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Title: Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing
Author: Caruso, Enrico, 1873-1921, Tetrazzini, Luisa, 1871-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Metropolitan Company, Publishers, New York, 1909.


In offering this work to the public the publishers wish to lay before
those who sing or who are about to study singing, the simple,
fundamental rules of the art based on common sense. The two greatest
living exponents of the art of singing--Luisa Tetrazzini and Enrico
Caruso--have been chosen as examples, and their talks on singing have
additional weight from the fact that what they have to say has been
printed exactly as it was uttered, the truths they expound are driven
home forcefully, and what they relate so simply is backed by years of
experience and emphasized by the results they have achieved as the two
greatest artists in the world.

Much has been said about the Italian Method of Singing. It is a question
whether anyone really knows what the phrase means. After all, if there
be a right way to sing, then all other ways must be wrong. Books have
been written on breathing, tone production and what singers should eat
and wear, etc., etc., all tending to make the singer self-conscious and
to sing with the brain rather than with the heart. To quote Mme.
Tetrazzini: "You can train the voice, you can take a raw material and
make it a finished production; not so with the heart."

The country is overrun with inferior teachers of singing; men and women
who have failed to get before the public, turn to teaching without any
practical experience, and, armed only with a few methods, teach these
alike to all pupils, ruining many good voices. Should these pupils
change teachers, even for the better, then begins the weary undoing of
the false method, often with no better result.

To these unfortunate pupils this book is of inestimable value. He or she
could not consistently choose such teachers after reading its pages.
Again the simple rules laid down and tersely and interestingly set forth
not only carry conviction with them, but tear away the veil of mystery
that so often is thrown about the divine art.

Luisa Tetrazzini and Enrico Caruso show what not to do, as well as what
to do, and bring the pupil back to first principles--the art of singing


By Luisa Tetrazzini

[Illustration: LUISA TETRAZZINI]



Luisa Tetrazzini, the most famous Italian coloratura soprano of the
day, declares that she began to sing before she learned to talk. Her
parents were not musical, but her elder sister, now the wife of the
eminent conductor Cleofante Campanini, was a public singer of
established reputation, and her success roused her young sister's
ambition to become a great artist. Her parents were well to do, her
father having a large army furnishing store in Florence, and they did
not encourage her in her determination to become a prima donna. One
prima donna, said her father, was enough for any family.

Luisa did not agree with him. If one prima donna is good, she argued,
why would not two be better? So she never desisted from her importunity
until she was permitted to become a pupil of Professor Coccherani, vocal
instructor at the Lycée. At this time she had committed to memory more
than a dozen grand opera rôles, and at the end of six months the
professor confessed that he could do nothing more for her voice; that
she was ready for a career.

She made her bow to the Florentine opera going public, one of the most
critical in Italy, as Inez, in Meyerbeer's "L'Africaine," and her
success was so pronounced that she was engaged at a salary of $100 a
month, a phenomenal beginning for a young singer. Queen Margherita was
present on the occasion and complimented her highly and prophesied for
her a great career. She asked the trembling débutante how old she was,
and in the embarrassment of the moment Luisa made herself six years
older than she really was. This is one noteworthy instance in which a
public singer failed to discount her age.

Fame came speedily, but for a long time it was confined to Europe and
Latin America. She sang seven seasons in St. Petersburg, three in
Mexico, two in Madrid, four in Buenos Aires, and even on the Pacific
coast of America before she appeared in New York. She had sung Lucia
more than 200 times before her first appearance at Covent Garden, and
the twenty curtain calls she received on that occasion came as the
greatest surprise of her career. She had begun to believe that she could
never be appreciated by English-speaking audiences and the ovation
almost overcame her.

It was by the merest chance that Mme. Tetrazzini ever came to the
Manhattan Opera House in New York. The diva's own account of her
engagement is as follows:

"I was in London, and for a wonder I had a week, a wet week, on my
hands. You know people will do anything in a wet week in London.

"There were contracts from all over the Continent and South America
pending. There was much discussion naturally in regard to settlements
and arrangements of one kind and another.

"Suddenly, just like that"--she makes a butterfly gesture--"M.
Hammerstein came, and just like that"--a duplicate gesture--"I made up
my mind that I would come here. If his offer to me had been seven days
later I should not have signed, and if I had not I should undoubtedly
never have come, for a contract that I might have signed to go elsewhere
would probably have been for a number of years."

Voice experts confess that they are not able to solve the mystery of
Mme. Tetrazzini's wonderful management of her breathing.

"It is perfectly natural," she says. "I breathe low down in the
diaphragm, not, as some do, high up in the upper part of the chest. I
always hold some breath in reserve for the crescendos, employing only
what is absolutely necessary, and I renew the breath wherever it is

"In breathing I find, as in other matters pertaining to singing, that as
one goes on and practices, no matter how long one may have been singing,
there are constantly new surprises awaiting one. You may have been
accustomed for years to take a note in a certain way, and after a long
while you discover that, while it is a very good way, there is a

Breath Control The Foundation of Singing

There is only one way to sing correctly, and that is to sing naturally,
easily, comfortably.

The height of vocal art is to have no apparent method, but to be able to
sing with perfect facility from one end of the voice to the other,
emitting all the notes clearly and yet with power and having each note
of the scale sound the same in quality and tonal beauty as the ones
before and after.

There are many methods which lead to the goal of natural singing--that
is to say, the production of the voice with ease, beauty and with
perfect control.

Some of the greatest teachers in the world reach this point apparently
by diverging roads.

Around the art of singing there has been formed a cult which includes an
entire jargon of words meaning one thing to the singer and another thing
to the rest of the world and which very often doesn't mean the same
thing to two singers of different schools.

In these talks with you I am going to try to use the simplest words, and
the few idioms which I will have to take from my own language I will
translate to you as clearly as I can, so that there can be no

Certainly the highest art and a lifetime of work and study are
necessary to acquire an easy emission of tone.

There are quantities of wonderful natural voices, particularly among the
young people of Switzerland and Italy, and the American voice is
especially noted for its purity and the beauty of its tone in the high
registers. But these naturally untrained voices soon break or fail if
they are used much unless the singer supplements the natural, God-given
vocal gifts with a conscious understanding of how the vocal apparatus
should be used.

The singer must have some knowledge of his or her anatomical structure,
particularly the structure of the throat, mouth and face, with its
resonant cavities, which are so necessary for the right production of
the voice.

Besides that, the lungs and diaphragm and the whole breathing apparatus
must be understood, because the foundation of singing is breathing and
breath control.

A singer must be able to rely on his breath, just as he relies upon the
solidity of the ground beneath his feet.

A shaky, uncontrolled breath is like a rickety foundation on which
nothing can be built, and until that foundation has been developed and
strengthened the would-be singer need expect no satisfactory results.

From the girls to whom I am talking especially I must now ask a
sacrifice--the singer cannot wear tight corsets and should not wear
corsets of any kind which come up higher than the lowest rib.

In other words, the corset must be nothing but a belt, but with as much
hip length as the wearer finds convenient and necessary.

In order to insure proper breathing capacity it is understood that the
clothing must be absolutely loose around the chest and also across the
lower part of the back, for one should breathe with the back of the
lungs as well as with the front.

In my years of study and work I have developed my own breathing capacity
until I am somewhat the despair of the fashionable modiste, but I have a
diaphragm and a breath on which I can rely at all times.

In learning to breathe it is well to think of the lungs as empty sacks,
into which the air is dropping like a weight, so that you think first of
filling the bottom of your lungs, then the middle part, and so on until
no more air can be inhaled.

Inhale short breaths through the nose. This, of course, is only an
exercise for breath development.

Now begin to inhale from the bottom of the lungs first.

Exhale slowly and feel as if you were pushing the air against your
chest. If you can get this sensation later when singing it will help you
very greatly to get control of the breath and to avoid sending too much
breath through the vocal chords.

The breath must be sent out in an even, steady flow.

You will notice when you begin to sing, if you watch yourself very
carefully, that, first, you will try to inhale too much air; secondly,
you will either force it all out at once, making a breathy note, or in
trying to control the flow of air by the diaphragm you will suddenly
cease to send it forth at all and will be making the sound by pressure
from the throat.

There must never be any pressure from the throat. The sound must be made
from the continued flow of air.

You must learn to control this flow of air, so that no muscular action
of the throat can shut it off.

Open the throat wide and start your note by the pressure breath. The
physical sensation should be first an effort on the part of the
diaphragm to press the air up against the chest box, then the sensation
of a perfectly open throat, and, lastly, the sensation that the air is
passing freely into the cavities of the head.

The quantity of sound is controlled by the breath.

In diminishing the tone the opening of the throat remains the same.
Only the quantity of breath given forth is diminished. That is done by
the diaphragm muscles.

"Filare la voce," to spin the voice from a tiny little thread into a
breadth of sound and then diminish again, is one of the most beautiful
effects in singing.

It is accomplished by the control of the breath, and its perfect
accomplishment means the complete mastery of the greatest difficulty in
learning to sing.

I think one of the best exercises for learning to control the voice by
first getting control of the breath is to stand erect in a
well-ventilated room or out of doors and slowly snuff in air through the
nostrils, inhaling in little puffs, as if you were smelling something.

Take just a little bit of air at a time and feel as if you were filling
the very bottom of your lungs and also the back of your lungs.

When you have the sensation of being full up to the neck retain the air
for a few seconds and then very slowly send it out in little puffs

This is a splendid exercise, but I want to warn you not to practice any
breathing exercise to such an extent that you make your heart beat fast
or feel like strangling.

Overexercising the lungs is as bad as not exercising them enough and
the results are often harmful.

Like everything else in singing, you want to learn this gradually. Never
neglect it, because it is the very foundation of your art. But don't try
to develop a diaphragm expansion of five inches in two weeks.

Indeed, it is not the expansion that you are working for.

