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Title: Style in Singing
Author: Haslam, W. E.
Language: English
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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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Copyright, 1911



"Of making many books there is no end." Surely, the weary observation
of the sage must have an especial application to the literature of

One could not number the books--anatomical, physiological,
philosophical--on the Voice. A spacious library could easily be
furnished with "Methods" of Singing.

Works treating of the laws governing the effective interpretation of
instrumental music exist. Some of them, by acknowledged and competent
authorities, have thrown valuable light on a most important element of
musical art. Had I not believed that a similar need existed in
connection with singing, this addition to vocal literature would not
have been written.

In a succeeding volume on "Lyric Declamation: Recitative, Song and
Ballad Singing," will be discussed the practical application of these
basic principles of Style to the vocal music of the German, French,
Italian and other national schools.


2, rue Maleville,
  Parc Monceau, Paris,
    July, 1911.


In listening to a Patti, a Kubelik, a Paderewski, the reflective
hearer is struck by the absolute sureness with which such artists
arouse certain sensations in their auditors. Moreover, subsequent
hearings will reveal the fact that this sensation is aroused always in
the same place, and in the same manner. The beauty of the voice may be
temporarily affected in the case of a singer, or an instrument of less
æsthetic tone-quality be used by the instrumentalist, but the result
is always the same.

What is the reason of this? Why do great artists always make the same
effect and produce the same impression on their public? Why, for
instance, did the late Mme. Tietjens, when singing the following
passage in Handel's _Messiah_, always begin with very little voice of
a dulled quality, and gradually brighten its character as well as
augment its volume until she reached the high _G_-[sharp] which is the
culmination, not only of the musical phrase, but also of the
tremendous announcement to which it is allied?

[Music: For now is Christ risen, for now is Christ risen.]

This last tone was delivered with the full force and brilliance of her
magnificent voice, and was prolonged until the thrill produced in the
listener became almost painful in its intensity. Again I ask, why did
this world-famous singer perform this passage _always_ in the same
way? Unreflecting people may reply vaguely that it was because the
artist "sang with expression." But what constitutes "expression" in
singing? No great artist--no matter what the vehicle or medium through
which his art finds manifestation--does anything at random. "The wind
bloweth where it listeth" only in appearance; in reality, it is
governed by immutable law. Similarly, the outward form of an art is
only apparently dictated by caprice and freedom from rule. The
effective presentation of every art is based on well-defined and
accepted principles. And it is with the earnest desire to throw light
on this most important phase of vocal art, that I present the
principles of "Style in Singing."



PREFATORY NOTE                                                       v

INTRODUCTION                                                       vii

CHAPTER I: Elements of Vocal Training                                1

    Emission of Voice                                                2

CHAPTER II: The Value of Technique                                   7

CHAPTER III: Analysis of Style                                      12

    Colour                                                          14

    Accent                                                          21

    Intensity                                                       27

    Phrasing                                                        32

    Portamento                                                      37

    Variations of Tempo                                             41

CHAPTER IV: Tradition                                               44

    Pointage                                                        61

CHAPTER V: Répertoire                                               91

CHAPTER VI: Conclusion                                              98




If the practical education of the singer be analyzed, it will be found
to comprise four fundamental elements:

(1) POSE: or Emission of voice;

(2) TECHNIQUE: or the discipline of the voice considered as a musical

(3) STYLE: or the application of the laws of artistic taste to the
interpretation of vocal music;

(4) RÉPERTOIRE: or the choice, in the literature of vocal music, of
works most suited to the voice, temperament and individuality of the
particular singer.

I have classed these four elements in their relative order. They are,
however, of equal importance. Until the Pose and Technique of a voice
are satisfactory, attempts to acquire Style are premature. On the
other hand, without Style, a well-placed voice and an adequate amount
of Technique are incomplete; and until the singer's education has been
rounded off with a Répertoire adapted to his individual capabilities,
he is of little practical use for professional purposes.

       *       *       *       *       *


Great natural gifts of temperament and originality may, and sometimes
do, mask defects of emission, particularly in the case of artists
following the operatic career. But the artistic life and success of
such a singer is short. Violated Nature rebels, and avenges herself
for all infractions of law. A voice that is badly produced or emitted
speedily becomes worn, and is easily fatigued. By an additional
exertion of physical force, the singer usually attempts to conceal its
loss of sonority and carrying-power. The consequences are disastrous
for the entire instrument. The medium--to which is assigned the
greater portion of every singer's work--becomes "breathy" and hollow,
the lower tones guttural, the higher tones shrill, and the voice,
throughout its entire compass, harsh and unmanageable.

In view of its supreme importance, it is scarcely necessary to dwell
upon the self-evident fact that this foundation--Emission, or Placing
of the voice--should be well laid under the guidance of a skilled and
experienced singing-teacher. Nothing but disappointment can ensue if a
task of such consequence be confided, as is too frequently the case,
to one of the numerous charlatans who, as Oscar Commettant said, "_are
not able to achieve possibilities, so they promise miracles_." The
proper Classification, and subsequent Placing, of a voice require the
greatest tact and discernment. True, there are voices so well-defined
in character as to occasion no possible error in their proper
Classification at the beginning of their studies. But this is not the
case with a number of others, particularly those known as voices of
_mezzo-carattere_ (_demi-caractère_). It requires a physician of great
skill and experience to diagnose an obscure malady; but when once a
correct diagnosis is made, many doctors of less eminence might
successfully treat the malady, seeing that the recognized
pharmacopoeia contains no secret remedies.

Let the student of singing beware of the numerous impostors who claim
to have a "Method," a sort of bed of Procrustes, which the victim,
whether long or short, is made to fit. A "method" must be adapted to
the subject, not the subject made to fit the method. The object of all
teaching is the same, viz., to impart knowledge; but the means of
arriving at that end are multiple, and the manner of communicating
instruction is very often personal. To imagine that the same mode of
procedure, or "method," is applicable to all voices, is as
unreasonable as to expect that the same medicament will apply to all
maladies. In imparting a correct emission of voice, science has not
infrequently to efface the results of a previous defective use,
inherent or acquired, of the vocal organ. Hence, although the object
to be attained is in every case the same, the _modus operandi_ will
vary infinitely. Nor should these most important branches of
Classification and Production be entrusted--as is often the case--to
assistants, usually accompanists, lacking the necessary training for a
work requiring great experience and ripe judgment. To a competent
assistant may very properly be confided the preparation of Technique,
as applied to a mechanical instrument: All violins, for instance, are
practically the same. But voices differ as do faces.

The present mania for dragging voices up, and out of their legitimate
_tessitura_, has become a very grave evil, the consequences of which,
in many instances, have been most disastrous. Tolerable baritones have
been transformed into very mediocre tenors, capable mezzo-soprani into
very indifferent dramatic soprani, and so on. That this process may
have answered in a few isolated cases, where the vocal organs were of
such exceptional strength and resistance as to bear the strain, is by
no means a guarantee that the same results may be obtained in every
instance, and with less favoured subjects. The average compass in male
voices is about two octaves minus one or two tones. I mean, of course,
tones that are really available when the singer is on the stage and
accompanied by an orchestra. Now, a baritone who strives to transform
his voice into a tenor, simply loses the two lowest tones of his
compass, possibly of good quality and resonance, and gains a minor or
major third above the high G (sol) of a very poor, strained character.
The compass of the voice remains exactly the same. He has merely
exchanged several excellent tones below for some very poor ones above.
I repeat, one who aspires to be a lyric artist requires the best
possible teacher to guide his first steps; he may consult an inferior
or incompetent professor, when so firmly established in the right path
that he cannot possibly be led astray.

It is a common belief that singing-teachers of reputation do not care
to occupy themselves with voice-production, or are unable to teach it.
This is a serious error. A competent professor of singing is as
capable of imparting the principles of this most important branch, as
of directing the more æsthetic studies of Style and Répertoire. All
the really great and illustrious singing-masters of the past preferred
to "form" the voices of their pupils. To continue and finish a
predecessor's work, or to erect a handsome and solid structure on
defective foundations, is always a difficult task; sometimes an
impossible one.

Then, as regards the pupil, particularly one studying with a view to a
professional career, a defective preparatory training may eventually
mean serious material loss. The money and time spent on his vocal
education is, in his case, an investment, not an outlay; the
investment will be a poor one, should it be necessary later to devote
further time and expend more money to correct natural defects that
ought to have been corrected at the beginning of his studies, or to
eradicate faults acquired during their progress.

Furthermore, the purpose of some part of a singer's preliminary
education is to strengthen and fit the voice for the exacting demands
of a professional career. As the training of an athlete--rower,
runner, boxer, wrestler--not only perfects his technical skill, but
also, by a process of gradual development, enables him to endure the
exceptional strain he will eventually have to bear in a contest, so
some of a singer's early studies prepare his voice for the tax to
which hereafter it will be subjected. If those studies have been
insufficient, or ill-directed, failure awaits the débutant when he
presents himself before the public in a spacious theatre or
concert-hall and strives, ineffectually, to dominate the powerful
sonorities of the large orchestras which are a necessity for modern
scores. A sound and judiciously graduated preparatory training, in
fact, is essential if the singer would avoid disappointment or a

The vocal education of many students, however, is nowadays hurried
through with a haste that is equalled only by the celerity with which
such aspirants for lyric honours return to obscurity.



