part of herself. And she enjoys the doing! Thus it happens that the morning after a performance, she is up and abroad betimes, ready to attend personally to the many calls upon her time and attention. She can use her speaking voice without fear, because she has never done anything to strain it; she is usually strong and well, buoyant and bright. Those soft, dark eyes are wells of intelligent thinking; the mouth smiles engagingly as she speaks; the slight figure is full of life and energy. Yet there is a deep sense of calm in her presence. A brave, bright spirit; a great, wonderful artist!
These thoughts faintly glimpse my first impression of Mme. Galli-Curci, as she entered her big, sunny parlor, where I was waiting to see her. Her delicate, oval face was aglow with the flush of healthful exercise, for she had just come in from a shopping expedition and the wintry air was keen. "I love to go shopping," she explained, "so I always do it myself."
She bade me sit beside her on a comfortable divan, and at once began to speak of the things I most wished to hear.
"I am often asked," she began, "to describe how I create this or that effect, how I produce such and such tones, how I make the voice float to the farthest corner, and so on. I answer, that is my secret. In reality it is no secret at all, at least not to any one who has solved the problem. Any one possessing a voice and intelligence, can acquire these things, who knows how to go to work to get them. But if one has no notion of the process, no amount of mere talking will make it plain. Singing an opera role seems such an easy thing from the other side of the footlights. People seem to think, if you only know how to sing, it is perfectly natural and easy for you to impersonate a great lyric role. And the more mastery you have, the easier they think it is to do it. The real truth of the matter is that it requires years and years of study—constant study, to learn how to sing, before attempting a big part in opera.
"There are so many organs of the body that are concerned in the process of breathing and tone production; and most of these organs must be, if not always, yet much of the time, relaxed and in an easy pliable condition when you sing. There is the diaphragm—then the throat, larynx, the lungs, nose, lips—all of them help to make the tone. Perhaps I might say the larynx is the most important factor of all. If you can manage that, you have the secret. But no human being can tell you exactly how to do it. Some singers before the public to-day have no notion of how to manage this portion of their anatomy. Others may do so occasionally, but it may only be by accident. They sometimes stumble upon the principle, but not understanding how they did so, they cannot reproduce the desired effects at will. The singer who understands her business must know just how she produces tones and vocal effects. She can then do them at all times, under adverse circumstances, even when nervous, or not in the mood, or indisposed.
"How did I learn to know these things? By constant study, by constant listening—for I have very keen ears—by learning the sensations produced in throat and larynx when I made tones that were correctly placed, were pleasing and at the same time made the effects I was seeking.
"Milan is my home city—beautiful Milano under the blue Italian skies, the bluest in the world. As a young girl, the daughter of well-to-do parents, I studied piano at the Royal Conservatory there, and also musical theory and counterpoint. I shall ever be grateful I started in this way, with a thorough musical foundation, for it has always been of great advantage to me in further study. When my father met with reverses, I made good use of my pianistic training by giving piano lessons and making a very fair income for a young girl.
"But I longed to sing! Is it not the birthright of every Italian to have a voice? I began to realize I had a voice which might be cultivated. I had always sung a little—every one does; song is the natural, spontaneous expression of our people. But I wished to do more—to express myself in song. So I began to teach myself by singing scales and vocalizes between my piano lessons. Meanwhile I studied all the books on singing I could lay hands on, and then tried to put the principles I learned in this way in practice. In trying to do this I had to find out everything for myself. And that is why I know them! I know exactly what I am about when I sing, I know what muscles are being used, and in what condition they ought to be; what parts of the anatomy are called into action and why. Nature has given me two great gifts, a voice and good health; for both these gifts I am deeply grateful. The first I have developed through arduous toil; the second I endeavor to preserve through careful living, regular hours and plenty of exercise in the fresh air. I have developed the voice and trained it in the way that seemed to me best for it. There are as many kinds of voices as there are persons; it seems to me each voice should be treated in the way best suited to its possessor. How can any other person tell you how that should be done?" And the singer gave me a bright look, and made a pretty deprecating gesture. "You yourself must have the intelligence to understand your own case and learn how to treat it.
NEVER STRAIN THE VOICE
"A singer who would keep her voice in the best condition, should constantly and reasonably exercise it. I always do a half hour or so of exercises, vocalizes and scales every morning; these are never neglected. But I never do anything to strain the voice in any way. We are told many fallacies by vocal teachers. One is that the diaphragm must be held firmly in order to give support to the tone. It seems to me this is a serious mistake. I keep the diaphragm relaxed. Thus tone production, in my case, is made at all times with ease; there is never any strain. You ask if it is not very fatiguing to sing against a large orchestra, as we have to, and with a temperamental conductor, like Marinuzzi, for instance, I do not find it so; there is a pure, clear tone, which by its quality, placement and ease of production, will carry farther than mere power ever can. It can be heard above a great orchestra, and it gets over.