I have noticed this one peculiarity about young singers--if they have an
enormous development of the diaphragm they think they should be able to
sing, no matter what happens. A girl came to see me once whose figure
was really entirely out of proportion, the lower part of the lungs
having been pressed out quite beyond even artistic lines.

"You see, madam," she exclaimed, "I have studied breathing. Why, I have
such a strong diaphragm I can move the piano with it!" And she did go
right up to my piano and, pushing on this strong diaphragm of hers,
moved the piano a fraction of an inch from its place.

I was quite aghast. I had never met such an athletic singer. When I
asked her to let me hear her voice, however, a tiny stream of contralto
sound issued from those powerful lungs.

She had developed her breathing capacity, but when she sang she held
her breath back.

I have noticed that a great many people do this, and it is one of the
things that must be overcome in the very beginning of the study of

Certain young singers take in an enormous breath, stiffening every
muscle in order to hold the air, thus depriving their muscles of all

They will then shut off the throat and let only the smallest fraction of
air escape, just enough to make a sound. Too much inbreathing and too
violent an effort at inhaling will not help the singer at all.

People have said that they cannot see when I breathe. Well, they
certainly cannot say that I am ever short of breath even if I do try to
breathe invisibly. When I breathe I scarcely draw my diaphragm in at
all, but I feel the air fill my lungs and I feel my upper ribs expand.

In singing I always feel as if I were forcing my breath against my
chest, and, just as in the exercises according to Delsarte you will find
the chest leads in all physical movements, so in singing you should feel
this firm support of the chest of the highest as well as the lowest

I have seen pupils, trying to master the art of breathing, holding
themselves as rigidly as drum majors.

Now this rigidity of the spinal column will in no way help you in the
emission of tone, nor will it increase the breath control. In fact, I
don't think it would even help you to stand up straight, although it
would certainly give one a stiff appearance and one far removed from

A singer should stand freely and easily and should feel as if the chest
were leading, but should not feel constrained or stiff in any part of
the ribs or lungs.

From the minute the singer starts to emit a tone the supply of breath
must be emitted steadily from the chamber of air in the lungs. It must
never be held back once.

The immediate pressure of the air should be felt more against the chest.
I know of a great many singers who, when they come to very difficult
passages, put their hands on their chests, focusing their attention on
this one part of the mechanism of singing.

The audience, of course, thinks the prima donna's hand is raised to her
heart, when, as a matter of fact, the prima donna, with a difficult bit
of singing before her, is thinking of her technique and the foundation
of that technique--breath control.

This feeling of singing against the chest with the weight of air
pressing up against it is known as "breath support," and in Italian we
have even a better word, "apoggio," which is breath prop. The diaphragm
in English may be called the bellows of the lungs, but the apoggio is
the deep breath regulated by the diaphragm.

The attack of the sound must come from the apoggio, or breath prop. In
attacking the very highest notes it is essential, and no singer can
really get the high notes or vocal flexibility or strength of tone
without the attack coming from this seat of respiration.

In practicing the trill or staccato tones the pressure of the breath
must be felt even before the sound is heard. The beautiful, clear,
bell-like tones that die away into a soft piano are tones struck on the
apoggio and controlled by the steady soft pressure of the breath emitted
through a perfectly open throat, over a low tongue and resounding in the
cavities of the mouth or head.

Never for a moment sing without this apoggio, this breath prop. Its
development and its constant use mean the restoration of sick or
fatigued voices and the prolonging of all one's vocal powers into what
is wrongly called old age.

The Mastery of the Tongue

The tongue is a veritable stumbling block in the path of the singer. The
tongue is an enormous muscle compared with the other parts of the throat
and mouth, and its roots particularly can by a slight movement block the
passage of the throat pressing against the larynx. This accounts for
much of the pinched singing we hear.

When the tongue forms a mountain in the back part of the mouth the
singer produces what you call in English slang "a hot potato tone"--that
is to say, a tone that sounds as if it were having much difficulty to
get through the mouth. In very fact, it is having this difficulty, for
it has to pass over the back of the tongue.

The would-be singer has to learn to control the tongue muscles and,
above all things, to learn to relax the tongue and to govern it at will,
so that it never stiffens and forms that hard lump which can be plainly
felt immediately beneath the chin under the jaw.

It requires a great deal of practice to gain control of the tongue, and
there are many different exercises which purport to be beneficial in
gaining complete mastery over it. One, for instance, is to throw the
tongue out as far forward as possible without stiffening it and then
draw it back slowly. This can be done in front of a mirror by trying to
throw the tongue not only from the tip, but from the root, keeping the
sides of the tongue broad. Another way is to catch hold of the two sides
of the tongue with the fingers and pull it out gently.

For my part, I scarcely approve of these mechanical ways of gaining
control of the tongue except in cases where the singer is phlegmatic of
temperament and cannot be made to feel the various sensations of stiff
tongue or tongue drawn far back in other ways. Ordinarily I think they
make the singer conscious, nervous and more likely to stiffen the tongue
in a wild desire to relax it and keep it flat.

These exercises, however, combined with exercises in diction, help to
make the tongue elastic, and the more elastic and quick this muscle
becomes the clearer will be the singer's diction and the more flexible
will be her voice.

The correct position of the tongue is raised from the back, lying flat
in the mouth, the flattened tip beneath the front teeth, with the sides
slightly raised so as to form a slight furrow in it. When the tongue is
lying too low a lump under the chin beneath the jaw will form in singing
and the tight muscles can be easily felt.

When the jaw is perfectly relaxed and the tongue lies flat in the mouth
there will be a slight hollow under the chin and no stiffness in the

The tip of the tongue of course is employed in the pronunciation of the
consonants and must be so agile that the minute it has finished its work
it at once resumes the correct position.

In ascending the scale the furrow in the tongue increases as we come to
the higher notes. It is here that the back of the palate begins to draw
up in order to add to the resonance of the head notes, giving the
cavities of the head free play.

You can easily see your back palate working by opening your mouth wide
and giving yourself the sensation of one about to sneeze. You will see
far back in the throat, way behind the nose, a soft spot that will draw
up of itself as the sneeze becomes more imminent. That little point is
the soft palate. It must be drawn up for the high notes in order to get
the head resonance. As a singer advances in her art she can do this at

The adjustment of throat, tongue and palate, all working together, will
daily respond more easily to her demands. However, she should be able
consciously to control each part by itself.

The conscious direction of the voice and command of the throat are
necessary. Frequently in opera the singer, sitting or lying in some
uncomfortable position which is not naturally convenient for producing
the voice, will consciously direct her notes into the head cavities by
opening up the throat and lifting the soft palate. For instance, in the
rôle of Violetta the music of the last act is sung lying down. In order
to get proper resonance to some of the high notes I have to start them
in the head cavity by means, of course, of the apoggio, or breath prop,
without which the note would be thin and would have no body to it.

The sensation that I have is of a slight pressure of breath striking
almost into a direct line into the cavity behind the forehead over the
eyes without any obstruction or feeling in the throat at all.

This is the correct attack for the head tone, or a tone taken in the
upper register. Before I explain the registers to you I must tell you
one of the funniest compliments I ever received. A very flattering
person was comparing my voice to that of another high soprano whom I
very much admire.

"Her voice is beautiful, particularly in the upper register," I insisted
when the other lady was being criticized.

"Ah, madame," responded the flattering critic, "but your registers give
out so much more warmth."

I think this joke is too good to lose, also the criticism, while unjust
to the other singer, is interesting to the student, because in the high
register, which includes in some voices all the notes above middle C,
the notes are thin and cold unless supported by the apoggio, the breath
prop, of which I have told you so much. People ask whether there are
such things as vocal registers. Certainly there are. There are three
always and sometimes four in very high voices. The ordinary registers
are the low, the middle, the high voice, or head voice, and sometimes
the second high voice, which has been called the flagellant voice.

A vocal register is a series of tones which are produced by a certain
position of the larynx, tongue and palate. In the woman's voice the
middle register takes in the notes from E on the first line of the staff
about to middle C. The head voice begins at middle C and runs up
sometimes to the end of the voice, sometimes to B flat or C, where it
joins the second head register, which I have heard ascend into a whistle
in phenomenal voices cultivated only in this register and useless for
vocal work.

Though the registers exist and the tones in middle, below and above are
not produced in the same manner, the voice should be so equalized that
the change in registers cannot be heard. And a tone sung with a head
voice and in the low voice should have the same degree of quality,
resonance and power.

As the voice ascends in the scale each note is different, and as one
goes on up the positions of the organ of the throat cannot remain the
same for several different tones. But there should never be an abrupt
change, either audible to the audience or felt in the singer's throat.
Every tone must be imperceptibly prepared, and upon the elasticity of
the vocal organs depends the smoothness of the tone production.
Adjusting the vocal apparatus to the high register should be both
imperceptible and mechanical whenever a high note has to be sung.

In the high register the head voice, or voice which vibrates in the head
cavities, should be used chiefly. The middle register requires palatal
resonance, and the first notes of the head register and the last ones of
the middle require a judicious blending of both. The middle register can
be dragged up to the high notes, but always at the cost first of the
beauty of the voice and then of the voice itself, for no organ can stand
being used wrongly for a long time.

This is only one of the reasons that so many fine big voices go to
pieces long before they should.

In an excess of enthusiasm the young singer attempts to develop the high
notes and make them sound--in her own ears, at all events--as big as the
middle voice. The pure head tone sounds small and feeble to the singer
herself, and she would rather use the chest quality, but the head tone
has the piercing, penetrating quality which makes it tell in a big
hall, while the middle register, unless used in its right place, makes
the voice muffled, heavy and lacking in vibrancy. Though to the singer
the tone may seem immense, in reality it lacks resonance.

A singer must never cease listening to herself intelligently and never
neglect cultivating the head tone or over-tone of the voice, which is
its salvation, for it means vibrancy, carrying power and youth to a
voice. Without it the finest voice soon becomes worn and off pitch. Used
judiciously it will preserve a voice into old age.

Tone Emission and Attack

In my first talk I said a few words, but not half enough, on the subject
of breath control.