Briefly defined, the singer's Technique may be said to consist
principally of the ability to govern the voice in its three phases of
Pitch, Colour, and Intensity. That is, he must be able to sing every
note throughout the compass of the voice (Pitch) in different
qualities or timbres (Colour), and with various degrees of power
(Intensity). And although the modern schools of composition for the
voice do not encourage the display of florid execution, a singer would
be ill-advised indeed to neglect this factor, on the plea that it has
no longer any practical application. No greater error is conceivable.
Should an instrumental virtuoso fail to acquire mastery of
transcendental difficulties, his performance of any piece would not be
perfect: the greater includes the less. A singer would be very
short-sighted who did not adopt an analogous line of reasoning.
Without an appreciable amount of _agilità_, the performance of modern
music is laboured and heavy; that of the classics, impossible. In
fact, virtuosity, if properly understood, is as indispensable to-day
as ever it was. As much vocal virtuosity is required to interpret
successfully the music of Falstaff, in Verdi's opera, as is necessary
for _Maometto Secondo_ or _Semiramide_ by Rossini. It is simply
another form of virtuosity; that is all. The lyric grace or dramatic
intensity of many pages of Wagner's music-dramas can be fully revealed
only through a voice that has been rendered supple by training, and
responsive to the slightest suggestion of an artistic temperament.

In short, virtuosity may have changed in form, but it is still one of
the cornerstones of the singer's art. An executive artist will spare
no pains to acquire perfect technical skill; for the _métier_, or
mechanical elements of any art, can be acquired, spontaneous though
the results may sometimes appear. Its primary use is, and should be,
to serve as a medium of interpretation. True, virtuosity is frequently
a vehicle for personal display, as, notably, in the operas of
Cimarosa, Bellini, Donizetti, and the earlier works of Rossini and
Verdi. At its worst, however, it is a practical demonstration of the
fact that the executant, vocal or instrumental, has completely
mastered the mechanical elements of his profession; that, to use the
_argot_ of the studios, "_il connaît son métier_" (he knows his

Imperfect technique, indeed, is to be deprecated, if merely for the
reason that it may debar a singer from interpreting accurately the
composer's ideas. How seldom, if ever, even in the best lyric
theatres, is the following passage heard as the composer himself

[Music: "Plus blanche"

Les Huguenots: Act I


Plus pure, plus pure qu'un jour de printemps]

or the concluding phrase of "Celeste Aida" (in _Aida_, Act I), as
Verdi wrote it and wished it to be sung:

[Music: un trono vicino al sol, un trono vicino al sol.]

At present the majority of operatic tenors, to whom are assigned the
strong tenor (_fort ténor_) rôles, can sing the higher tones of their
compass only in _forte_, and with full voice. Thus an additional and
very charming effect is lost to them. Yet Adolphe Nourrit, who created
the rôle of Raoûl in _Les Huguenots_, sang, it is said, the phrase as
written. The late Italo Campanini, Sims Reeves, and the famous Spanish
tenor Gayarré, were all able to sing the


_mezza voce_, by a skilled use of the covered tones.

I do not ignore the fact that cases occur where artists, owing to some
physiological peculiarity or personal idiosyncrasy, are unable to
overcome certain special difficulties; where, indeed, the effort would
produce but meagre results. But such instances are the exception, not
the rule. The lyric artist who is gifted merely with a beautiful
voice, over which he has acquired but imperfect control, is at the
mercy of every slight indisposition that may temporarily affect the
quality and sonority of his instrument. But he who is a "singer" in
the real and artistic sense of the word, he who has acquired skill in
the use of the voice, is armed at all points against such accidents.
By his art, by clever devices of varied tone-colour and degrees of
intensity, he can so screen the momentary loss of brilliance, etc., as
to conceal that fact from his auditors, who imagine him to be in the
possession of his normal physical powers. The technical or mechanical
part of any art can be taught and learned, as I have said. It is only
a case of well-guided effort. Patience and unceasing perseverance will
in this, as in all other matters, achieve the desired result. Nature
gives only the ability and aptitude to acquire; it is persistent study
which enables their possessor to arrive at perfection. Serious and
lasting results are obtained only by constant practice. It is a
curious fact that many people more than usually gifted arrive only at
mediocrity. Certain things, such as the trill or scales, come
naturally easy to them. This being the case, they neglect to perfect
their _agilità_, which remains defective. Others, although but
moderately endowed, have arrived at eminence by sheer persistence and
rightly directed study. It is simply a musical version of the Hare and
the Tortoise.

       *       *       *       *       *

But we must make a great distinction between the preliminary exercises
which put the singer in full possession of the purely mechanical
branch of his art (Technique), and the æsthetic studies in Taste and
the research for what dramatic authors call "the Science of Effect,"
or Style. The former must be thoroughly accomplished, otherwise the
latter cannot be undertaken satisfactorily. A good and reliable
technique is undoubtedly of primary necessity. But it is by no means
all. One may have a voice which is well-posed and of good resonance,
and also have sufficient flexibility to perform neatly all the rapid
passages with which the pages of the classic composers abound. But
this is not singing; nor is the possessor of these an artist. He has
simply the necessary and preliminary knowledge which should enable him
to become one, by further study of the æsthetic side of the art of
singing. He has, as it were, collected the materials necessary for the
erection of a splendid edifice, and has now to learn the effective
means of combining them. So, when the voice is "formed," a frank and
easy emission obtained, a sufficiency of Technique acquired, the next
step in the singer's education is the practical study of the problem
of Style.



What is Style?

In reality the question is two-fold. One may have Style; and one may
have _a_ style. The former is general; the latter individual. The
former can be taught and learned, for it is based on certain
well-defined rules; the latter is personal--in other words, is not
universally applicable. Not infrequently it is a particular
application of those rules which gives the impress of originality. But
correct taste must first be formed by the study of the noblest
creations in the particular art that claims attention. In singing, as
in the sister arts, the laws which govern Style must be apprehended
and understood before Individuality can be given full scope.
Otherwise, what to the executant would appear as original might, to
correct taste and judgment, appear ridiculous and extravagant. A
genius is sometimes eccentric, but eccentricity is not genius. Vocal
students should hear as many good singers as possible, but actually
imitate none. A skilled teacher will always discern and strive to
develop the personality of the pupil, will be on the alert to discover
latent features of originality and character. He will respect and
encourage individuality, rather than insist upon the servile imitation
of some model--even though that model be himself. As the distinguished
artist Victor Maurel has justly observed: "Of all the bad forms of
teaching singing, that by imitation is the worst" (_Un Problème

In singing, as in painting, a copy has never the value of the
original. Moreover, slavish imitation in any art has a deleterious
influence. But to respect irreproachable examples and fitly observe
sound rules, whose very survival often justifies their existence and
testifies to their value, is always of benefit to the artist. To
imitate is to renounce one's individual expression of an ideal and
present that of another. But to observe established and accepted laws,
laws founded on Truth and consecrated by Time, is not to imitate, when
those laws are applied in an original and individual manner that is in
harmony with the personality of the interpreter. "_L'art est un coin
de Nature vu à travers un tempérament._" In literature, each writer
has his own special style which may easily be recognized; but all
follow the same grammatical rules. A correct style in singing consists
in the careful observance of the principles of Technique; a perfect
Diction; the appropriate Colouring of each sentiment expressed;
attention to the musical and poetic Accents; judicious and effective
Phrasing (whether musical or verbal), so that the meaning of both
composer and poet may be placed in the clearest light.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us analyze Style in its three principal aspects: Colour, Accent,
and Phrasing.


Of all the elements of Style in singing, the most potent and
effective--the one, indeed, that is essential for the success of the
lyric artist--is the ability to vary the vocal timbre; that is, to
sing with Colour. This desideratum of varied tone-colour is sought
even by instrumentalists. Nay, the instrument itself is sometimes
constructed with this object in view. Witness the invention of the
"soft" pedal, which is intended not solely to reduce the intensity of
tone in the pianoforte--that may be accomplished by a modification of
force in striking the note--but to give the tones a darker, more
sombre quality, or colour. To vary the tone-colour, a violinist or
'cellist draws the bow across the strings close to, or distant from,
the bridge, in accordance with his desire for a reed-like or
flute-like quality of tone. Anyone who has listened to the performance
of the slow movement in Paganini's Concerto in _D_, by an Ysaye or a
Mischa Elman, will have remarked how the skilful use of varied tone
colour and other devices imparts a wonderful charm to music
intrinsically of but mediocre value.

A singer may have a good quality of voice; but that is normal. If he
can vary it only in degrees of loudness (Intensity) and not in
differences of timbre (Colour) he cannot be ranked as an artist. No
matter how great the natural beauty and sonority of his voice, his
performance will always be monotonous, if he has only one tint on his
vocal palette. In speech--from which the effect is borrowed--utterances
of grave and serious meaning, and those of gayer import, are not made
with the same colour of voice. A brighter quality (_voix claire_) is
used instinctively for an ejaculation uttered by one to whom pleasant
or joyful news has been communicated. On the contrary, should it be
the cause of sorrow or grief for the listener, he will use--should he
have occasion to reply--a darker quality of voice (_voix sombre_).
Such phenomena are physiological. The vocal organs are the most
sensitive of any in the human economy: they betray at once the mental
condition of the individual. Joy is a great tonic, and acts on the
vocal cords and mucous membrane as does an astringent; a brilliant and
clear quality of voice is the result. Grief or Fear, on the other
hand, being depressing emotions, lower the vitality, and the
debilitating influence communicates to the voice a dull and sombre

On this question of colour in the voice, the masterly writer and
critic Legouvé says: "Certain particular gifts are necessary if the
speech is to possess colour. The first of these is Metal in the voice.
He who has it not will never shine as a colourist. The metal may be
gold, silver or brass; each has its individual characteristic. A
golden voice is the most brilliant; a silvery voice has the most
charm; a brassy voice the most power. But one of the three
characteristics is essential. A voice without metallic ring is like
teeth without enamel; they may be sound and healthy, but they are not
brilliant.... In speech there are several colours--a bright, ringing
quality; one soft and veiled. The bright, strident hues of purple and
gold in a picture may produce a masterpiece of gorgeous colouring; so,
in a different manner, may the harmonious juxtaposition of greys,
lilacs and browns on a canvas by Veronese, Rubens, or Delacroix.