USE OF THE VOWELS
"Young singers ask me what vowels to use in vocal practice. In my own study I use them all. Of course some are more valuable than others. The O is good, the E needs great care; the Ah is the most difficult of all. I am aware this is contrary to the general idea. But I maintain that the Ah is most difficult; for if you overdo it and the lips are too wide apart, the result is a white tone. And on the other hand, if the lips are nearer—or too near together, or are not managed rightly, stiffness or a throaty quality is apt to result; then the tone cannot 'float.' I have found the best way is to use the mixed vowels, one melting into the other. The tone can be started with each vowel in turn, and then mingled with the rest of the vowels. Do you know, the feathered songster I love best—the nightingale—uses the mixed vowels too. Ah, how much I have learned from him and from other birds also! Some of them have harsh tones—real quacks—because they open their bills too far, or in a special way. But the nightingale has such a lovely dark tone, a 'covered tone,' which goes to the heart. It has the most exquisite quality in the world. I have learned much from the birds, about what not to do and what to do.
"In taking up a new role I begin with the story, the libretto, so I may first learn what it is about, its meaning and psychology. I take it to bed with me, or have it by me if lying down, because I understand musical composition and can get a clear idea of the composer's meaning without going to the instrument. After a short time I begin to work it out at the piano, in detail, words and music together. For a great role like the Somnambula or Traviata, I must spend three or four years, perhaps more, in preparation, before bringing it to public performance. It takes a long time to master thoroughly an operatic role, to work it out from all sides, the singing, the acting, the characterization. To the lay mind, if you can sing, you can easily act a part and also memorize it. They little know the labor which must be bestowed on that same role before it can be presented in such a shape as to be adequate, in a way that will get it across. It does not go in a few weeks or even months; it is the work of years. And even then it is never really finished, for it can always be improved with more study, with more care and thought.
THE NECESSITY FOR LANGUAGES
"We hear much about need for study of languages by the singer, and indeed too much stress cannot be placed on this branch of the work. I realize that in America it is perhaps more difficult to impress people with this necessity, as they have not the same need to use other languages in every day life. The singer can always be considered fortunate who has been brought up from earliest years to more than one language. My mother was Spanish, my father Italian, so this gave me both languages at home. Then in school I learned French, German and English, not only a little smattering of each, but how to write and speak them."
"You certainly have mastered English remarkably well," I could not help remarking, for she was speaking with great fluency, and with hardly any accent. This seemed to please her, for she gave me one of those flashing smiles.
COLORATURA AND DRAMATIC
"Would you be pleased," I asked, "if later on your voice should develop into a dramatic soprano?"
Mme. Galli-Curci thought an instant.
"No," she said, "I think I would rather keep the voice I have. I heartily admire the dramatic voice and the roles it can sing. Raisa's voice is for me the most beautiful I know. But after all I think, for myself, I prefer the lyric and coloratura parts, they are so beautiful. The old Italian composers knew well how to write for the voice. Their music has beauty, it has melody, and melodic beauty will always make its appeal. And the older Italian music is built up not only of melody and fioriture, but is also dramatic. For these qualities can combine, and do so in the last act of Traviata, which is so full of deep feeling and pathos.
"Perhaps, in Vocal Mastery, the greatest factor of all is the breathing. To control the breath is what each student is striving to learn, what every singer endeavors to perfect, what every artist should master. It is an almost endless study and an individual one, because each organism and mentality is different. Here, as in everything else, perfect ease and naturalness are to be maintained, if the divine song which is the singer's concept of beauty, is to be 'floated on the breath,' and its merest whisper heard to the farthest corner of the gallery.
THE MATTER IN A NUTSHELL
"To sum up then, the three requirements of vocal mastery are: a, Management of the Larynx; b, Relaxation of the Diaphragm; c, Control of the Breath. To these might be added a fourth; Mixed Vowels.
"But when all these are mastered, what then? Ah, so much more it can never be put into words. It is self-expression through the medium of tone, for tone must always be a vital part of the singer's individuality, colored by feeling and emotion. Tone is the outlet, the expression of all one has felt, suffered and enjoyed. To perfect one's own instrument, one's medium of expression, must always be the singer's joy and satisfaction."