My second talk was the physiological aspect of the throat, head and
tongue, for it is necessary to become thoroughly acquainted with the
mechanism with which you are to work before you can really sing. Today
I'm going to take up the subject of tone emission and the attack.

A great many singers suffer from the defect called "throatiness" of the
emission--that is to say, they attack or start the note in the throat.
Sooner or later this attack will ruin the most beautiful voice. As I
have said before, the attack of the note must come from the apoggio, or
breath prop. But to have the attack pure and perfectly in tune you must
have the throat entirely open, for it is useless to try to sing if the
throat is not sufficiently open to let the sound pass freely. Throaty
tones or pinched tones are tones which are trying to force themselves
through a half-closed throat blocked either by insufficient opening of
the larynx or by stoppage of the throat passage, due to the root of the
tongue being forced down and back too hard or possibly to a low, soft

In order to have the throat perfectly open it is necessary to have the
jaw absolutely relaxed.

I have found in studying different nationalities that it is fairly easy
for the French and Spanish people to learn this relaxation of jaw and
the opening of the throat, but the English-speaking people generally
talk with the throat half shut and even talk through half-shut teeth.
Sometime, when you are talking rapidly, suddenly put your hand up to
your jaw. You will find that it is stiff; that the muscles beneath it
(tongue muscles) are tight and hard; that the jaw seldom goes down very
far in pronouncing any of the English words, whereas in singing the jaw
should be absolutely relaxed, going down and back just as far as it can
with ease.

The jaw is attached to the skull right beneath the temples in front of
the ears. By placing your two fingers there and dropping the jaw you
will find that a space between the skull and jaw grows as the jaw drops.

In singing this space must be as wide as is possible, for that indicates
that the jaw is dropped down, giving its aid to the opening at the back
of the throat. It will help the beginner sometimes to do simple relaxing
exercises, feeling the jaw drop with the fingers. It must drop down, and
it is not necessary to open the mouth wide, because the jaw is relaxed
to its utmost.

However, for a beginner it is as well to practice opening the mouth
wide, being sure to lower the jaw at the back. Do this many times a day
without emitting any sound merely to get the feeling of what an open
throat is really like. You will presently begin to yawn after you have
done the exercise a couple of times. In yawning or in starting to drink
a sip of water the throat is widely open, and the sensation is a correct
one which the singer must study to reproduce.

I have noticed a great many actors and actresses in America who speak
with jaws tightly closed, or at least closed to such an extent that only
the smallest emission of breath is possible. Such a voice production
will never allow the actor to express any varying degree of emotion and
will also completely eradicate any natural beauty of tone which the
voice may have. However, this is a fault which can easily be overcome by
practicing this daily relaxation of the jaw and always when singing
breathing as if the jaw hung perfectly loose, or, better still, as if
you had none at all. When you can see a vocalist pushing on the jaw you
can be perfectly certain that the tone she is emitting at that moment is
a forced note and that the whole vocal apparatus is being tortured to
create what is probably not a pleasant noise.

Any kind of mental distress will cause the jaw to stiffen and will have
an immediate effect upon the voice. This is one of the reasons why a
singer must learn to control her emotions and must not subject herself
to any harrowing experiences, even such as watching a sensational
spectacle, before she is going to sing. Fear, worry, fright--stage as
well as other kinds--set the jaw. So does too great a determination to
succeed. A singer's mind must control all of her feelings if it is going
to control her voice. She must be able even to surmount a feeling of
illness or stage fright and to control her vocal apparatus, as well as
her breath, no matter what happens.

The singer should feel as if her jaw were detached and falling away from
her face. As one great singer expresses it: "You should have the jaw of
an imbecile when emitting a tone. In fact, you shouldn't know that you
have one." Let us take the following passage from "The Marriage of
Figaro," by Mozart:

[Illustration: Voi-che sa-pe-te-]

This would make an excellent exercise for the jaw. Sing only the vowels,
dropping the jaw as each one is attacked--"o, eh, ah." The o, of course,
is pronounced like the English o and the i in voi like e. The e in che
is pronounced like the English a. Sapete is pronounced sahpata. You now
have the vowels, o, ee, a, ah, a. Open the throat wide, drop the jaw and
pronounce the tones on a note in the easiest part of your voice.

Do not attack a note at the same time that you are inhaling. That is too
soon. Take the breath through the nose, of course, and give it an
instant to settle before attacking the sound. In this way you will avoid
the stroke of the glottis which is caused by the sudden and uncontrolled
emission of the accumulated breath. In attacking a note the breath must
be directed to the focusing point on the palate which lies just at the
critical spot, different for every tone. In attacking a note, however,
there must be no pressure on this place, because if there is the
overtones will be unable to soar and sound with the tone.

From the moment the note is attacked the breath must flow out with it.
It is a good idea to feel at first as if one were puffing out the
breath. This is particularly good for the high notes on which a special
stress must be laid always to attack with the breath and not to press or
push with the throat. As long as the tone lasts the gentle but
uninterrupted outpouring of the breath must continue behind it. This
breath pressure insures the strength and, while holding the note to the
focusing point on the palate, insures its pitch. In a general way it can
be said that the medium tones of the voice have their focusing point in
the middle part of the palate, the lower tones coming nearer to the
teeth to be centralized and the high notes giving the sensation of
finding their focusing point in the high arch at the back of the mouth
and going out, as it were, through the crown of the head.

The resonance in the head cavities is soon perceived by those who are
beginning to sing. Sometimes in producing their first high notes young
people become nervous and irritated when singing high tones at the
curious buzzing in the head and ears. After a short time, however, this
sensation is no longer an irritation, and the singer can gauge in a way
where his tones are placed by getting a mental idea of where the
resonance to each particular tone should be.

High notes with plenty of head vibration can only be obtained when the
head is clear and the nasal cavities unobstructed by mucous membrane or
by any of the depression which comes from physical or mental cause. The
best way to lose such depression is to practice. Practicing the long
scale, being careful to use the different registers, as described later,
will almost invariably even out the voice and clear out the head if
continued long enough, and will enable the singer to overcome nervous or
mental depression as well.

The different sensations in producing the tone vary according to the
comparative height and depth. Beginning from the medium tones, the
singer will feel as if each tone of the descending scale were being sung
farther outside of the mouth, the vibration hitting the upper teeth as
it goes out, whereas with the ascending scale the vibrations pass
through the nasal cavities, through the cavity in the forehead and up
back into the head, until one feels as if the tone were being formed
high over the head at the back.

I want to say right here that whenever a young singer feels
uncomfortable when singing he or she is singing incorrectly.

In attacking the note on the breath, particularly in the high notes, it
is quite possible that at first the voice will not respond. For a long
time merely an emission or breath or perhaps a little squeak on the high
note is all that can be hoped for. If, however, this is continued,
eventually the head voice will be joined to the breath, and a faint note
will find utterance which with practice will develop until it becomes an
easy and brilliant tone.

The reason that the tone has not been able to come forth is because the
vocal apparatus cannot adjust itself to the needs of the vocal chords or
because they themselves have not accustomed themselves to respond to the
will of the singer and are too stiff to perform their duty.

The scale is the greatest test of voice production. No opera singer, no
concert singer, who cannot sing a perfect scale can be said to be a
technician or to have achieved results in her art. Whether the voice be
soprano, mezzo or contralto, each note should be perfect of its kind,
and the note of each register should partake sufficiently of the quality
of the next register above or below it in order not to make the
transition noticeable when the voice ascends or descends the scale. This
blending of the registers is obtained by the intelligence of the singer
in mixing the different tone qualities of the registers, using as aids
the various formations of the lips, mouth and throat and the ever
present apoggio without which no perfect scale can be sung.

Facial Expression and Mirror Practice

In studying a new rôle I am in the habit of practicing in front of a
mirror in order to get an idea of the effect of a facial expression and
to see that it does not take away from the correct position of the

The young singer should practice constantly in front of a mirror as soon
as she begins to sing songs or to express emotions in her music, for the
girl with the expressive face is likely to contort her mouth so that the
correct emission of tones is impossible.

The dramatic artist depends largely for her expression on the changing
lines of the mouth, chin and jaw, and in any lines spoken which denote
command or will you will see the actor's jaw setting and becoming rigid
with the rest of the facial mask.

Now, a singer can never allow the facial expression to alter the
position of the jaw or mouth. Facial expression for the singer must
concern itself chiefly with the eyes and forehead.

The mouth must remain the same, and the jaw must ever be relaxed,
whether the song is one of deep intensity or a merry scale of laughter.

The mouth in singing should always smile lightly. This slight smile at
once relaxes the lips, allowing them free play for the words which they
and the tongue must form and also gives the singer a slight sensation of
uplift necessary for singing.

It is impossible to sing well when mentally depressed or even physically
indisposed slightly. Unless one has complete control over the entire
vocal apparatus and unless one can simulate a smile one does not feel
the voice will lack some of its resonant quality, particularly in the
upper notes, where the smiling position of the mouth adjusts the throat
and air passages for the emission of light tones.

The lips are of the greatest aid in shaping and shading the tones.
Wagnerian singers, for instance, who employ trumpet-like notes in
certain passages are often seen shaping their lips like the mouthpiece
of a trumpet, with a somewhat square opening, the lips protruding.

However, this can be practiced only after perfect relaxation of the jaw
and control of the tongue have been accomplished.

A singer's mouth must always look pleasant, not only because it creates
a disagreeable impression on the audience to see a crooked and contorted
mouth, but also because natural and correct voice production requires a
mouth shaped almost into a smile.

Too wide a smile often accompanies what is called "the white voice."
This is a voice production where a head resonance alone is employed,
without sufficient of the apoggio or enough of the mouth resonance to
give the tone a vital quality. This "white voice" should be thoroughly
understood and is one of the many shades of tone a singer can use at
times, just as the impressionist uses various unusual colors to produce
certain atmospheric effects.