"Last of all is the velvety voice. This is worthless if not allied
with one of the three others. In order that a velvety voice may
possess value it must be reinforced (_doublée_) with 'metal.' A
velvety voice is merely one of cotton."[1]

[Footnote 1: These admirably expressed views illustrate and exemplify
the principles I laid down in a _conférence_ (Paris, 1902) on
Voice-Production (_Pose de la Voix_), wherein I demonstrated the
possibility of acquiring, by the aid of the resonating cavities, a
greater sonority, more in conformity with the demands and necessities
of present-day music.]

It may be of interest to notice that the quality which in France is
designated "timbre," is called by the Italians "_metallo di voce_,"
or, "metal of the voice." Those who heard Madame Sarah Bernhardt
fifteen or twenty years ago will readily understand why her countless
friends and admirers always spoke of her matchless organ as "_la voix

The late Sims Reeves, the famous tenor, was a perfect master of all
varieties and shades of vocal colour, and displayed his mastery with
certainty and unfailing effect in the different fields of Oratorio and
Opera. In the recitative "Deeper and deeper still," with its
subsequent aria "Waft her, angels, through the skies" [Handel], he
ranged through the entire gamut of tone-colour. As Edgardo in
Donizetti's _Lucia di Lammermoor_, he launched the "Maladetta" phrase
of the curse with a voice that was almost "white" with frenzied rage;
while the pathetic sombre quality he employed in the "_Fra poco a me
ricovero_" fitly accorded with the despairing mood and gloomy
surroundings of the hapless Edgardo.

Some singers control but two colours or timbres--the very clear (open)
and the very sombre (closed), which they exaggerate. In reality,
however, the gradations between them can be made infinite by the
artist who is in possession of the secret--especially if he has the
ability to combine Colour with Intensity.

An illustration of this is found in the example cited in the opening
paragraph of the present work:--"For now is Christ risen." Not only
did Mme. Tietjens make a gradual _crescendo_ from the first note to
the climax, but the tonal colours were also subtly graduated from a
comparatively sombre quality to one of the utmost clearness and

[Music: As sung by Mme. Tietjens

For now is Christ risen, for now is Christ risen from the dead.]

As contrasting examples in which the two principal colours may be
employed effectively, I may cite the Bacchic air, "_Ô vin, dissipe la
tristesse_," and the pensive monologue, "_Être, ou ne pas être_," both
from the opera _Hamlet_, by Ambroise Thomas. The forced, unnatural
quality of the first calls for the use of a clear, open, brilliant


Ô vin, dissipe la tristesse
Qui pèse sur mon coeur!
A moi les rêves de l'ivresse,
Et le rire moqueur!]

But for the second, "To be, or not to be":


Être, ou ne pas être! ô mystère!
Mourir! dormir, dormir!]

a sombre, closed timbre is necessary. The opening recitative of
Vanderdecken in _Der fliegende Holländer_ by Wagner would be absurd,
and utterly out of harmony with the character and his surroundings, if
sung in the open timbre. Perhaps I ought to explain that "open" (_voix
claire_, Fr.), and "closed" (_voix sombre_, Fr.), are technical terms,
of which the equivalents are accepted in all countries where the art
of singing is cultivated; terms that apply to _quality_ of tone, not
to the _physical_ process by which these effects are produced. Such a
mistake is not infrequently made by vocal physiologists who are not
practical musicians or singing-teachers. Nor must the term "clear
timbre" be understood to mean the "white voice" ("_voix blanche_," or
"_voce bianca_"); this, like the guttural timbre, being only
occasionally employed for the expression of some violent passion, such
as hate.

Like the admirable paintings of Eugène Carrière, for instance his
masterly portrait of Paul Verlaine, a song, sometimes an entire rôle,
may be worked out in monochrome; though the gradations of tint are
numerous, they are consistently kept within their preconceived
colour-scheme. Some few exceptional singers, like Jean-Baptiste Faure
or Maurice Renaud, have this gift of many shades of the one colour in
their singing of certain rôles. The colour is determined by the
psychological character of the personage portrayed; a gay, reckless
Don Giovanni calls for a brighter colouring throughout than that
necessitated by the music allotted to a gloomy Vanderdecken or an
embittered and vengeful Rigoletto. One may, therefore, formulate the
following rule: The general character of the composition will decide
the tonal colour appropriate for its general interpretation; the
colouring necessary for its component phrases will be determined by
the particular sentiment embodied in them. Emotions like sorrow, fear,
despair, will find fitting expression in the sombre quality of voice,
graduated in accordance with the intensity of the emotion. The
opposite sentiments of joy, love, courage, hope, are fittingly
interpreted by gradations of the clear and brilliant timbre. The dark
or sombre voice will be used in varying shades for the recitative from
_Samson_ (Handel), "Oh, loss of sight:"

[Music: Oh, loss of sight, of thee I most complain!]

while the clearest and most brilliant timbre possible to be obtained
is plainly indicated for the same composer's "Sound an alarm!" from
_Judas Maccabæus_.

[Music: Sound an alarm, your silver trumpets sound!]

It was a rule formulated by the old Italian school of singing, when
_l'arte del bel canto_ in its true sense did really exist, that no
phrase--musical or verbal--should be repeated with the same nuances.
Very many instances might be given of the happy effect obtained by
observing this rule. One will suffice. It is taken from the Lamento of
Queen Catherine (of Aragon), who, slighted by Henry VIII. for Anne
Boleyn, sighs for her native Spain.

[Music: Lamento

Henri VIII: Act IV


Mon Espagne chérie! Mon Espagne chérie!]

Sudden contrasts of colour are of great dramatic effect. A good
illustration is found in the air "_Divinités du Styx_," from Gluck's
_Alceste_. This contrast is still further heightened by a sudden
change of both Intensity and Tempo.


Divinités du Styx!
Divinités du Styx!
Ministres de la mort!]

This last phrase, "_Ministres de la mort!_" should be sung in a very
sombre voice of almost guttural character.

It is, indeed, in the recitatives and declamatory passages of Gluck,
Handel, Sacchini, that lyric artists will find unsurpassable material
for study. Requiring, as such works do for their perfect
interpretation, all the resources of Colour, Accent, and Phrasing,
such study is the best possible preparation for the fitting musical
presentment of the lyric drama in some of its later phases.

Colour, then, is the basic element of Style in singing. It is
reinforced by Accent, which, as the name implies, is the accentuation
of details that require to be brought into prominence. This subject,
therefore, next claims attention.

       *       *       *       *       *


In singing, two kinds of accent are recognized, the Musical accent,
and the Poetic, or Verbal, accent. The first appertains to the domain
of sound; the second, to the domain of significance. The first, for
æsthetic reasons, throws into relief certain tones of a musical
phrase; the second brings into prominence the sentiment underlying the
poem or text. Note, also, that in spoken declamation, accent applies
to a syllable only; in singing, the verbal accent affects an entire

In its relation to Style, the Musical accent must be carefully
distinguished from the Metrical accent which is determined by Time, or
Measure, as well as from the Verbal accent whereby the import of a
word is rendered clear to the listener. Here is an example of Musical
accent, from Act III of Verdi's _Ballo in Maschera_:

[Music: Saper vorreste di che si veste quando l'è cosa ch'ei vuol

The accents (marked thus [accent symbol]) give to the musical phrase a
piquancy that is admirably in keeping with the gay and careless
character of the page, Oscar, who sings it. In fact, as regards Style,
Musical accent is particularly valuable in song for the purpose of
setting forth the true character of the music. Hence, it may be
regarded as a means of characterization.

This use of accent for characterization is also quite distinct from
its use with "accidentals," or tones foreign to the prevailing
tonality. In the former case, sentiment dictates its employment; in
the second, the accent guarantees, as it were, the accuracy of the
singer's intonation. By the faint stress laid on the foreign tone,
the listener is assured that the executant is not deviating from the
true pitch. In the following examples, the tones marked [accent
symbol] are "accidentals," and for that reason should receive a faint
stress. The first example is from _La Forza del Destino_.

[Music: Verdi

Madre, Madre, pietosa Vergine, perdona al mio peccato, m'aita

[Music: "Je dis que rien"

Carmen: Act III


Vous me protégerez, Seigneur!]

These different uses of accent are well illustrated in the following

[Music: "Come unto Him"



Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him.]

The tone allotted to the second syllable of the word "upon" is
accentuated to affirm the accuracy of the singer's intonation; the
slight emphasis of the word "Him" brings into relief the meaning of
the text. This latter, then, is an illustration of Verbal, or
"Poetic" accent which, I repeat, throws into relief, without
consideration of its musical value or position, some word of special
significance in the verbal phrase. To render the poetic meaning of the
text clear to the listener, a correct use of verbal accent is
imperative. Its importance and effect, particularly in recitative and
declamatory singing, are analogous to the importance and effect of
emphasis in spoken language. The example is from _Samson_ (Handel):

[Music: O loss of _sight_, of _thee_ I _most_ complain.]

Here I may point out that in _cantabile_ phrases the stream of sound,
notwithstanding its division into syllables by the organs of
articulation--lips, tongue, etc.--should pour forth smoothly and
uninterruptedly. The full value of each tone must be allotted to the
vowel; the consonants which precede or end the syllables are
pronounced quickly and distinctly. In declamatory singing, on the
contrary, the consonants should be articulated with greater
deliberation and intensity.

[Music: Handel (Messiah)

I _know_ that my Redeemer liveth.]