"And you will surely rest when the arduous season is over?"
"Yes, I will rest when the summer comes, and will return to Italy this year. But even though I seem to rest, I never neglect my vocal practice; that duty and pleasure is always performed."
And with a charming smile and clasp of the hand, she said adieu.
GIUSEPPE DE LUCA
CEASELESS EFFORT NECESSARY FOR ARTISTIC PERFECTION
"A Roman of Rome" is what Mr. Giuseppe De Luca has been named. The very words themselves call up all kinds of enchanting pictures. Sunny Italy is the natural home of beautiful voices: they are her birthright. Her blue sky, flowers and olive trees—her old palaces, hoary with age and romantic story, her fountains and marbles, her wonderful treasures of art, set her in a world apart, in the popular mind. Everything coming from Italy has the right to be romantic and artistic. If it happens to be a voice, it should of necessity be beautiful in quality, rich, smooth, and well trained.
While all singers who come from the sunny land cannot boast all these qualifications, Mr. De Luca, baritone of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, can do so. Gifted with a naturally fine organ, he has cultivated it arduously and to excellent purpose. He began to study in early youth, became a student of Saint Cecilia in Rome when fifteen years of age, and made his debut at about twenty. He has sung in opera ever since.
In 1915,—November 25th to be exact—De Luca came to the Metropolitan, and won instant recognition from critics and public alike. It is said of him that he earned "this success by earnest and intelligent work. Painstaking to a degree, there is no detail of his art that he neglects or slights—so that one hesitates to decide whether he is greater as a singer or as an actor." Perhaps, however, his most important quality is his mastery of "bel canto"—pure singing—that art which seems to become constantly rarer on the operatic and concert stage.
"De Luca does such beautiful, finished work; every detail is carefully thought out until it is as perfect as can be." So remarked a member of the Metropolitan, and a fellow artist.
Those who have listened to the Roman baritone in the various roles he has assumed, have enjoyed his fine voice, his true bel canto style, and his versatile dramatic skill. He has never disappointed his public, and more than this, is ever ready to step into the breach should necessity arise.
A man who has at least a hundred and twenty operas at his tongue's end, who has been singing in the greatest opera houses of the world for more than twenty years, will surely have much to tell which can help those who are farther down the line. If he is willing to do so, can speak the vernacular, and can spare a brief hour from the rush of constant study and engagement, a conference will be possible. It was possible, for time was made for it.
THE MUSICAL GIFT
Mr. De Luca, who speaks the English language remarkably well, greeted the writer with easy courtesy. His genial manner makes one feel at home immediately. Although he had just come from the Opera House, where he had sung an important role, he seemed as fresh and rested as though nothing had happened.
"I think the ability to act, and also, in a measure, to sing, is a gift," began the artist. "I remember, even as a little child, I was always acting out in pantomime or mimicry what I had seen and felt. If I was taken to the theater, I would come home, place a chair for audience, and act out the whole story I had just seen before it. From my youngest years I always wanted to sing and act.
A REMARKABLE TEACHER
"As early as I could, at about the age of fifteen, I began to study singing, with a most excellent teacher; who was none other than Signor Wenceslao Persischini, who is now no longer living. He trained no fewer than seventy-four artists, of which I was the last. Battestini, that wonderful singer, whose voice to-day, at the age of sixty-five, is as remarkable as ever, is one of his pupils. We know that if a vocal teacher sings himself, and has faults, his pupils are bound to copy those faults instinctively and unconsciously. With Persischini this could not be the case; for, owing to some throat trouble, he was not able to sing at all. He could only whisper the tones he wanted, accompanying them with signs and facial grimaces." And Mr. De Luca illustrated these points in most amusing fashion. Then he continued:
"But he had unerring judgment, together with the finest ear. He knew perfectly how the tone should be sung and the student was obliged to do it exactly right and must keep at it till it was right. He would let nothing faulty pass without correction. I also had lessons in acting from Madame Marini, a very good teacher of the art.
THE ARTIST LIFE
"After five years of hard study I made my debut at Piacenza, as Valentine, in Faust, November 6th, 1897. Then, you may remember, I came to the Metropolitan in the season of 1915-1916, where I have been singing continually ever since.
"The artist should have good health, that he may be always able to sing. He owes this to his public, to be always ready, never to disappoint. I think I have never disappointed an audience and have always been in good voice. It seems to me when one is no longer able to do one's best it is time to stop singing."
"It is because you study constantly and systematically that you are always in good voice."