For instance, in the mad scene in "Lucia" the use of the "white voice"
suggests the babbling of the mad woman, as the same voice in the last
act of "Traviata" or in the last act of "Bohème" suggests utter physical
exhaustion and the approach of death.

An entire voice production on these colorless lines, however, would
always lack the brilliancy and the vitality which inspire enthusiasm.

One of the compensations of the "white voice" singer is the fact that
she usually possesses a perfect diction. The voice itself is thrust into
the head cavities and not allowed to vibrate in the face and mouth and
gives ample room for the formation of vowels and consonants. And the
singer with this voice production usually concentrates her entire
attention on diction.

The cure for this tone emission is, first of all, the cultivation of the
breath prop, then attacking the vowel sound o o in the medium voice,
which requires a low position of the larynx, and exercises on the
ascending scale until the higher notes have been brought down, as it
were, and gain some of the body and support of the lower notes without
losing their quality.

The singer's expression must concern itself chiefly with the play of
emotion around the eyes, eyebrows and forehead. You have no idea how
much expression you can get out of your eyebrows, for instance, until
you study the question and learn by experiment that a complete emotional
scale can be symbolized outwardly in the movements of the eyelids and

A very drooping eyebrow is expressive of fatigue, either physical or
mental. This lowered eyelid is the aspect we see about us most of the
time, particularly on people past their first youth. As it shows a lack
of interest, it is not a favorite expression of actors and is only
employed where the rôle makes it necessary.

Increasing anxiety is depicted by slanting the eyebrows obliquely in a
downward line toward the nose.

Concentrated attention draws the eyebrows together over the bridge of
the nose, while furtiveness widens the space again without elevating the

In the eyebrows alone you can depict mockery, every stage of anxiety or
pain, astonishment, ecstasy, terror, suffering, fury and admiration,
besides all the subtle tones between.

In singing rôles of songs it is necessary to practice before the mirror
in order to see that this facial expression is present and that it is
not exaggerated; that the face is not contorted by lines of suffering or
by the lines of mirth.

Another thing the young singer must not forget in making her initial bow
before the public is the question of dress. When singing on the platform
or stage, dress as well as you can. Whenever you face the public have at
least the assurance you are looking your very best; that your gowns hang
well, are well fitted and are of a becoming color.

It is not necessary that they should be gorgeous or expensive, but let
them always be suitable, and for big cities let them be just as
sumptuous as you can afford. At morning concerts in New York, velvets
and hand-painted chiffons are considered good form, while in the
afternoon handsome silk or satin frocks of a very light color are worn
with hats.

If a singer chooses to wear a hat let her be sure that its shape will
not interfere with her voice.

A very large hat, for instance, with a wide brim that comes down over
the face, acts as a sort of blanket to the voice, eating up the sound
and detracting from the beauty of tone, which should go forth into the
audience. It is also likely to shade the singer's features too much and
hide her from view from those sitting in the balconies or galleries. As
a rule, the singer's hat should be small or with a flaring brim, which
does not detract from the tone.

Another word on the subject of corsets. There is no reason in the world
why a singer should not wear corsets, and if singers have a tendency to
grow stout a corset is usually a necessity. A singer's corset should be
especially well fitted around the hips and should be extremely loose
over the diaphragm.

If made in this way it will not interfere in the slightest degree with
the breath.

Now as to diet and the general mode of life. Every singer must take care
of her health. But that does not necessarily mean that she must wrap
herself in cotton batting and lead a sequestered existence. I don't
believe that any person who wants to make a public career can accomplish
it and also indulge in social dissipations. Society must be cut out of
the life of the would-be singer, for the demands made by it on time and
vitality can only be given at a sacrifice to one's art.

The care of the health is an individual matter, and what agrees well
with me would cause others to sicken. I eat the simplest food always,
and naturally, being an Italian, I prefer the food of my native land.
But simple French or German cookery agrees with me quite as well. And I
allow the tempting pastry, the rich and overspiced pâté, to pass me by
untouched and console myself with quantities of fruit and fresh

Personally I never wear a collar and have hardened my throat to a
considerable extent by wearing slightly cutout gowns always in the
house, and even when I wear furs I do not have them closely drawn around
the neck. I try to keep myself at an even bodily temperature, and fresh
air has been my most potent remedy at all times when I have been

Appreciative Attitude and Critical Attitude

There is nothing so beneficial to the young artist as the kindly and
just criticism of a person who knows and nothing so stimulating as his

Among my most priceless possessions I treasure the words of
encouragement given me by Patti and Sembrich, those wonderful artists,
when I was beginning my career.

Mme. Patti is a splendid example of the many sidedness necessary to
artistic perfection. Her wonderful voice was always supplemented by
complete knowledge of the art of singing, and her mastery of languages
and of different fields of art made her not only a great artist, but a
most interesting woman.

To hear an artist of this kind is one of the most profitable parts of a
musical education.

But there are two ways of listening to a singer. There is the
appreciative way, and there is the entirely critical. The beginner
usually tries to show her knowledge by her intensely critical attitude.

The older you become in your art the more readily you will be able to
appreciate and learn from the singers you hear on the opera or concert

The greatest and the humblest singer can teach you something. But to
learn you must be in a receptive attitude.

The public has no real conception of what an amount of intelligent work
besides talent and art is necessary to achieve the results which it sees
or hears. Only those whose lives are devoted to the same ideals can
understand the struggles of other artists, and it is for that reason
that appreciation and not condemnation should be on the tongues of those
who themselves have studied.

The artist may demand the greatest things of herself, and what may be
good enough for others is not good enough for her. As the poet says,
"Art is long," though life may be short, and singing is one of the most
fleeting of all arts, since once the note is uttered it leaves only a
memory in the hearer's mind and since so many beautiful voices, for one
reason or other, go to pieces long before their time.

If the singer's health is good the voice should end only with life
itself, provided, of course, it has been used with understanding and
with art.

In performing before the public one should be governed by the tastes of
the public, not by one's own tastes. Just as the comedian usually wishes
to play Hamlet and the man of tragic mien thinks he could be a comedy
star, the singer who could make a fortune at interpreting chansonnettes
usually wishes to sing operatic rôles, and the singer with a deep and
heavy voice is longing to inflict baby songs on a long suffering public.

It is easy enough to find out what the public wishes to hear, and,
though one should always be enlarging one's repertory, it is not a bad
idea to stick to that field for which one is particularly fitted vocally
and physically.

In studying a rôle after one has mastered the technical difficulties one
should try to steep one's personality into that of the character one is
to portray, and for that reason all study, no matter what it is, and
reading of all kinds help one in developing a part.

The great Italian tragedienne, Duse, told me that one of her greatest
pleasures was to wander about the streets incognito watching the types
of people, following them round, observing them in their daily lives and
remembering all the small details of action, gesture or expression which
she could some day embody into a rôle.

The more one sees and studies people with sympathy, the more points one
gets for the study of life which is embodied in the art one gives forth.
But it is sympathy with one's fellow beings and kindly observation
which help one here, never the critical attitude.

An artist can only afford to be coldly critical toward his own work and
not toward the work of others.

Recently a young woman who started her vocal career as a contralto has
sung the most difficult of Wagnerian soprano parts. Her high notes, it
is true, were not the high notes of a natural soprano voice, but the
care and perfection with which each high note was attacked were worthy
of closest attention and admiration and defied criticism.

Hearing the smaller singers, the beginners who are still struggling with
their art, should awaken in the heart of the intelligent listener not
contemptuous criticism, but should be one means of realizing one's own
vocal defects and the possible ways of overcoming them.

There are bad singing teachers, of course, but often the pupils are
worse and will not listen to advice. The large and shrieking voice
usually belongs to this type of pupil, for it is easier to force the
voice when the temperament is robust and the vocal cords equally strong
than it is to learn gently and quietly the correct and natural position
in voice placement, and it is easier to make a noise as best you can
than to use intelligently the different resonance cavities for the
blending of the perfect tone.

Another fault severely criticised in the youthful singer is a lack of
correct pronunciation or diction. It is only after the voice is
perfectly controlled that the lips and tongue can function freely for
the pronunciation of syllables.

While the voice is in what might be called a state of ferment the
singer is only anxious to produce tones, and diction slips by the
wayside. The appreciative listener should be able to know whether a lack
of diction on the singer's part means immaturity or simply slovenliness.

Still another fault in voice production is the tremolo. It is the
over-ambitious singer, the singer who forces a small, light organ to do
heavy work, who develops the tremolo.

The tremolo is a sure sign that the vocal chords have been stretched
beyond their natural limits, and there is only one thing can cure this.
That is absolute rest for some time and then beginning the study of the
voice, first singing with the mouth closed and relying entirely on very
gentle breath pressure for the production of the sound.

The pupil suffering from tremolo or even very strong vibrato must have
courage to stop at once and to forego having a big voice. After all, the
most beautiful voices in the world are not necessarily the biggest
voices, and certainly the tremolo is about the worst fault a singer can
have. But that, like almost any other vocal defect, can be cured by
persistent effort of the right kind.

In singing in public as well as when practicing the singer must stand so
that the body will be perfectly and firmly poised. One should always
stand in such a position as to be able to inhale comfortably and control
a large breath, to allow the throat absolute freedom, with the head
sufficiently raised to let the inflowing air penetrate all the resonance

The great thing to avoid is stiffness or discomfort of any kind in the
pose. At the same time one must have a gracious air, and while feeling
perfectly solidly poised on the feet, must make the impression of a
certain lightness and freedom from all bodily restraint.

I have not meant in these short articles to give you anything but a very
general idea of the salient points of the art of singing. After all,
each one must do the real work herself.

The road is full of discouragements and hardships, but there is always
something new and interesting to learn, and to achieve success, whether
for the public or merely for the home circle, is worth all the trouble
one can take. And so I wish you all success.