Here an emphatic accent on the consonant "n" irresistibly suggests the
idea of knowledge; that is, of absolute certainty, not of mere

Very frequently the metrical accent does not coincide with the
syllabic accent: the musical accent will fall on an unaccented
syllable, or vice versa. Particularly is this the case when the
composer is not perfectly familiar with the rules that govern the
prosody of the language to which he is setting music. In the operas of
Meyerbeer many passages occur in which it is necessary to readjust the
syllables to the notes on account of their misplaced accent. Here is
an illustration from Hoël's Grand Air in _Le Pardon de Ploërmel_
(Meyerbeer), Act II. (Note that the tonic accent in French falls
_always_ on the last pronounced syllable.)

[Music: (as printed)

Et ranimez, ra_ni_mez ma foi.]

The error is easily remedied:

[Music: (should be sung)

Et ranimez, rani_mez_ ma foi.]

In the contralto aria "He shall feed His flock," in Handel's
_Messiah_, the unaccented word "shall" falls on the most strongly
accented note of the bar. If performed thus, it would give a most
aggressive character to the passage, implying that some one had
previously denied the assertion. This would be entirely at variance
with the consolatory and peaceful message that is contained in the
text and shadowed forth in the music.

[Music: (as printed)

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.

(should be sung)

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.]

Instances of faulty syllabic accent abound in Handel's works, both his
English oratorios and his Italian operas. Many examples could be
quoted. Here is a phrase from the beautiful air for mezzo-soprano sung
by Ruggiero in the opera of _Alcina_.

[Music: (as printed)

Verdi prati.

(should be sung)

Verdi prati.]

In Mendelssohn's _Elijah_, the following phrase is nearly always sung
as written, unless the singer is familiar with the best traditions:

[Music: Give me _thy_ son!]

It may be that the artists who slavishly follow the published text
fear being accused of altering the composer's music, or are ignorant
of the fact that there exists a better version, which is this:

[Music: Give _me_ thy son!]

It will be seen that the music is not changed in the least; the
musical and verbal accents have been merely readjusted and made to

In order to avoid the disagreeable effect of singing one half-bar
_andante_ to the syllable "_si_" (pronounced like "zee" in English),
the following phrase of Marguerite de Valois in _Les Huguenots_
(Meyerbeer), Act II, is changed thus:

[Music: (as printed)

en aucun temps n'eût choisi mieux.

(should be sung)

en aucun temps n'eût choisi mieux.]

       *       *       *       *       *


In musical terminology every gradation of volume in sound, from the
faintest to the loudest, enters into the category of Intensity. One of
the accepted rules of the _arte del bel canto_ was, that every
sustained tone should be coloured by some graduation of intensity.
Thus the ability to augment and diminish the volume of tone was so
highly esteemed--indeed, so essential--that singers spent much time in
acquiring the _messa di voce_, that is, the steadily graduated
emission of tone from the softest degree to the loudest and again to
the softest: _p_ [crescendo symbol] _f_ [decrescendo symbol] _p_. This
exercise invariably formed a part of each day's study, and was
practised on several vowels throughout the scale, except the extreme
tones, save in rare instances. It was, in fact, indispensable that the
singer should be able to colour every tone in three forms of graduated
intensity: Soft to loud _p_ [crescendo symbol] _f_; loud to soft _f_
[decrescendo symbol] _p_; and soft to loud and soft again _p_
[crescendo symbol] _f_ [decrescendo symbol] _p_.

This command of intensity, therefore, is invaluable. But it is even
more effective when the artist has the power to combine the various
gradations of Intensity with different shades of Colour; in other
words, when he can sing a tone _crescendo_ and _diminuendo_ in the
clear and sombre timbres.

The passage, already cited, from Alceste's great air in Gluck's opera
_Alceste_, furnishes an admirable illustration of the dramatic emotion
created by a sudden contrast of Intensity as well as Colour. In the
invocation "Ye ministers that dwell in night!" the clear timbre is
used with gradually increasing volume until at the phrase (sung
_adagio_) "Ministers of death!" the timbre changes abruptly to a
sombre quality with sinister effect, which effect is augmented by
being sung _pp_.

[Music: Gluck (Alceste: Act I)

Divinités du Styx!
Divinités du Styx!
Ministres de la mort!]

A still more striking example of the impressive effect produced by
sudden contrasts of intensity is offered in the magnificent air "Total
Eclipse," from _Samson_ (Handel). In it, a judicious use of
tone-colour, accent, and variations of tempo, all combine to elucidate
in the highest possible degree the idea of both composer and poet:

[Music: Sun, moon and stars, sun, moon and stars are _dark_ to me.]

The words "Sun, moon and stars" should be given strongly accentuated,
and the tempo gradually accelerated. The repetition of the phrase
should be sung with still greater intensity; then, at the passage "are
dark to me," the colour of the voice changes to one of very sombre
quality, and the original tempo is resumed. The first consonant in the
word "dark" should receive a slight stress.

The _crescendo_ has always been a favourite device of composers,
particularly of those who write for the lyric theatre. It was an
effect held in high esteem by Rossini, who introduced it constantly in
his operas--witness his overtures and ensembles. All are familiar with
the wonderful _crescendo_ which precedes the appearance of the Knight
of the Swan, in _Lohengrin_, where the sonorities are augmented by
gradual additions of voices and instruments until the culminating
point is reached. An instance more poignant still is found in the
great "Liebestod" in _Tristan und Isolde_.

Although Hérold, the French composer, observed that in working up to a
climax one should begin a long way off, a singer must be careful not
to reach his maximum of vocal sonority before the musical climax is
attained. The tenor Duprez created a sensation that is historic, in
the long _crescendo_ passage in the fourth act of _Guillaume Tell_, by
gradually increasing the volume of sound, as the phrase developed in
power and grandeur, until the end, which he delivered with all the
wealth of his exceptionally resonant voice.

Before closing this chapter on Intensity, I should advise singers
whose voices possess great natural volume or power not to abuse this
valuable quality by employing it too frequently. The ear of a listener
tires sooner of extreme sonority than of any other effect. Talma, the
great actor, wrought many reforms on the French dramatic stage, not
only in costume--prior to his time Greek or Roman dress only was worn
in tragedy--but also in the manner of delivering tragic verse. Against
the custom, then prevalent, of always hurling forth long tirades at
full voice, he inveighed in these terms: "Of all monotonous things,
_uproar_ is the most intolerable" (_de toutes les monotonies, celle de
la force est la plus insupportable_). An artistic singer will use his
most powerful tones, as a painter employs his most vivid colours,

       *       *       *       *       *


Phrasing is simply musical punctuation. In singing, it may be
separated, like accent, into two divisions: Musical and Poetic, or
Verbal, phrasing. If the following passage were performed by an
instrument, it would not require any particular grouping or phrasing:


But when sung, it would fail in effect if not performed with a very
slight pause after the word "nobis," thus:

[Music: Ave Maria


Ora pro nobis, Maria.]

As another illustration of the excellent effect of correct phrasing
may be cited the song _Psyché_, by Paladilhe. Its effect is heightened
if the musical phrasing be judiciously combined with a change in
Colour and Intensity:

[Music: Quand il les flatte, j'en murmure!]

(Should be sung):

[Music: Quand il les flatte, j'en murmure!]

It is the clashing of the Musical and Verbal phrasings that often
makes translations of lyric works unsatisfactory. The two phrases are
independent, not welded together. So far from being "Music wedded to
immortal Verse," these instances resemble those _ménages_ wherein each
unit leads a separate existence. When this is the case, the singer
must decide as to whether the musical phrase, or the poetic phrase,
demands the greater prominence.

The following Phrasing and Colouring would be good and effective if
the passage were played on an instrument:


But if sung thus, as it sometimes is by careless artists who pay
little attention to the verbal significance of what they are singing,
it would sound absurd, because the poetic phrasing is entirely
ignored. The correct way of performing the passage (from the aria "Voi
che sapete," in Act II of Mozart's _Nozze di Figaro_) is the

[Music: Donne, vedete, s'io l'ho nel cor.]

In the next extract (from Act IV in _Un Ballo in Maschera_, by Verdi),
it will be noticed how oblivious the composer was of the claims of
verbal phrasing. The whole _scena_ is admirably written for the
voice, and contains many graceful passages of great melodic charm. But
although the music may claim to represent the character of the
situation as a whole, it is disfigured by the complete disregard of
the sense of certain groups of words:

[Music: Come se fosse l'ultima ora del nostro amor, come se fosse
l'ultima, l'ultima ora, ora del nostro amor, del nostro amor? Oh, qual
presagio m'assale, come se fosse l'ultima ora del nostro amor, se
fosse l'ultima del nostro amor]

The words "_come se fosse l'ultima ora del nostro amor_," constitute
one phrase. It would be extremely difficult, impossible even, for
many, to sing the passage in one breath. But the first musical phrase
ends after the word "_ultima_;" to separate it from the next word,
"_ora_" (second and third bars), thus: "last--hour," is impracticable.
It would be out of the question to destroy the musical phrase by
breathing after the word "_ora_," in the third bar. If the text is
phrased when spoken as it is when sung, the incongruity is at once
apparent. The published score gives a pause [fermata symbol] after the
word "_ora_:" "_ultima ora_ [fermata symbol] _del nostro amor_." This
phrasing is good and effective, especially if the artist changes at
once to the sombre quality after the pause, and finishes the phrase
_piano_ and _rallentando_. One very often hears it, however, given
with a pause for breathing after the high _a_; the unfortunate singer
having prolonged the tone until, in order to continue, he is compelled
to take in more air. The result is the absurd phrasing given below:

[Music: l'ultima ora del nostro amor]

In the final cadenza, the composer has cut out the word "ora"
altogether. The whole air is of interest to the musical student, as it
shows clearly the little value attached by Verdi, at that period of
his career, to the exigencies of the verbal or poetic phrase. This
neglect of the verbal punctuation is in marked contrast to the care he
bestowed on it in his later works, witness _Aida_, _Otello_, and
particularly _Falstaff_.