"Yes, I am always at work. I rise at eight in the morning, not later. Vocalizes are never neglected. I often sing them as I take my bath. Some singers do not see the necessity of doing exercises every day; I am not one of those. I always sing my scales, first with full power, then taking each tone softly, swelling to full strength, then dying away—in mezza voce. I use many other exercises also—employing full power. English is also one of the daily studies, with lessons three times a week.
CONSTANTLY ON THE WATCH
"When singing a role, I am always listening—watching—to be conscious of just what I am doing. I am always criticizing myself. If a tone or a phrase does not sound quite correct to me as to placement, or production, I try to correct the fault at once. I can tell just how I am singing a tone or phrase by the feeling and sensation. Of course I cannot hear the full effect; no singer ever can actually hear the effect of his work, except on the records. There he can learn, for the first time, just how his voice sounds.
LEARNING A NEW ROLE
"How do I begin a new part? I first read over the words and try to get a general idea of their meaning, and how I would express the ideas. I try over the arias and get an idea of those. Then comes the real work—the memorizing and working out the conception. I first commit the words, and know them so well I can write them out. Next I join them to the music. So far I have worked by myself. After this much has been done, I call in the accompanist, as I do not play the piano very well; that is to say, my right hand will go but the left lags behind!
ALWAYS BEING SURE OF THE WORDS
"Yes, as you say, it requires constant study to keep the various roles in review, especially at the Metropolitan, where the operas are changed from day to day. Of course at performance the prompter is always there to give the cue—yet the words must always be in mind. I have never yet forgotten a word or phrase. On one occasion—it was in the Damnation of Faust, a part I had already sung a number of times—I thought of a word that was coming, and seemed utterly unable to remember it. I grew quite cold with fear—I am inclined to be a little nervous anyway—but it was quite impossible to think of the word. Luckily at the moment when I needed the word I was so fearful about, it suddenly came to me.
"Of course there is always anxiety for the artist with every public appearance. There is so much responsibility—one must always be at one's best; and the responsibility increases as one advances, and begins to realize more and more keenly how much is expected and what depends on one's efforts. I can assure you we all feel this, from the least to the greatest. The most famous singers perhaps suffer most keenly.
"I have always sung in Italian opera, in which the language is easy for me. Latterly I have added French operas to my list. Samson and Delilah, which I had always done in Italian, I had to relearn in French; this for me was very difficult. I worked a long time on it, but mastered it at last.
"This is my twenty-second season in opera. I have a repertoire of about one hundred and twenty roles, in most of which I have sung many times in Italy. Some I wish might be brought out at the Metropolitan. Verdi's Don Carlos, for instance, has a beautiful baritone part; it is really one of the fine operas, though it might be considered a bit old-fashioned to-day. Still I think it would be a success here. I am preparing several new parts for this season; one of them is the Tschaikowsky work—Eugene Onegin. So you see I am constantly at work.
"My favorite operas? I think they are these"; and Mr. De Luca hastily jotted down the following: Don Carlos, Don Giovanni, Hamlet, Rigoletto, Barbier, Damnation of Faust, and last, but not least, Tannhauser.
GROWTH OF MUSICAL APPRECIATION IN AMERICA
Asked if he considered appreciation for music had advanced during his residence in America, his answer was emphatically in the affirmative.
"The other evening I attended a reception of representative American society, among whom were many frequenters of the Metropolitan. Many of them spoke to me of the opera Marouf. I was surprised, for this modern French opera belongs to the new idiom, and is difficult to understand. 'Do you really like the music of Marouf?' I asked. 'Oh, yes indeed,' every one said. It is one of my longest parts, but not one of my special favorites.
"In the summer! Ah, I go back to my beloved Italy almost as soon as the Metropolitan season closes. I could sing in Buenos Aires, as the season there follows the one here. But I prefer to rest the whole time until I return. I feel the singer needs a period of rest each year. To show you how necessary it is for the singer to do daily work on the voice, I almost feel I cannot sing at all during the summer, as I do no practicing, and without vocalizes one cannot keep in trim. If I am asked to sing during vacation, I generally refuse. I tell them I cannot sing, for I do not practice. It takes me a little while after I return, to get the vocal apparatus in shape again.
"Thus it means constant study, eternal vigilance to attain the goal, then to hold what you have attained and advance beyond it if possible."
THE COLORATURA VOICE
Luisa Tetrazzini has been called the greatest exponent of coloratura singing that we have at the present time. Her phenomenal successes in various quarters of the globe, where she has been heard in both opera and concert, are well known, and form pages of musical history, full of interest. This remarkable voice, of exquisite quality and development, is another proof that we have as beautiful voices to-day, if we will but realize the fact, as were ever known or heard of in the days of famous Italian songsters.