By Enrico Caruso

[Illustration: ENRICO CARUSO]

The Career of Enrico Caruso


Enrico Caruso enjoys the reputation of being the greatest tenor since
Italo Campanini. The latter was the legitimate successor of Brignoli, an
artist whose wonderful singing made his uncouth stage presence a matter
of little moment. Caruso's voice at its best recalls Brignoli to the
veteran opera habitué. It possesses something of the dead tenor's
sweetness and clarity in the upper register, but it lacks the delicacy
and artistic finish of Campanini's supreme effort, although it is vastly
more magnetic and thrill inspiring.

That Caruso is regarded as the foremost living tenor is made good by the
fact that he is the highest priced male artist in the world. Whenever
and wherever he sings multitudes flock to hear him, and no one goes away
unsatisfied. He is constantly the recipient of ovations which
demonstrate the power of his minstrelsy, and his lack of especial
physical attractiveness is no bar to the witchery of his voice.

Caruso is a Neapolitan and is now thirty-five years of age. Unlike so
many great Italian tenors, he is not of peasant parentage. His father
was a skilled mechanic who had been put in charge of the warehouses of a
large banking and importing concern. As a lad Enrico used to frequent
the docks in the vicinity of these warehouses and became an expert
swimmer at a very early age. In those halcyon days his burning ambition
was to be a sailor, and he had a profound distaste for his father's plan
to have him learn a trade.

At the age of ten he was still a care free and fun loving boy, without a
thought beyond the docks and their life. It was then that his father
ruled that since he would not become a mechanic he must be sent to
school. He had already learned to read a little, but that was all. He
was sent to a day school in the neighborhood, and he accepted the
restraint with such bad grace that he was in almost constant disgrace.
His long association with the water front had made him familiar with the
art of physical defense, and he was in frequent trouble on that account.

The head master of the school was a musician, and he discovered one day
that his unruly pupil could sing. He was an expert in the development of
the boy soprano and he soon realized that in young Caruso he had a
veritable treasure. He was shrewd enough to keep his discovery to
himself for some time, for he determined to profit by the boy's
extraordinary ability. The lad was rehearsed privately and was
stimulated to further effort by the promise of sweetmeats and release
from school duties. Finally the unscrupulous master made engagements for
the young prodigy to sing at fashionable weddings and concerts, but he
always pocketed the money which came from these public appearances.

At the end of the second year, when Caruso was twelve years of age, he
decided that he had had enough of the school, and he made himself so
disagreeable to the head master that he was sent home in disgrace. His
irate father gave him a sound thrashing and declared that he must be
apprenticed to a mechanical engineer. The boy took little interest in
his new work, but showed some aptitude for mechanical drawing and
calligraphy. In a few months he became so interested in sketching that
he began to indulge in visions of becoming a great artist.

When he was fifteen his mother died, and, since he had kept at the
mechanical work solely on her account, he now announced his intention
of forsaking engineering and devoting himself to art and music. When his
father heard of this open rebellion he fell into a great rage and
declared that he would have no more of him, that he was a disgrace to
the family and that he need not show his face at home.

So Caruso became a wanderer, with nothing in his absolute possession
save a physique that was perfect and an optimism that was never failing.
He picked up a scanty livelihood by singing at church festivals and
private entertainments and in time became known widely as the most
capable boy soprano in Naples. Money came more plentifully, and he was
able to live generously. In a short time his voice was transformed into
a marvelous alto, and he soon found himself in great demand and was
surfeited with attention from the rich and powerful. It was about this
time that King Edward, then Prince of Wales, heard him sing in a
Neapolitan church and was so delighted that he invited the boy to go to
England, an invitation which young Caruso did not accept. Now that he
had "arrived" Naples was good enough for him.

One day something happened which plunged him into the deepest despair.
Without a warning of any sort his beautiful alto voice disappeared,
leaving in its place only the feeblest and most unmusical of croaks. He
was so overcome at his loss that he shut himself up in his room and
would see no one. It was the first great affliction he had ever known,
and he admits that he meditated suicide. He had made many friends, and
some of them would have been glad to comfort him, but his grief would
admit of no partnership.

One evening when he was skulking along an obscure highway, at the very
bottom of the well of his despair, a firm hand was laid on his shoulder
and a cheery voice called out: "Whither so fast? Come home with me, poor
little shaver!"

It was Messiani, the famous baritone, who had always felt an interest in
the boy and who would not release him in spite of his vigorous efforts
to escape. The big baritone took him to his lodging and when he had
succeeded in cheering the unhappy lad into a momentary forgetfulness of
his misery asked him to sing.

"But I can't," sobbed Caruso. "It has gone!"

Messiani went to the piano and struck a chord. The weeping boy piped up
in a tone so thin and feeble that it was almost indistinguishable.

"Louder!" yelled the big singer, with another full chord. Caruso obeyed
and kept on through the scale. Then Messiani jumped up from the piano
stool, seized the astonished boy about the waist and raised him high off
his feet, at the same time yelling at the top of his voice: "What a
little jackass! What a little idiot!"

Almost bursting with rage, for the miserable boy thought his friend was
making sport of him, Caruso searched the apartment for some weapon with
which he might avenge himself. Seizing a heavy brass candlestick, he
hurled it at Messiani with all his force, but it missed the baritone and
landed in a mirror.

"Hold, madman!" interposed the startled singer. "Your voice is not gone.
It is magnificent. You will be the tenor of the century."

Messiani sent him to Vergine, then the most celebrated trainer of the
voice in Italy. The maestro was not so enthusiastic as Messiani, but he
promised to do what he could. He offered to instruct Caruso four years,
only demanding 25 per cent. of his pupil's receipts for his first five
years in opera. Caruso signed such a contract willingly, although he
realized afterward that he was the victim of a veritable Shylock.

When Vergine was through with the young tenor he dismissed him without
lavish commendation, but with a reminder of the terms of his contract.
Caruso obtained an engagement in Naples, but did not achieve marked
success at once. On every payday Vergine was on hand to receive his
percentage. His regularity finally attracted the attention of the
manager, and he made inquiry of Caruso. The young tenor showed him his
copy of the contract and was horrified to be told that he had bound
himself to his Shylock for a lifetime; that the contract read that he
was to give Vergine five years of actual singing. Caruso would have
reached the age of fifty before the last payment came. The matter was
finally adjusted by the courts, and the unscrupulous teacher lost
200,000 lire by the judgment.

In Italy every man must serve his time in the army, and Caruso was
checked in his operatic career by the call to go into barracks. Not
long, however, was he compelled to undergo the tedium of army life. In
consideration of his art he was permitted to offer his brother as a
substitute after two months, and he returned to the opera. He was
engaged immediately for a season at Caserta, and from that time his rise
has been steady and unimpeded. After singing in one Italian city after
another he went to Egypt and thence to Paris, where he made a favorable
impression. A season in Berlin followed, but the Wagner influence was
dominant, and he did not succeed in restoring the supremacy of Italian
opera. The next season was spent in South America, and in the new world
Caruso made his first triumph. From Rio he went to London, and on his
first appearance he captured his Covent Garden audience. When he made
his first appearance in the United States he was already at the top of
the operatic ladder, and, although many attempts to dislodge him have
been made, he stands still on the topmost rung.

From a Personal Viewpoint

Of the thousands of people who visit the opera during the season few
outside of the small proportion of the initiated realize how much the
performance of the singer whom they see and hear on the stage is
dependent on previous rehearsal, constant practice and watchfulness over
the physical conditions that preserve that most precious of our assets,
the voice.

Nor does this same great public in general know of what the singer often
suffers in the way of nervousness or stage fright before appearing in
front of the footlights, nor that his life, outwardly so fêted and
brilliant, is in private more or less of a retired, ascetic one and that
his social pleasures must be strictly limited.

These conditions, of course, vary greatly with the individual singer,
but I will try to tell in the following articles, as exemplified in my
own case, what a great responsibility a voice is when one considers that
it is the great God-given treasure which brings us our fame and

I am perhaps more favored than many in the fact that my voice was always
"there," and that, with proper cultivation, of course, I have not had to
overstrain it in the attempt to reach vocal heights which have come to
some only after severe and long-continued effort. But, on the other
hand, the finer the natural voice the more sedulous the care required to
preserve it in its pristine freshness to bloom. This is the singer's
ever present problem--in my case, however, mostly a matter of common
sense living.

As regards eating--a rather important item, by the way--I have kept to
the light "continental" breakfast, which I do not take too early; then a
rather substantial luncheon toward two o'clock. My native macaroni,
specially prepared by my chef, who is engaged particularly for his
ability in this way, is often a feature in this midday meal. I incline
toward the simpler and more nourishing food, though my tastes are broad
in the matter, but lay particular stress on the excellence of the
cooking, for one cannot afford to risk one's health on indifferently
cooked food, no matter what its quality.

On the nights when I sing I take nothing after luncheon, except perhaps
a sandwich and a glass of Chianti, until after the performance, when I
have a supper of whatever I fancy within reasonable bounds. Being
blessed with a good digestion, I have not been obliged to take the
extraordinary precautions about what I eat that some singers do. Still,
I am careful never to indulge to excess in the pleasures of the table,
for the condition of our alimentary apparatus and that of the vocal
chords are very closely related, and the unhealthy state of the one
immediately reacts on the other.

My reason for abstaining from food for so long before singing may be
inquired. It is simply that when the large space required by the
diaphragm in expanding to take in breath is partly occupied by one's
dinner the result is that one cannot take as deep a breath as one would
like and consequently the tone suffers and the all-important ease of
breathing is interfered with. In addition a certain amount of bodily
energy is used in the process of digestion which would otherwise be
entirely given to the production of the voice.

These facts, seemingly so simple, are very vital ones to a singer,
particularly on an "opening night." A singer's life is such an active
one, with rehearsals and performances, that not much opportunity is
given for "exercise," and the time given to this must, of course, be
governed by individual needs. I find a few simple physical exercises in
the morning after rising, somewhat similar to those practiced in the
army, or the use for a few minutes of a pair of light dumbbells, very
beneficial. Otherwise I must content myself with an occasional
automobile ride. One must not forget, however, that the exercise of
singing, with its constant deep inhalation (and acting in itself is
considerable exercise also), tends much to keep one from acquiring an
over-supply of embonpoint.