Here I may say that it is sometimes necessary to alter the words on
account of the impossibility of performing certain passages as
written. In the earlier published scores of _Samson et Dalila_
(Saint-Saëns), the following passage in Act II, "Mon coeur s'ouvre à
ta voix," as the composer wrote it, occurs as one phrase:

[Music: Ah! réponds à ma tendresse!]

This being impracticable of execution in one phrase, and there being
no opportunity of retaking breath until the close of the passage, it
was altered in the later editions, and now stands thus:

[Music: Ah! réponds, réponds à ma tendresse!]

This device of repetition, applied either to a word or to part of a
phrase, is perfectly justifiable in cases where the artist, for
physical reasons, is unable to sing the phrase in one breath. I give
an excerpt from Weber's _Der Freischütz_ (Grand Air, Act II):

[Music: Oh lovely night!]

This may be sung:

[Music: Oh lovely, lovely night!]

The concluding bars of the waltz-song in Act I of Gounod's _Roméo et
Juliette_, are often phrased as indicated in the brackets, in order to
give the singer a chance to take breath, which is done after the _c_

[Music: Ah! (comme un trésor.) comme un trésor.]

As discrepancies between the musical and verbal phrases, such as those
I have instanced, abound in certain of the old operas which still keep
the stage and form a part of the permanent répertoire of every lyric
theatre, the artists singing them are compelled to choose between
sacrificing the words or the music. The former alternative is
generally preferable, the musical phrase in many such cases being of
the greater relative importance. Another way is, to meet the
difficulty boldly by supplying another text which mates itself more
happily with the musical phrase. Personally, I adopt the latter
alternative without hesitation, when preparing artists to sing these

       *       *       *       *       *

Some minor effects utilized in Style in singing may be briefly alluded
to: _Portamento_; variations of _Tempo_.


This is effected by the voice gliding from one tone to another, and is
equally available on stringed instruments, the violin or 'cello, the
mandoline or zither. It is a grace of style much abused by inartistic
singers. Being an ornament, good taste dictates that it be used
sparingly. A frequent sliding from one tone to another is a grave
fault, and most disagreeable to a cultivated ear. To sing _legato_ is
one thing; to sing _strisciato_ is another. Hence, its use on two
consecutive occasions is rarely admissible. But without a sober and
discreet use of the _portamento_, the style of the singer appears
stiff, angular--lacking, as it were, in graceful curves.

It must always be performed by carrying the tone and syllable to the
next tone; never by anticipating the latter:

[Music: Mozart (Nozze di Figaro)

Do Fa Deh vieni, non tardar,]

But it sometimes happens that, while desiring this grace, the composer
does not indicate his wish quite correctly. Here is an instance by F.

[Music: Et nous dansions un boléro.]

Were it performed as printed, it would be very bad style, as it
violates the rule that the succeeding syllable shall not be
anticipated. Undoubtedly, what the author wished is the following:

[Music: Et nous dansions]

Sometimes the composer himself indicates clearly his intention that
this effect should be used, as in the following examples:

[Music: Reyer (La Statue)

Pour s'évanouir, au réveil.]

[Music: Celeste Aida

(Aida: Act I)


Del mio pensiero tu sei regina, tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.]

[Music: Song "Heure du Soir" for Tenor

Léo Delibes

Partout s'élève un chant bien doux, un chant bien doux,
Sous la brise toute embaumée.]

[Music: From "La Bohème," Act I


Mi chiamano Mimi, ma il mio nome è Lucia.]

(Notice the phrases marked _a_ and _b_.)

The words and indications for the use of the _portamento_ in each of
these last four examples are by the respective composers, and as
printed in the published editions.

A _portamento_ should never be sung so slowly as to convey the idea of
a badly executed chromatic scale; and, as a rule, it is best not to
use one between any lesser interval than a third, unless for some
particular effect, or at the close of a slow movement, as in the aria
"He was despisèd," in _The Messiah_:

[Music: and acquainted with grief.]

It is also effective in connecting syllables in phrases of a smooth,
lyric character:

[Music: Nozze di Figaro: Act II


(as printed)

in braccio al idol mio.

(should be sung)

in braccio al idol mio.]

The _portamento_ being an embellishment that pertains to the
_cantabile_, it is very little used in declamatory singing.

But frequently in the Recitatives of classic works occur phrases of
declamatory recitative, interspersed with passages that are purely
lyric in structure. To each of these divisions must be given its
appropriate style. For instance, after the opening phrases of
Obadiah's exhortation, "Ye people, rend your hearts," in _Elijah_, up
to the end of the phrase "Return to God," all is purely lyric
declamation. But at the words, "For He is slow to anger, and
merciful," this should cease, and the succeeding phrases be given with
all the graces that are permissible in _cantabile_ singing; not in the
hard, dry manner affected by some of the modern tenors in oratorio.

[Music: I therefore say to ye, Forsake your idols, return to God; for
He is slow to anger, and merciful.]

       *       *       *       *       *


These are of value in bringing out the musical and poetic significance
of certain compositions; notably the operas of Bellini, Donizetti, and
the earlier works of Verdi. But I would caution singers to exercise
discretion in this much-abused effect. Variations of Tempo, the
_ritardando_, _accelerando_, and _tempo rubato_, are all legitimate
aids demanded by Expression. But unless their use is determined by
sound judgment and correct musicianly taste, the effect speedily
becomes vulgar and monotonous. Knowledge, and a taste formed in good
schools, must be the guide of the vocalist in the use of variations of

I have said that the operas of Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi abound in
instances requiring the hastening or slackening of the tempo. But the
device is also highly esteemed by the ultra-modern Italian school, as
may be seen in studying the scores of Puccini, Mascagni and

Here is an illustration of its effective use in the air "Connais-tu le
pays?" from _Mignon_ (Act II), by Ambroise Thomas. Madame Christine
Nilsson (Countess Casa Miranda), who "passed" the rôle with the
composer, always sang the phrase thus, although these indications do
not appear in the published version:

[Music: Hélas! que ne puis-je te suivre, vers ce rivage heureux, d'où
le sort m'exila!]

Again, in the fine song _Der Asra_, by Rubinstein, the musical, as
well as the dramatic, effect of the poem is heightened by the use of
the _accelerando_, which interprets with musical vividness the
impetuous avowal by the slave of his passion for the princess, after
his calm answer to her questions as to his name and birthplace.

"_Ich heisse Mahomet, ich bin aus Yemen, und mein Stamm sind jene
Asra, welche sterben, wenn sie lieben._" (HEINE.)

[Music: und mein Stamm sind jene Asra, welche sterben, wenn sie



Tradition plays a more important part, perhaps, in the interpretation
of the classic composers' writings for the voice than it does in their
purely instrumental works. The old masters left few--sometimes not
any--indications as to the manner in which their music should be
rendered. Thus its proper performance is largely determined by
received oral tradition. The printed scores of the classics, except
those that have been specially edited, throw little light on their
proper interpretation, or even at times on the actual notes to be
sung. To perform exactly as written the operas of Gluck, notably
_Armide_ and _Orphée_, the operas of Mozart, the Italian operas and
English oratorios of Handel, the oratorios of Bach, Haydn, and
Mendelssohn, would be to do the greatest injustice to these composers
and their works.

It is a prevalent idea that all departures from the published text are
due either to caprice, or to vanity and a desire for personal display
on the part of the soloist. As though singers had a monopoly of these

Let us consider some of the principal causes of such changes in the
text, and the reasons why these modifications do not always appear in
the published versions.

In the original editions of many of the earlier operas, as those of
Mozart, etc., the unaccompanied recitative (_recitativo secco_) is
not barred. As with the plain-chant of the church, only the _pitch_ of
the tone is indicated. Its _length_ was left to the discretion of the
artist, who was supposed to be familiar with the accepted style of
delivery termed "_recitativo parlante_." The example is from the
recitative "Dove sono," in Act III of _Le Nozze di Figaro_, by Mozart:

[Music: E Susanna non vien! Sono ansiosa di saper]

This should be sung as below:

[Music: E Susanna non vien! Sono ansiosa di saper]

The substitution of another note for the one actually written, both in
Recitative and Aria, was also strictly regulated under the system or
convention then in vogue, one perfectly understood both by composer
and singer.

In all the earlier Italian operas, and in the English oratorios of
Handel, this system was followed:

[Music: Recit. "Behold, a Virgin shall conceive"






and shall call his name Emmanuel;]

[Music: Aria. "I know that my Redeemer liveth"






I know that my Redeemer liveth]

[Music: Recit. "Non più di fiori"

La Clemenza di Tito



Vitellia! costanza


Ecco il punto, o Vitellia! d'esaminar la tua costanza]

[Music: "In questa tomba"





In questa tomba oscura]

This substitution, therefore, of another note--a tone or semitone
higher or lower, according to the phrase--is not only legitimate but
essential in all music written in the Italian manner.

Another cause of changes being necessary in the vocal part of many of
the older classic writers, particularly of oratorio, is the frequently
faulty syllabic accentuation. I have already mentioned this defect in
the chapter on Accent. Handel, for instance, although living nearly
all his life in England, never became quite master of its language;
hence the numerous cases of the misplacing of syllables in his
oratorios. This defect is also noticeable, but not in the same degree,
in his Italian operas. The books of _Elijah_ and _St. Paul_
(Mendelssohn), and _The Creation_ (Haydn), were originally written in
German, and therefore suffer somewhat in this respect when the
translated English version is given. This fault is also noticeable in
the English versions of Bach's _Passion_ (St. Matthew), and
Mendelssohn's _Psalm CXIV_. In the first quoted of these two works, in
the response for Double Chorus to the question, "Whether of the twain
will ye that I release unto you?" the accent falls on the first
syllable "_Ba_-rab-bas"; in the second of the two works (_114th
Psalm_), the accent is placed on the last syllable, thus:
"Hal-le-lu-_jah_." Neither of these accentuations is in accordance
with English custom.