Portraits often belie the artist, by accentuating, unduly, some individuality of face or figure, and Tetrazzini is no exception. From her pictures one would expect to find one of the imperious, dominating order of prima donnas of the old school. When I met the diva, I was at once struck by the simplicity of her appearance and attire. There was nothing pompous about her; she did not carry herself with the air of one conscious of possessing something admired and sought after by all the world, something which set her on a high pedestal apart from other singers. Not at all. I saw a little lady of plump, comfortable figure, a face which beamed with kindliness and good humor, a mouth wreathed with smiles. Her manner and speech were equally simple and cordial, so that the visitor was put at ease at once, and felt she had known the great singer for years.
Before the conference could begin a pretty episode happened, which showed the human side of the singer's character, and gave a glimpse into her every day life. Mme. Tetrazzini was a little late for her appointment, as she had been out on a shopping expedition, an occupation which she greatly enjoys. Awaiting her return was a group of photographers, who had arranged their apparatus, mirrors and flash-light screen, even to the piano stool on which the singer was to be placed. She took in the situation at a glance, as she entered, and obediently gave herself into the hands of the picture makers.
"Ah, you wish to make me beautiful," she exclaimed, with her pretty accent; "I am not beautiful, but you may try to make me look so." With patience she assumed the required poses, put her head on this side or that, drew her furs closer about her or allowed them to fall away from the white throat, with its single string of pearls. The onlooker suggested she be snapped with a little black "Pom," who had found his way into the room and was now an interested spectator, on his vantage ground, a big sofa. So little "Joy" was gathered up and held in affectionate, motherly arms, close against his mistress' face. It was all very human and natural, and gave another side to the singer's character from the side she shows to the public.
At last the ordeal was over, and Madame was free to leave her post and sit in one of the arm chairs, where she could be a little more comfortable. The secretary was also near, to be appealed to when she could not make herself intelligible in English. "My English is very bad," she protested; "I have not the time now to learn it properly; that is why I speak it so very bad. In the summer, or next year, I will really learn it. Now, what is it I can tell you? I am ready."
FOR THE DEBUTANTE
To ask such a natural born singer how she studies and works, is like asking the fish swimming about in the ocean, to tell you where is the sea! She could not tell you how she does it. Singing is as the breath of life to Tetrazzini—as natural as the air she breathes. Realizing this, I began at the other end.
"What message have you, Madame, for the young singer, who desires to make a career?"
"Ah, yes, the debutante. Tell her she must practice much—very much—" and Madame spread out her hands to indicate it was a large subject; "she must practice several hours every day. I had to practice very much when I began my study—when I was sixteen; but now I do not have to spend much time on scales and exercises; they pretty well go of themselves"; and she smiled sweetly.
"You say," she continued, "the debutante—the young singer—does not know—in America—how much she needs the foreign languages. But she should learn them. She should study French, Italian and Spanish, and know how to speak them. Because, if she should travel to those countries, she must make herself understood, and she must be able to sing in those languages, too.
"Besides the languages, it is very good for her to study piano also; she need not know it so well as if she would be a pianist, but she should know it a little; yet it is better to know more of the piano—it will make her a better musician."
THE COLORATURA VOICE
"You love the coloratura music, do you not, Madame?"
"Ah, yes, I love the coloratura,—it suits me; I have always studied for that—I know all the old Italian operas. For the coloratura music you must make the voice sound high and sweet—like a bird—singing and soaring. You think my voice sounds something like Patti's? Maybe. She said so herself. Ah, Patti was my dear friend—my very dear friend—I loved her dearly. She only sang the coloratura music, though she loved Wagner and dramatic music. Not long before she died she said to me: 'Luisa, always keep to the coloratura music, and the beautiful bel canto singing; do nothing to strain your voice; preserve its velvety quality.' Patti's voice went to C sharp, in later years; mine has several tones higher. In the great aria in Lucia, she used to substitute a trill at the end instead of the top notes; but she said to me—'Luisa, you can sing the high notes!'"
"Then the breathing, Madame, what would you say of that?"
"Ah, the breathing, that is very important indeed. You must breathe from here, you know—what you call it—from the diaphragm, and from both sides; it is like a bellows, going in and out," and she touched the portions referred to. "One does not sing from the chest,—that would make queer, harsh tones." She sang a few tones just to show how harsh they would be.
"You have shown such wonderful breath control in the way you sustain high tones, beginning them softly, swelling then diminishing them."