A proper moderation in eating, however, as I have already said, will
contribute as much to the maintenance of correct proportion in one's
figure as any amount of voluntary exercise which one only goes through
with on principle.

As so many of you in a number of States of this great country are
feeling and expressing as well as voting opinions on the subject of
whether one should or should not drink intoxicants, you may inquire what
practice is most in consonance with a singer's well being, in my
opinion. Here, again, of course, customs vary with the individual. In
Italy we habitually drink the light wines of the country with our meals
and surely are never the worse for it. I have retained my fondness for
my native Chianti, which I have even made on my own Italian estate, but
believe and carry out the belief that moderation is the only possible
course. I am inclined to condemn the use of spirits, whisky in
particular, which is so prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon countries, for it
is sure to inflame the delicate little ribbons of tissue which produce
the singing tone and then--_addio_ to a clear and ringing high C!

Though I indulge occasionally in a cigarette, I advise all singers,
particularly young singers, against this practice, which can certainly
not fail to have a bad effect on the delicate lining of the throat, the
vocal chords and the lungs.

You will see by all the foregoing that even the gift of a good breath is
not to be abused or treated lightly, and that the "goose with the golden
egg" must be most carefully nurtured.

Outside of this, however, one of the great temptations that beset any
singer of considerable fame is the many social demands that crowd upon
him, usually unsought and largely undesired. Many of the invitations to
receptions, teas and dinners are from comparative strangers and cannot
be considered, but of those from one's friends which it would be a
pleasure to attend very few indeed can be accepted, for the singer's
first care, even if a selfish one, must be for his health and
consequently his voice, and the attraction of social intercourse must,
alas, be largely foregone.

The continual effort of loud talking in a throng would be extremely bad
for the sensitive musical instrument that the vocalist carries in his
throat, and the various beverages offered at one of your afternoon teas
it would be too difficult to refuse. So I confine myself to an
occasional quiet dinner with a few friends on an off night at the opera
or any evening at the play, where I can at least be silent during the
progress of the acts.

In common with most of the foreign singers who come to America, I have
suffered somewhat from the effects of your barbarous climate, with its
sudden changes of temperature, but perhaps have become more accustomed
to it in the years of my operatic work here. What has affected me most,
however, is the overheating of the houses and hotels with that dry steam
heat which is so trying to the throat. Even when I took a house for the
season I had difficulty in keeping the air moist. Now, however, in the
very modern and excellent hotel where I am quartered they have a new
system of ventilation by which the air is automatically rendered pure
and the heat controlled--a great blessing to the over-sensitive

After reading the above the casual person will perhaps believe that a
singer's life is really not a bit of a sinecure, even when he has
attained the measure of this world's approval and applause afforded by
the "great horseshoe."

The Voice and Tone Production

The question, "How is it done?" as applied to the art of singing brings
up so many different points that it is difficult to know where to begin
or how to give the layman in any kind of limited space a concise idea of
the principles controlling the production of the voice and their
application to vocal art.

Every singer or singing master is popularly supposed to have a method by
following out which he has come to fame. Yet if asked to describe this
method many an artist would be at a loss to do so, or else deny that he
had any specific method at all, such a subtle and peculiarly individual
matter it is that constitutes the technical part of singing. Most
singers--in fact, all of them--do many things in singing habitually, yet
so inconspicuously that they could not describe how or why they did
them. Yet this little set of "artistic" habits all arise from most
logical causes and have become habits from their fitness to the
personality of their owner and their special value in enabling that
singer to do his best work by their aid. For instance, a singer will
know from trials and experience just the proper position of the tongue
and larynx to produce most effectively a certain note on the scale, yet
he will have come by this knowledge not by theory and reasoning, but
simply oft repeated attempts, and the knowledge he has come by will be
valuable to him only, for somebody else would produce the same note
equally well, but in quite a different way.

So one may see that there are actually as many methods as there are
singers, and any particular method, even if accurately set forth, might
be useless to the person who tried it. This is what I really would reply
to anyone putting this question to me--that my own particular way of
singing, if I have any, is, after all, peculiarly suited to me only, as
I have above described.

However, there are many interesting and valuable things to be said about
the voice in a general way.

Speaking first of the classification of voices, many young singers are
put much in doubt and dilemma because they are unable to determine what
sort of voice they really possess, whether soprano, mezzo or contralto.
Of course, it is easy enough to distinguish between the extremes of
these, between a "real" tenor and a low bass, but the difference between
a high baritone and tenor is rather more difficult to discern, and a
young man studying has often been at great disadvantage by imagining,
for instance, that he had a tenor voice and trying constantly to sing
music too high for him, since he in reality had only a high baritone.

In the course of development a voice very often increases its range and
changes its quality sufficiently to pass from a baritone to a tenor, and
it is sometimes a problem to place it during the transition process.
Perhaps the surest way to determine the real character of a voice is to
see on what notes words can be most easily pronounced. For the average
tenor the notes up to A above middle C, for the baritone, D above middle
C, and for the bass up to middle C itself, can be pronounced on the

One should never try to change the tessitura, or natural character of
the voice. A voice will become higher just when it should by the
development due to rational work and never by forcing it. Nothing is
easier than to force a voice upward or downward, but to cause it to
"recede," as it were, in either direction, is another matter. A
baritone who tries to increase his upper range by main strength will
surely in time lose his best lower notes, and a light tenor who attempts
to force out notes lower than his range will never be able to sing
legitimate tenor rôles, and after two or three years may not be able to
sing at all.

It may be well to speak now of a very important point in singing--what
is called the "attack" of the tone. In general this may be described as
the relative position of the throat and tongue and the quality of voice
as the tone is begun. The most serious fault of many singers is that
they attack the tone either from the chest or the throat. Even with
robust health the finest voice cannot resist this. This is the reason
one sees so many artists who have made a brilliant debut disappear from
sight very soon or wind up later on a mediocre career. Singers who use
their voices properly should be at the height of their talents at
forty-five and keep their voices in full strength and virility up to at
least fifty. At this latter age, or close after it, it would seem well
to have earned the right to close one's career.

A great artist ought to have the dignity to say farewell to his public
when still in full possession of his powers and never let the world
apprise him of his falling off.

To have the attack true and pure one must consciously try to open the
throat not only in front, but from behind, for the throat is the door
through which the voice must pass, and if it is not sufficiently open it
is useless to attempt to get out a full, round one; also the throat is
the outlet and inlet for the breath, and if it is closed the voice will
seek other channels or return quenched within.

It must not be imagined that to open the mouth wide will do the same
for the throat. If one is well versed in the art, one can open the
throat perfectly without a perceptible opening of the mouth, merely by
the power of respiration.

It is necessary to open the sides of the mouth, at the same time
dropping the chin well, to obtain good throat opening. In taking higher
notes, of course, one must open the mouth a little wider, but for the
most part the position of the mouth is that assumed when smiling. It is
a good idea to practice opening the throat before a mirror and try to
see the palate, as when you show your throat to a doctor.

In pronouncing the sound "ah" one must always attack it in the back part
of the throat, taking care, however, before uttering the syllable, to
have the throat well open; otherwise what is called "stroke of the
glottis" occurs and the tone formed is hard and disagreeable. If you
ever hear this stroke of glottis on the attack, you may know that the
singer did not attack far enough back in the throat.

The tone once launched, one must think how it may be properly sustained,
and this is where the art of breathing is most concerned. The lungs, in
the first place, should be thoroughly filled. A tone begun with only
half filled lungs loses half its authority and is very apt to be false
in pitch. To take a full breath properly, the chest must be raised at
the same moment the abdomen sinks in. Then with the gradual expulsion of
the breath a contrary movement takes place. The diaphragm and elastic
tissue surrounding and containing the stomach and vital organs and the
muscles surrounding, by practice acquire great strength and assist
considerably in this process of respiration and are vital factors in
the matter of controlling the supply which supports the tone. The
diaphragm is really like a pair of bellows and serves exactly the same
purpose. It is this ability to take in an adequate supply of breath and
to retain it until required that makes or, by contrary, mars all
singing. A singer with a perfect sense of pitch and all the good
intentions possible will often sing off the key and bring forth a tone
with no vitality to it, distressing to hear, simply for lack of breath

This art of respiration once acquired, the student has gone a
considerable step on the road to Parnassus.

To practice deep breathing effectively it is an excellent plan to
breathe through the nose, which aids in keeping the confined breath from
escaping too soon. The nose also warms and filters the air, making it
much more agreeable to the lungs than if taken directly through the
mouth. In the practice of slow breathing make sure that the lungs are as
nearly emptied as possible on the expulsion of the breath before
beginning a new inspiration, as this gives extra impetus to the fresh
supply of air and strengthens all the breathing muscles.

If this is not done, moreover, the effect is like two people trying to
get in and out of the same narrow door at the same time.

The voice is naturally divided into three registers--the chest, medium
and head. In a man's voice of lower quality this last is known as
"falsetto," but in the case of a tenor he may use a tone which in sound
is almost falsetto, but is really a mezza voce, or half voice. This
latter legitimately belongs to a man's compass; a falsetto does not. The
most important register is the medium, particularly of tenors, for this
includes the greater part of the tenor's voice and can be utilized even
to the top of his range if rightly produced.

In the matter of taking high notes one should remember that their purity
and ease of production depend very much on the way the preceding notes
leading up to them are sung. Beginning in the lower register and
attacking the ascending notes well back, a balance must be maintained
all the way up, so that the highest note receives the benefit and
support of the original position of the throat, and there is no danger,
consequently, of the throat closing and pinching the quality of the top

Singers, especially tenors, are very apt to throw the head forward in
producing the high notes, and consequently get that throaty, strained
voice which is so disagreeable. To avoid this one should try to keep the
supply of breath down as far toward the abdomen as possible, thus
maintaining the upper passages to the head quite free for the emission
of the voice. Remember also to sing within yourself, as it were--to feel
the tones all through your being; otherwise your singing will possess no
sentiment, emotion or authority. It is the failure to accomplish this
which has produced so many soulless artists--singers endowed with
magnificent voices, capable of surmounting every technical difficulty,
but devoid of that charm of intonation which is so vital to success on
the operatic stage.