A singer, therefore, is perfectly justified in rearranging the
syllables in order that, as far as possible, the musical and verbal
accents shall coincide. But there are rigorists, unaware of the usages
and conventions previously spoken of, who are very severe in their
judgment when any deviation is made from the printed score with which
they follow the performance of classic works. Such severity is
unmerited, because unjust. Although such persons sometimes inveigh
against any and every change from the strict letter of the printed
music--ignorant of the possibility, that only in this way can its
spirit be respected--the changes in a multitude of cases are essential
because due (1) to reverential deciphering of an obsolete musical
notation, (2) to improvements in musical instruments, or (3) to the
sanction and authority of the composer himself.

Sometimes it is an orchestral conductor who reproaches the solo
singers with their want of respect for the composer, because he hears
at times interpolations or changes which find no place in his own
score. The singers are accused of "altering the composer," of "taking
liberties with the text." And yet these very changes may be
traditionally correct; they may be in accordance with rules and
conditions prevalent at the time the music was written, and employed
on account of a desire to interpret the composer's own intentions, and
not from mere vanity or caprice.

Nor are these necessary changes and departures from the printed scores
of the classics confined to the vocal parts of the music composed by
the old masters. As a matter of fact, the deviations which, in
performance, are sometimes made from the printed edition of a musical
composition, arise from a variety of causes.

One of these is the discrepancy that exists between various editions
of the same work; and sometimes the confusion is complicated by
different versions having been prepared by the composer himself. This
is notably the case with Gluck's _Orphée_, first written to an Italian
libretto by Calzabigi and produced at Vienna. When Marie Antoinette
called her former Viennese singing-master, Gluck, to Paris, she gave
him an opportunity of displaying his genius by facilitating the
production of his _Iphigénie en Aulide_ at the Opéra, in 1774. Its
enthusiastic reception recalled to the composer the like success which
had attended the production of his _Orfeo_ at Vienna. He immediately
set to work to revise it for the Paris Opéra, and fit it to a new
French text, the latter supplied him by Moline.[2]

[Footnote 2: Sir George Grove, in the "Dictionary of Music and
Musicians," P. 611, says that the French text is by _Molière_! This is
a self-evident error.]

But the title-rôle in the original Italian version was written for,
and sung by, Guadagni, an artificial contralto (_contralto musico_).
In its newer French dress the part was transposed and rearranged for
the tenor Legros; who, judging from the extreme altitude of the
_tessitura_ employed, must have possessed either a _haute-contre_, or
a very high light-tenor voice, and who may have employed the falsetto.
This high _tessitura_, combined with the fact that the pitch has risen
considerably since it was composed, renders the French version
impracticable for tenors of the present day. Here are the concluding
bars of the famous air as written in the original Italian version, and
the same phrase as altered by Gluck, when produced in Paris.

[Music: "Che farò senz' Euridice?"

Dove andrò? Che farò? Dove andrò senza il mio ben?

(As originally written by Gluck for the Italian version, Vienna.)]

[Music: "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice"

Sort cruel, quelle rigueur! Je succombe à ma douleur, à ma douleur, à
ma douleur!

(As altered by Gluck for Paris; sung by the tenor Legros. From a
manuscript copy, Bibliothèque de l'Opéra.)]

[Music: "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice"

Sort cruel, quelle rigueur! Je succombe à ma douleur, à ma douleur, à
ma douleur!

(As sung by Mme. Viardot-Garcia, Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris; the part
being restored to the original voice and key, but the change at the
end, made for Legros, retained.)]

The finale to the first act was also changed; a tumultuous "hurry" for
strings, evidently designed to accompany the change of scene to Hades,
being now replaced by a florid air, probably introduced at the desire
of the principal singer as a medium for the display of his vocal
virtuosity; a concession often exacted from composers of opera. This
interpolated air was for a long time attributed to a composer--Bertoni--who
had himself composed an opera on the subject of _Orphée_. Later
researches have, however, proved that this air is by Gluck himself,
taken from _Aristeo_, one of his earlier works. When the famous
revival of _Orphée_ took place at the old Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris,
the rôle of Orphée was restored to the type of voice--contralto--for
which it was originally composed, and confided to Mme. Pauline
Viardot-Garcia. She retained the air introduced for the tenor Legros,
but of course transposed, and with a reorchestration by Camille
Saint-Saëns; the now famous composer having at that time, by the
request of Berlioz, undertaken to continue and complete the revision
of Gluck's complete works, known as the Pelletan Edition.[3]

[Footnote 3: See very interesting article signed C. Saint-Saëns in the
_Écho de Paris_ for July 23, 1911.]

Other changes from the first Italian score were also made by Gluck in
the later French version. Here is an example; being the recitative
immediately preceding the great air of Orpheus in the last act:

[Music: (Original Italian version, as written for Vienna.)

Misero me! la perdo, e di nuovo, e per sempre! O legge! O morte! O
ricordo crudel! Non ho soccorso, non m'avanza consiglio! Io veggo solo
(Oh fiera vista!) il luttuoso aspetto dell'orrido mio stato! Saziati,
sorte rea! son disperato!]


C'est moi, c'est moi, qui lui ravis le jour.
Loi fatale! Cruel remords!
Ma peine est sans égale,
Dans ce moment funeste,
Le désespoir, la mort,
C'est tout ce qui me reste!

(As written for the Paris version, the rôle of Orphée being then sung
by a tenor.)]


C'est moi, c'est moi, qui lui ravis le jour.
Loi fatale! Cruel remords!
Ma peine est sans égale,
Dans ce moment funeste,
Le désespoir, la mort,
C'est tout ce qui me reste!

(As sung by Mme. Viardot-Garcia, the rôle being then restored to the
contralto voice as in the Italian version, while the changes made by
Gluck for the Paris version were retained. This is now definitively
adopted at the Opéra-Comique.)]

Again, discrepancies exist between various published copies of the
same work, arising from the fact that sometimes the editors of these
revisions may have mistaken the intentions of the composer. Or,
influenced by pardonable human vanity, they may have felt impelled to
collaborate more directly with the composer, by adding something of
their own.

There is valid reason for the additional accompaniments, with which
Mozart has enriched the original scores of Handel's _Messiah_ and
_Alexander's Feast_; and we have evidence of the skill, and can divine
the reverence, with which these additions were accomplished. But how
fatal would have been the results, had the delicate task been
attempted by one in whom these qualities were lacking! Also, there is
every excuse for the additions made to Gluck's _Armide_ by Meyerbeer
for the Opera of Berlin; and we have the direct testimony of
Saint-Saëns, who has examined this rescoring, as to the rare ability
and artistic discretion with which the work has been done.[4]

[Footnote 4: See _Écho de Paris_, _op. cit._]

From this evidence it appears that in the score as left by Gluck, the
trombones do not appear at all in _Armide_. The drums, and stranger
still, the flutes, are heard only at rare intervals; while the whole
orchestration--sometimes a pale sketch of the composer's
intentions--shows a haste and lack of care in marked contrast with the
pains bestowed on the scoring of _Alceste_, _Iphigénie_, and _Orphée_.
The revisions and additions spoken of were undertaken by highly
competent authorities, actuated only by the wish to restore in its
purity the idea of the composer; and who to zeal, added the more
valuable quality of discretion.

Ancient music, owing to the development of and changes in the
instruments for which it was composed, can rarely be given as written
by the author. Even if the instruments of modern invention be
eliminated, the orchestra of to-day is not the orchestra of Handel.
The oboe, for example, has so gained in penetrating power that one
instrument to each part now suffices; in Handel's time the feeble tone
of the oboe rendered a considerable number necessary. The perfection
of certain instruments, too, is the cause of modifications in the
music written for them. The limited compass of the pianoforte, for
example, was certainly the sole reason why Beethoven failed to
continue in octaves the entire ascending scale in one of his sonatas.
Had the piano in his day possessed its present compass, he would
undoubtedly have written the passage throughout in octaves, _i.e._, as
modern pianists play it. If a rigid adherence to the printed letter of
ancient music is to be strictly observed, without consideration of the
many causes that render this procedure undesirable, let consistency be
observed by pushing the argument to its logical conclusion, _viz._,
returning to the instruments used, and the composition of the
orchestra that obtained, when these works were written. Those who
accuse artists of introducing changes, of not performing the music as
the composer wrote it, should be quite sure as to what the composer
really did write, since many changes are made both before and after
the work is printed. They should also be certain that these changes
are not such as the composer may have, or would have, sanctioned,
seeing that by their use his meaning is more clearly expressed.

At the _Concerts Spirituels_, given at the Church of the Sorbonne,
Paris, may be heard very excellent performances of Oratorio by ancient
and modern composers, from Handel and Bach to Claude Debussy; though I
do not know whether or no _l'Enfant prodigue_ (The Prodigal Son), by
Debussy, is properly styled an oratorio, seeing that it was recently
given in London on the stage as an opera. These performances at the
Sorbonne are marked by a reverential attention to detail; the
soloists, chorus and orchestra being very competent, and the
conductor--M. Paul de Saunières--a musician of ability and experience.
In spite of these great advantages, however, the works of several of
the old classic composers suffer somewhat, by certain authentic
traditions and conventions being either unknown or ignored. To cite
only one instance out of many: At the Sorbonne, the opening bars of
the second movement of the Recit. in _The Messiah_, "Comfort ye my
people," etc., are performed as printed:

[Music: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness]

This music is written in the Italian "manner," consequently its
performance should be in conformity with the usages and conventions
which obtained when the work was composed. One of these, as I have
pointed out, was the substitution of one note for another in certain
places; another, that in declamatory recitative, or _recitativo
parlante_, the chord in the orchestra should come _after_ the voice
("_dopo la parola_"). These words appear in many scores of the Italian
operas, even of the present day. But when they do not, the musical
director is supposed to be familiar with the custom. The following,
therefore, is the authentic mode of performing the passage in

[Music: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness]

Apart from these defects in the rendering of the ancient classics, it
would be unjust not to acknowledge the great artistic merit and value
of the performances, given--as Oratorio should be--in the church. To
hear _l'Enfance du Christ_ (Berlioz) as performed at the Sorbonne,
with its particular facilities for obtaining the _ppp_ effects of the
distant or receding angelic chorus, is to be impressed to a degree
impossible of attainment in the concert-room.

Let those purists who resent any "tampering"--as they term it--with
the composers' music listen to the following phrase, sung as it is
printed in the ordinary editions:

[Music: the first-fruits _of_ them that sleep.]

Then let them hear it given according to the authentic and accepted
tradition, and say which of the two versions most faithfully
interprets the composer's meaning.

[Music: the first-fruits of _them_ that sleep.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now consider alterations which do not appear in the printed
editions, and yet may have been made or sanctioned by the composer.

In comparison with painting and sculpture, music and the literature of
the theatre are not self-sufficing arts. They require an interpreter.
Before a dramatic work can exist completely, scenery, and actors to
give it voice and gesture, are necessary; before music can be anything
more than hieroglyphics, the signs must be transmuted into sound by
singers or instrumentalists. Wagner embodied this truth in his
pathetic reference to _Lohengrin_: "When ill, miserable and
despairing, I sat brooding over my fate, my eye fell on the score of
my _Lohengrin_, which I had totally forgotten. Suddenly I felt
something like compassion lest the music might never sound from off
the death-pale paper." In other words, _Lohengrin_, though finished in
every detail, was merely potential music. To make it anything more,
the aid of singers and orchestra are essential.

Composers and dramatic authors, in fact, _create_ their art-works; but
it is their interpreters--actors, singers, instrumentalists--who
_animate_ them, who breathe life into them. One of the inevitable
consequences is, that the composer's ideal can never be fully

But changes in performance from the printed text of a composition are
frequently the work of the composer himself. If really an artist, he
is rarely perfectly satisfied with his completed work. The difference
between his ideal and his materialization of it, is a source of
anguish for him. The journey made by a vision of art from the brain
that conceives it to the hand that imprisons it in marble, or depicts
it in colour, or pens it in words or music, is a long one. And much
grace or power, beauty or grandeur, is inevitably lost on the way.
This is the explanation of the disappointment of all true artists with
their creations. This is the origin of their endless strivings to
perfect their works; the first embodiment is not a perfect
interpretation of the artist's inspiration, and further reflection
has revealed to him an improvement. The process is endless.

    _A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
        Or what is Heaven for?_

If one wishes to surprise genius labouring to give birth to
perfection, one should consult the later editions of Victor Hugo's
works and note the countless emendations he made after their first
publication--here a more fitting word substituted, there a line
recast, elsewhere an entire verse added, or excised, or remodelled.

This work of incessant revision is not restricted to poets. Composers
of genius are also inveterate strivers after perfection, are
continually occupied in polishing and revising their music. And not
all the modifications they make, or sanction, are recorded in the
printed versions. For many are the outcome of after-thoughts, of ideas
suggested during the process of what I have called transmuting musical
hieroglyphics into sound. Such modifications, usually decided upon in
the course of a rehearsal--I am now considering particularly operatic
works--are frequently jotted down, a mere scanty memorandum, on the
singer's part or the conductor's score. But they are the work of the
composer, or have received his approval, and, although not noted in
the printed editions of his compositions, are transmitted orally from
conductor to conductor, singer to singer, master to pupil. And thus a
tradition is perpetuated.

But the question of changes goes even further.

Prior to the advent of Wagner, the singer was allowed great license
in operatic works. This license was principally manifested in a
two-fold form. The first is called _pointage_ (French), _puntatura_
(Italian), and means the changing of the notes or contour of a musical
phrase; the second is termed _changements_ or _variantes_ (Fr.),
_abbellimenti_ or _fioriture_ (It.), and refers to the interpolation
and addition of ornaments, _i.e._, embellishments and cadenzas.

       *       *       *       *       *


This, as I have said, is the technical term given to the modification
or rearrangement of the notes of a phrase, so as to bring it within
the natural capabilities of the artist singing the rôle. A few
illustrations will make the nature of _pointage_ clear.

In Rossini's _Guillaume Tell_, although it is written in a different
style from his former works, whence less necessity for interpolations
and modifications, occurs the following terrible passage for the
principal baritone:

[Music: Mais je connais le poids des fers, mais je connais le poids
des fers.]

Every vocalist knows the difficulty experienced in singing very high
tones to different syllables, each requiring a different conformation
of the buccal cavity. The passage quoted--expressing Tell's bitterness
at the recollection of his past sufferings in prison, "Well I know the
weight of galling chain"--has to be declaimed with great energy. So
far as the relative value of the notes is concerned, it is entirely
_ad libitum_, the rhythmical figure in the orchestra having ceased one
half-bar before. It is said that Dabadie, a _basso cantante_ rather
than baritone, to whom was entrusted the rôle of Tell on the first
production of the work at the Opéra, Paris, on August 3, 1829, finding
it impossible to sing the phrase as written, had recourse to a
professor. He advised the _pointage_ given later. This change became
traditional, and has since been followed, except, it is said, in the
case of Massol, who succeeded Dabadie. He, being possessed of a very
sonorous voice of exceptional compass, was able to give the phrase as
written. This change, or _pointage_, must have been heard by Rossini,
and so must have been tacitly approved by him. This is the change made
by Dabadie:

[Music: Mais je connais le poids des fers, mais je connais le poids
des fers.]

In Italian lyric theatres, _pointage_ becomes necessary in many French
operas, owing to the prevalent custom of allotting to contraltos
certain rôles written for soprano and known as "dugazon rôles" (from
Madame Dugazon, who created the type). The parts of Siebel in _Faust_
(Gounod), Urbain in _Les Huguenots_, Stéphane in _Roméo et Juliette_
(Gounod), are all written for soprano, and when sung in Italian
require not only transposition of the principal airs, but the use of
_pointage_ in passages where transposition is impossible owing, for
instance, to the participation of other characters in the scene. Thus
the air sung by the page Urbain (_Les Huguenots_) on his entrance is
sung in the French theatres as written by Meyerbeer, _i.e._, in _B_
flat. In theatres where the Italian version is given, this air is
transposed a third lower into _G_, necessitating later numerous
_pointages_, for the reason already given.

I said that many deviations from the printed text are the work of the
author, or are authorized by him. A moment's reflection will convince
one of the truth of this statement. The singer chosen--usually by the
composer himself--to "create" a rôle, _i.e._, to interpret for the
first time some part in a new opera, generally studies it with the
composer, or under his direct supervision, and thus learns, directly
or indirectly, his ideas as to the meaning, style of execution, tempi,
etc., of the music. Very often during rehearsals, when the composer
begins really to hear his own work, he makes modifications in certain
passages, alterations of the words or suppressions of the notes that
are either ineffective, or lie awkwardly for the voice. But the opera
has already been printed for the convenience of the singers and
choristers studying the rôles and choruses; consequently, such
modifications, rearrangements, and "cuts" (as excisions are termed),
do not find their way into the published scores.

Meyerbeer, as I have been informed by competent authorities, was
constantly modifying his compositions. With him, the work of revision
and emendation was never finished. It is said that this was more
especially the case with his last opera, _l'Africaine_, which he was
continually altering and revising, never being able to satisfy
himself. Two versions of the libretto were prepared for him by Scribe,
and two distinct settings of the music are published, although only
one is performed.[5]

[Footnote 5: Cases are numerous of changes made by composers even
after their work has been produced. The Fountain Scene in _Lucia_ was
entirely remodelled by Donizetti, some time after its original
production at Milan, the first setting being replaced by the "Regnava
nel silenzio" now used, written for Persiani when the opera was first
given at the San Carlo, Naples.]

In Nelusko's first air occurs the following passage, in which a great
_crescendo_ is marked, culminating _ff_ on the word _rien_:

[Music: non, n'ôtent rien à ta majesté!]

Although the opera was produced after the composer's death,
Jean-Baptiste Faure, the great baritone chosen to create the rôle of
Nelusko, studied it with Meyerbeer, who authorized several verbal and
musical changes in it.

[Music: non, n'ôtent rien, non, non, non, n'ôtent rien à ta majesté!]

Without the first alteration it is impossible to realize the
composer's wish for a climax on the word "_rien_"; the second change
is due to the fact that the _tessitura_ of the phrase is somewhat
high, and Faure, who was a low rather than high baritone, dreaded the
high _f_-[sharp].

Indeed, it was for this latter reason that this most accomplished
singer never sang in Verdi's operas. According to his own statement,
he had to deny himself this pleasure, because most of the baritone
parts in the Italian composer's operas are written in a high

When Gounod wrote his _Faust_ for the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris, spoken
dialogue was used in place of the recitatives subsequently added by
the composer when the work passed, ten years later, into the
répertoire of the Opéra. In its earlier form, therefore, it belonged
to the category of _opéra-comique_, in which tenors were then
permitted to use the falsetto voice for their very highest tones. This
custom, though sanctioned in _opéra-comique_, was not permitted or
accepted in _grand opéra_, to which Gounod's work in the revised form
now belongs. At the beginning of the sixth bar from the end of the
tenor _cavatina_ in the Garden Scene: "_Salut! demeure chaste et
pure_," occurs the high sustained _c_.

Not all tenors who sing the rôle are possessed of the much-coveted
"_do di petto_," so a discreet _pointage_ becomes a necessity, since
the tone was originally intended, as I have said, to be sung in
falsetto. Those robust tenors who, possessing this tone, launch it out
at full voice, unheeding the delicate accompaniment with violin
obbligato in the orchestra, and the calm, mystic serenity of the
surroundings, are surely more desirous of drawing the attention of the
public to themselves, than actuated by an artistic desire to interpret
faithfully the scene as intended by composer and librettist.