Faults to be Corrected

I have previously mentioned mezza voce and will now say a word on this
subject, for the artistic use of the "half voice" is a very valuable
adjunct in all singing. It may be defined simply as the natural voice
produced softly, but with an extra strength of breath. It is this
breathy quality, however--which one must be careful never to exaggerate
or the tone will not carry--that gives that velvety effect to the tone
that is so delightful.

Mezza voce is just a concentration of the full voice, and it requires,
after all, as much breath support. A soft note which is taken with the
"head voice" without being supported by a breath taken from the
diaphragm is a helpless sort of thing. It does not carry and is
inaudible at any distance, whereas the soft note which does possess the
deep breath support is penetrating, concentrated and most expressive.

Another important point is that, with a "piano" note properly taken in
the register which is proper to it, there is no danger of having to
change the position of the throat and consequently the real character of
the note when making a crescendo and again diminishing it. It will be
the same note continuing to sound.

On the other hand, with a soft note taken in a register foreign to it,
as soon as its strength is augmented the register must suddenly be
changed and the result is like a Tyrolean yodel.

So remember in a mezza voce to see that the register is right and to use
a double breath strength. I speak of the matter of register here for the
benefit of those who must keep this constantly in mind. I myself have
been blessed with what is called a naturally placed voice, and never
had trouble with the mezza voce. The majority of Italian singers come to
it easily.

There are a number of wrong sorts of voices which should be mentioned to
be shunned--the "white" voice, the "throaty" voice, the "nasal" voice,
and the "bleat." The nasal quality is the most difficult to correct.
Many teachers, especially the French, make a point of placing the voice
in the nasal cavity on the pretext of strengthening it, and this nasal
quality, partly on account of the sound of many of the French words, is
only too prevalent. The voice, however, can only be strengthened by
legitimate means; otherwise it can easily be ruined. One can breathe
through the nose, but never attack or sing through it.

The "white voice" (voce bianca) is a head voice without deep support and
consequently without color; hence its appellation. One can learn to
avoid it by practicing with the mouth closed and by taking care to
breathe through the nose, which forces the respiration to descend to the

The "throaty" voice comes from singing with the throat insufficiently
opened, so that the breath does not pass easily through the nose and
head cavities and, again, from not attacking the tone deeply enough.

To cure oneself of this throaty quality attack your notes from the
abdomen, the mouth well open, standing in front of a mirror. The force
of the respiration will keep the tongue depressed and the throat will
remain free.

As for the fault of nasality, it is, as I have said, the most difficult
to get rid of. Sometimes one never does lose it. The only remedy is what
I have previously indicated--to attack from the abdomen, with the
throat open, and carry the voice over the soft palate, for if the voice
is placed in the nose it indicates that one is singing too far forward,
which is against the rules of song. If the student has a tendency to
sing in this way it is well to practice in vowel sounds only
(ah-eh-ee-la-lay-lee, etc.) in order to be cured of this serious fault.

After all, however, those who have practiced the art of right breathing
need have none of the defects mentioned above.

The "bleat" or goat voice, a particular fault of French singers,
proceeds from the habit of forcing the voice, which, when it is of small
volume, cannot stand the consequent fatigue of the larynx. Many singers
with voices suitable only for light opera are constantly trying to
branch out into big dramatic arias. Such performances are assuredly
distressing to hear and are certainly disastrous for the voices
concerned. It is no wonder that these people are often ill, for one
cannot make such efforts without injuring the health. I realize that
they often do it to please their directors and to be obliging in an
emergency, but when they are down and out others will easily replace
them and they are heard from no more.

To keep the voice fresh for the longest possible time one should not
only never overstep his vocal "means," but should limit his output as he
does the expenses of his purse.

There is only one way to cure a bleaty voice, and that is to cultivate
an absolute rest; then, on taking up singing again, to use the "closed
mouth" method until the time the strength of respiration shall be such
that one can open his mouth and let the restored voice take its course.

A few words on practicing with closed mouth may here be appropriate.
This method of study is really all that is necessary to place certain
voices, but is bad for others. It all depends on the formation of the
mouth and throat. For example, a singer troubled with the fault of
closing the throat too much should never work with the mouth closed.
When one can do it safely, however, it is a most excellent resource for
preparatory exercises in respiration. Since, as I have already
explained, breathing through the nose with closed mouth throws back the
respiration to the abdomen, it is best to do the exercise seated in a
comfortable, natural position.

Vocal work with closed mouth is also a powerful auxiliary to vocal
agility. Many great artists perform their daily vocal exercises with the
mouth shut, and I can personally testify to the excellency of this
practice. It most certainly strengthens the breathing powers and at the
same time rests the voice. But one should know how to do it properly. I
know of many badly fatigued voices that have been restored to their
normal condition in this way.

Singers, of all musicians, have the reputation of displaying the least
regard for time. In operatic work, however, with an orchestra to follow
or be followed, it is especially essential to observe a sane respect for
the proper tempo. Otherwise one is liable to get into immediate trouble
with the conductor. Of course I do not mean that one should sing in a
mechanical way and give nothing of one's own personality. This would
naturally rob the music of all charm. There are many singers who cannot
or will not count the time properly. There are those who sing without
method, who do not fit their breathing, which is really the regulator of
vocal performance, to the right periods, and who consequently are never
in time. They make all kinds of rallentandos where they are not
necessary, to gain time to recover the breath that they have not taken
when they should. It is not enough to give the notes their full value.
The rests, above all, should be carefully observed in order to have
sufficient opportunity to get a good breath and prepare for the next
phrase. It is this exactitude that gives certainty to one's rendition
and authority in singing--something many artists do not possess. A
singer may make all the efforts he desires and still keep the time, and
he _must_ keep it.

Those who roar most loudly rarely sing in time. They give every thought
to the volume of tone they are producing and do not bother themselves
about anything else. The right accents in music depend very much on the
exact time. Tone artists, while still making all their desired "effects"
in apparent freedom of style and delivery, nevertheless do not ever lose
sight of the time. Those who do are usually apt to be amateurs and are
not to be imitated.

Good Diction a Requisite

Good diction, or the art of pronouncing the words of a song or opera
properly and intelligently, is a matter sadly neglected by many singers,
and indeed is not considered important by a large proportion of the
audiences in this country, who do not understand foreign language, at
any rate. And in an opera sung in a language unknown to most of the
audience it is apparently unimportant whether the words are understood
or not as long as there is a general knowledge of the plot, and the main
consideration is, of course, the music.

Yet for those who are conversant with the language in which the opera is
written, how common an experience it is (in concert, also) to be able,
in spite of their linguistic knowledge, to understand little of what is
being sung, and what a drawback this really is! How many singers there
are who seem to turn all their attention to the production of beautiful
sounds and neglect in most cases the words that often are equally
beautiful, or should be!

One hears a great deal just now about the advisability of giving operas
in the native language, as it is done in France and Germany, and the
idea would seem to have its advantages, as has already been demonstrated
in some excellent performances of German, French and Italian operas in
English. But of what avail would such a project be if, after all, one
could not understand the words of his own language as they were sung?

The language might as well be Sanskrit or Chinese.

In France the matter of diction is probably given the greatest
attention, and singers at the Opera Comique, for instance, are noted for
their pure and distinct enunciation of every syllable. Indeed, it is as
much of a sine qua non there as good singing, if not more so, and the
numerous subtleties in the French language are difficult enough to
justify this special stress laid upon correct pronunciation.

It requires a very particular ability in a foreigner to attain the
atmosphere of perfect French to any very high degree. Italian is
generally considered an easier language to pronounce in song, as indeed
it is, all the vowel sounds being full and sonorous and lacking that
"covered" or mixed quality so often occurring in the French.
Nevertheless, Italian has its difficulties, particularly in the way of
distinctly enunciating the double consonants and proper division of the
liaisons, or combining of final vowels with initial vowels, and the
correct amount of softness to be given to the letter C.

All this, of course, is from the standpoint of those to whom these
languages are foreign.

Certainly no singer can be called a great artist unless his diction is
good, for a beautiful voice alone will not make up for other
deficiencies. A singer endowed with a small voice or even one of not
very pleasing quality can give more pleasure than a singer possessing a
big, impressive voice, but no diction.

Some people claim that a pronunciation too distinct or too much insisted
upon spoils the real voice quality, but this should not be the case if
the words are correctly and naturally brought out. Doubtless, this
impression has come from the fact that, particularly in France, many
singers possessed of small voices must exaggerate their diction to
obtain their effects. But if they did not have this perfect diction they
often would have little else to recommend them. I would aver that a fine
enunciation, far from interfering with it, aids the voice production,
makes it softer and more concentrated, but diction should act rather as
a frame for the voice and never replace it.

Each of the three languages, French, German and Italian, has its
peculiar characteristics, which are of aid to the student in the general
study of pronunciation, and it is well to have a knowledge of them all
outside of the fact that an artist nowadays needs to have this knowledge
in order not only to rank with the greatest, but to cope with the
demands of an operatic career.

The Italian language in its very essence is rich in vowels and vowel
combinations, from which comes principally the color in tones, and it
has consequently been called the "language of song." Italians thus have
naturally what it is so much trouble for singers of other nations to
acquire--the numerous variations of vowel sounds.

French has the nasal sounds as its dominating characteristic and is very
valuable in the cultivation of "nasal resonance."

As I said before, it is so easy to exaggerate and the voice is so apt to
get too much "in the nose" that one has to be extremely careful in the
use of the French "n" and "ng."

German is so full of consonants that one needs to have exceptional
control of the tongue and lips to give their proper value.

English possesses the features of all the other languages--of course, in
less marked degree--resembling most, perhaps, the German. The "th" is
the most difficult sound to make effective in singing.

I have already spoken of the various phases of nervousness which an
artist feels before the performance, but I wish to say here a word in
regard to the practical significance of such nervousness. Artists who do
not experience it are those who lack real genius. There are really two
kinds of fear--that arising from a realization of the importance of what
is to be done, the other from a lack of confidence in one's power. If a
singer has no conscience in his performance he is never nervous, but
full of assurance.

It is seldom that true artists are much troubled with nervousness after
going upon the stage. Generally, as I have before mentioned, they are
apt to be ill during the day of the performance, but before the public
they forget everything and are dominated only by the real love of their
art and sustained by the knowledge of possessing a proper "method."

It is certain with a good breath support even nervousness need not
prevent one from singing well, although one may be actually suffering
from trepidation. Yet we know that sometimes the greatest of artists are
prevented thus from doing their best work. The principle, however,
remains unshaken that singing in a correct way is the greatest possible

It is best to remain absolutely quiet and see no one on the day of the
performance, so as not to be enervated by the effort of talking much, to
say nothing of tiring the vocal chords. One prima donna of my
acquaintance occupies herself in trimming hats on the day when she
sings, believing that this provides a distraction and rests her nerves.
It is just as well not to "pass through" the rôle that is to be sung on
the day of the appearing, but in the morning a few technical exercises
to keep the voice in tune, as it were, are to be recommended. The great
Italian singers of other days followed this rule, and it still holds

If the singer gives much of himself as well as of his voice to the
public he should still hold his breathing supply in, so to speak, as he
would guard the capital from which comes his income. Failure should thus
be impossible if there is always a reserve to draw on. So the more one
sings with good breath support the more beautiful the voice becomes. On
the other hand, those who sing haphazard sometimes begin the evening
well, but deteriorate more and more as the performance advances and at
the end are uttering mere raucous sounds. They are like a man unable to
swim who is in a deep river--their voices control them in place of they
controlling their voices. They struggle vainly against obstacles, but
are carried away by the flood and are finally engulfed in the waters.

Many too ambitious students are their own worst enemies in the culture
of their voices. Because they have a large vocal power they want to
shout all the time in spite of the repeated admonitions of their
masters, who beg them to sing piano. But they hear nothing except the
noise they make themselves. Such headstrong ones will never make a
career, even with the finest voices in the world. Their teachers should
give up trying to make them listen to reason and devote their attention
to those who merit it and want to study seriously. Singing as an art is
usually not considered with enough earnestness. One should go to a
singing master as one goes to a specialist for a consultation and follow
with the greatest care his directions. If one does not have the same
respect and confidence one places in a physician it must be because the
singing master does not really merit it, and it would be much better to
make a change at once.

In general it is better not to stick entirely to one teacher, for it is
easy to get into a rut in this way, and someone else may have a quite
different and more enlightening way of setting forth his ideas.

In taking up operatic work it is understood, of course, that the singer
must have mastered most of the technical difficulties, so as not to be
troubled with them when they are encountered in some aria.

It is a most excellent thing to secure an engagement in one of the small
theatres abroad, where one may get a large experience before trying to
effect an entrance into the bigger organizations of the great capitals.

But be sure that the voice is well placed before trying any of this sort
of work, and never attempt to sing a rôle above your powers in the
earlier stage of your career, which otherwise may be compromised

One more bit of advice in closing. The best sort of lesson possible is
to go often to the opera and note well the methods of the great artists.
This personal example is worth more and is more illuminating than many

This is not so much that any form of imitation may be attempted as to
teach the would-be artist how to present at his best all those telling
qualities with which he may be endowed. It is the best of schools.

Pet Superstitions of Great Singers

The most visible phase of the opera singer's life when he or she is in
view of the public on the stage is naturally the one most intimately
connected in the minds of the majority of people with the singer's
personality, and yet there are many happenings, amusing or tragic, from
the artist's point of view, which, though often seen, are as often not
realized in their true significance by the audience in front of the
orchestra. One might naturally think that a singer who has been
appearing for years on the operatic stage in many lands would have
overcome or outgrown that bane of all public performers, stage fright.
Yet such is far from the case, for it seems as though the greater the
artistic temperament the more truly the artist feels and the more of
himself he puts into the music he sings the greater his nervousness
beforehand. The latter is of course augmented if the performance is a
first night and the opera has as yet been untried before a larger

This advance state of miserable physical tension is the portion of all
great singers alike, though in somewhat varying degrees, and it is
interesting to note the forms it assumes with different people. In many
it is shown by excessive irritability and the disposal to pick quarrels
with anyone who comes in contact with them. This is an unhappy time for
the luckless "dressers," wig man and stage hands, or even fellow artists
who encounter such singers before their first appearance in the evening.
Trouble is the portion of all such.

In other artists the state of mind is indicated by a stern set
countenance and a ghastly pallor, while still others become slightly
hysterical, laugh uproariously at nothing or burst into weeping. I have
seen a big six-foot bass singer, very popular at the opera two or three
seasons ago, walking to and fro with the tears running down his cheeks
for a long time before his entrance, and one of our greatest coloratura
prima donnas has come to me before the opera, sung a quavering note in a
voice full of emotion and said, with touching accents: "See, that is the
best I can do. How can I go on so?"

I myself have been affected often by such fright, though not always in
the extreme degree above described. This nervousness, however,
frequently shows itself in one's performance in the guise of indifferent
acting, singing off the key, etc. Artists are generally blamed for such
shortcomings, apparent in the early part of the production, when, as a
matter of fact, they themselves are hardly conscious of them and
overcome them in the course of the evening. Yet the public, even
critics, usually forget this fact and condemn an entire performance for
faults which are due at the beginning to sheer nervousness.

The oft-uttered complaint that operatic singers are the most difficult
to get on with of any folk, while justified, perhaps, can certainly be
explained by the foregoing observations.

We of the opera are often inclined to be superstitious in a way that
might annul matter of fact Americans. One woman, a distinguished and
most intelligent artist, crosses herself repeatedly before taking her
"cue," and a prima donna who is a favorite on two continents and who is
always escorted to the theatre by her mother, invariably goes through
the very solemn ceremony of kissing her mother good-by and receiving her
blessing before going on to sing. The young woman feels that she could
not possibly sing a note if the mother's eye were not on her every
moment from the wings.

Another famous singer wears a small bracelet that was given to her when
an infant by Gounod. She has grown somewhat stout of late years, and the
hoop of gold has been reënforced so often that there is hardly any of
the great composer's original gift left. Still, she feels that it is a
charm which has made her success, and whether she sings the part of a
lowly peasant or of a princess the bracelet is always visible.

And these little customs are not confined to the woman singers either,
for the men are equally fond of observing some little tradition to cheer
them in their performance. These little traits, trivial perhaps in
themselves, are of vital importance in that they create a sense of
security in the soul of the artist, who goes on his way, if not
rejoicing, at least convinced that the fates are not against him.

One of the penalties paid by the singers who are much in the public eye
is the constant demand made on them to listen to voices of vocal
aspirants--not always very young ones, strange to say. It is sad to
contemplate the number of people who think they can sing and are
destined by talent and temperament for operatic careers, who have been
led by misguided or foolish friends and too often by overambitious and
mercenary singing masters into spending time and money on their voices
in the fond hope of some day astonishing the world. Alas, they do not
realize that the great singers who are heard in the New York opera
houses have been picked from the world's supply after a process of most
drastic selection, and that it is only the most rarely exceptional voice
and talent which after long years of study and preparation become
worthy to join the elect.

I am asked to hear many who have voices with promise of beauty, but who
have obviously not the intelligence necessary to take up a career, for
it does require considerable intelligence to succeed in opera, in spite
of opinions to the contrary expressed by many. Others, who have keen and
alert minds and voices of fine quality, yet lack that certain esprit and
broadness of musical outlook required in a great artist. This lack is
often so apparent in the person's manner or bearing that I am tempted to
tell him it is no use before he utters a note. Yet it would not do to
refuse a hearing to all these misfits, for there is always the chance of
encountering the unknown genius, however rare a bird he may be.

And how often have the world's great voices been discovered by chance,
but fortunately by some one empowered to bring out the latent gift!

One finds in America many beautiful voices, and when one thinks of the
numerous singers successfully engaged in operatic careers both here and
abroad, it cannot with justice be said as it used to be several years
ago that America does not produce opera singers. Naturally a majority of
those to whom I give a hearing here in New York are Americans, and of
these are a number of really remarkable voices and a fairly good
conception of what is demanded of an opera singer.

Sometimes, however, it would be amusing if it were not tragic to see how
much off the track people are who have been led to think they have
futures. One young man who came recently to sing for me carried a
portentous roll of music and spoke in the deepest of bass voices. When
asked what his main difficulty was he replied that he "didn't seem to be
able to get on the key." And this was apparent when he started in and
wandered up and down the tonal till he managed to strike the tonic. Then
he asked me whether I would rather hear "Qui sdegno," from Mozart's
"Magic Flute," or "Love Me and the World is Mine." Upon the latter being
chosen he asked the accompanist to transpose it, and upon this
gentleman's suggesting a third lower, he said: "No, put it down an
octave." And that's where he sang it, too. I gently but firmly advised
the young man to seek other paths than musical ones. However, such
extreme examples as that are happily rare.

I would say to all young people who are ambitious to enter on a career
of opera: Remember, it is a thoroughly hard-worked profession, after
all; that even with a voice of requisite size and proper cultivation
there is still a repertory of rôles to acquire, long months and years of
study for this and requiring a considerable feat of memory to retain
them even after they are learned. Then there is the art of acting to be
studied, which is, of course, an entire occupation in itself and
decidedly necessary in opera, including fencing--how to fall properly,
the various gaits and gestures wherewith to portray different emotions,
etc. Then, as opera is sung nowadays, the knowledge of the diction of at
least three languages--French, German and Italian--if not essential, is
at least most helpful.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing" ***

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