It was owing to the use by light tenors of the so-called falsetto
voice, now no longer in favor with the public, that such of the
_opéras-comiques_ by Boiëldieu, Halévy, Auber, etc., which still keep
the stage, necessitate frequent _pointage_, in order to render their
execution compatible with existing requirements. Sometimes a composer
utilizes an exceptional voice, as was the case with the rôles written
for Martin. This singer must have possessed either a strong tenor
voice with exceptional low tones, or a baritone voice with perhaps an
unusual command of the falsetto--history furnishes but vague
information on this point. In any case, the rôles written for
him--called Martin-tenor or Martin-baritone parts--are now assigned to
the ordinary baritone. _Pointage_ then becomes inevitable, as in the
case of Hérold's _Zampa_, the compass required as printed being from


In the rôles, such as _Mignon_ (Thomas) and _Carmen_ (Bizet), written
for Madame Galli-Marié, their respective composers themselves have so
arranged the parts that they may be sung by either mezzo-soprano or
soprano. The rôle of Mignon has alternatives, in order that it may be
sung by three types of female voices. The roulades and cadenzas were
subsequently added by the composer for Madame Christine Nilsson.

If the rôle is sung by a high soprano, Mignon's first air, "Connais-tu
le pays," is transposed a tone higher into _E_ flat.

In the famous duet between Raoûl and Valentine in the fourth act of
_Les Huguenots_, the composer has given alternative notes for those
tenors who do not possess the exceptional altitude required for the
higher of the two:

[Music: Ah! viens! ah! viens! ah! viens!


viens! ah! viens!]

I heard recently, however, a performance of this opera, in which the
tenor sang the whole of the music as written, without either
transposition or _pointage_. So it was sung, I should imagine, by the
famous Adolphe Nourrit, who created the rôle; but the pitch at that
time (1836) was lower than it is at present.

Thus composers have recognized the necessity at times of _pointage_ in
certain rôles written for exceptionally gifted singers, in order to
render possible to the many that which was originally written for the

Changes from the published version have also been made--and proving
effective have passed into tradition--by singers who, exercising the
liberty then accorded them by composers, have slightly modified
certain passages for several reasons: for instance, to augment the
effect by making the phrase more characteristic of the vocal
instrument, or to express more forcibly the composer's idea.

The following illustrations will render my meaning clearer. The
changes originated in the causes I have mentioned, and are attributed
to Madame Dorus-Gras:

[Music: "Robert, toi que j'aime"

tu vois mon effroi! tu vois mon effroi!


-froi! Ah!

Grâce, grâce pour moi-même, pour toi-même.]

The phrase "Grâce, grâce," in which Isabelle implores Robert of
Normandy's forgiveness, occurs three times. When it recurs for the
last time, a change from the printed text is not only justifiable; it
is demanded, in order to give additional intensity and power to the
phrase, and to avoid the monotony caused by mere repetition. This
modification is all the more defensible, as the composer has
substituted the orchestra, with the strings _tremolo_, for the
rhythmical harp-figure with which he accompanies the phrase on its
first and second presentations. Here is the accepted traditional

[Music: Grâce, grâce pour moi-même, pour toi-même.]

Again, to sing the final cadenza of this air as Meyerbeer briefly
indicated it, would be impossible and absurd:

[Music: (as printed)

ah! grâce pour moi.

(as sung)

ah! grâce, ah! grâce pour moi.]

Other changes have their origin in the fact that sometimes a great
climax is rendered impossible of realization because the musical
phrase culminates on a vowel-sound difficult of emission on that note,
and devoid of sonority; another word has sometimes to be substituted.
For this reason, in the first air of Alice in the same opera
(_Robert_), "_Va, dit-elle_," a verbal rearrangement is always
resorted to:

[Music: Sa mère va prier pour lui, sa mère va prier pour lui, sa mère
va prier pour lui, va prier]

To avoid the disagreeable and ineffective result produced by the high
descending passage on the word "lui" (pronounced in English as
"lwee"), the last few bars are performed thus:

[Music: sa mère va prier, sa mère va prier]

When _La Tosca_ (Puccini) was produced in French at the Opéra-Comique,
Paris, the unfortunate artist to whom was allotted the tenor rôle was
expected by the translator to sing at full voice, and after a crashing
chord from the entire orchestra, marked _ffff_ in the score, the
following words:

[Music: au péril de ma vie]

As it was found to be out of the question to produce the effect
desired with the words as they stood, the phrase was afterwards
changed to:

[Music: pour combattre l'infâme]

Frequently modifications, most happy in their effect, are due to the
inspiration of a particularly gifted artist.

Madame Viardot-Garcia, finding the phrase of the cabaletta in the aria
"_Se Romeo t'uccise_" (_Romeo e Giulietta_, Bellini) somewhat weak and
ineffective, made the skilful _pointage_ here given:

[Music: (as printed)

Ma su voi ricada il sangue

(as sung by Mme. Viardot-Garcia)

Ma su voi ricada il sangue]

A great artist may feel at times the inadequacy of the phrase as it
stands to convey justly the composer's idea. Take, for instance, the
well-known change which every soprano who sings the rôle of Leonora
introduces in the _Miserere_ scene of _Il Trovatore_. The passage
occurs four times in succession, and as printed becomes commonplace
and monotonous.

[Music: Di te, di te scordarmi! di te, di te scordarmi!]

The accepted traditional change certainly conveys the impression of
Leonora's gradually increasing anguish and terror; not the idea that
it is introduced merely to exploit a high tone:

[Music: Di te, di te scordarmi! di te, di te scordarmi!]

That this departure from the text must have been sanctioned by Verdi,
is, I think, proved by the fact that it has always been sung thus, and
the composer himself must often have heard the substitution. He would
certainly have forbidden its use, had he not approved of it, for he
was particularly averse to having changes made in his music. The
following anecdote illustrates this trait in his character. It was
related by the late Mme. Marie Saxe, better known under her
Italianized name of Marie Sasse. This distinguished soprano singer, a
member of the Paris Opéra for a number of years, was engaged to give a
certain number of performances at the Opera of Cairo. _Aida_ was one
of the operas stipulated for in her contract. She had never sung the
rôle, and in studying it found the _tessitura_ of the music, at one or
two points, a little too high for her natural means. As she was
compelled by her contract to sing the opera, she asked Verdi to make
some slight changes to bring the music within her reach. But he
refused absolutely to make the least alteration.

Madame Saxe was specially selected by Meyerbeer to create the rôle of
Sélika in _l'Africaine_. She studied the part for three months with
the composer, and sang it when the work was first given at the Paris
Opéra. She was also chosen by Richard Wagner for the part of Elisabeth
when _Tannhäuser_ was given its stormy performances, with Niemann in
the title-rôle, at the same theatre in 1861.

Madame Saxe possessed a score of _Tannhäuser_ with the inscription in
the composer's handwriting:

    "_A ma courageuse amie
      Mademoiselle Marie Saxe._


The slight modifications, or _pointages_, asked from Verdi, were not,
I was assured by Madame Saxe, of a character to alter either the rôle
or the opera, and she remarked (I quote her own words): "Why should
Verdi have shown himself more unreasonable or less yielding than
Meyerbeer or Wagner?" (_plus intransigeant, plus intraitable que_
Meyerbeer _ou_ Wagner?).

       *       *       *       *       *

In tradition, however, there is the true or accepted tradition--so
called because believed to have been sanctioned by the composer
himself, or approved of by competent authorities and its use warranted
by time--and the false. This latter is simply an accumulation of
excrescences superimposed on the original by individual whim or
personal fancy. These have been invented by singers desirous of
bringing into relief certain special and peculiar gifts, or who have
mistaken, perhaps forgotten, the original and authentic tradition.
Thus their artistic heritage has become so altered and disfigured by
successive additions, or "machicotage," as to bear no resemblance to
the original, this being buried under a heap of useless complications.

But it may be asked, are there no authoritatively correct printed
editions of such classics with the accepted traditions and the proper
mode of their performance expressed in modern musical notation? Yes:
but they are incomplete, being for the most part confined to airs and
other excerpts, instead of the complete works themselves. In this
connection, I may cite the admirable edition of the "_Gloires
d'Italie_" by the late erudite musician and authority, Gevaert, for so
many years Director of the Conservatoire at Brussels. These editions
are characterized by a scrupulous fidelity to the composers' text as
it was understood when written, as well as by great taste and musical
sense of what is appropriate and fitting, in such ornaments as the
editor has introduced, when these have been left to the discretion of
the singer. The solo parts for the principal singers in Mozart's
operas of _Don Giovanni_ and _Le Nozze di Figaro_, edited and revised
for performance by the well-known singing-master and excellent
musician, Signor Randegger, are also admirable. But other editions
exist which do not bear the same imprint of authority, or
conscientious care in their revision, as do the versions just

In the edition of the well-known air "_J'ai perdu mon Eurydice_" (_che
farò senza Euridice?_) from _Orphée_ (Gluck), revised by Madame
Pauline Viardot-Garcia, no mention is made of two traditions which
have been used and handed down by a number of the most famous singers
of the rôle of Orphée. I give them here:

[Music: (as printed)

déchire mon coeur. J'ai perdu mon Eurydice

(Traditional changes)

Ah! déchire mon coeur. J'ai perdu mon Eurydice]

The change on the third repetition of the principal theme is quite in
accordance with the license then accorded in such airs.

In a special version of the opera _Armide_ (Gluck), revised and edited
by the late Sir Charles Hallé, the first bars of the great air of
Armide in the first scene of the fourth act, "_Ah! si la liberté_"
(Ah! if my liberty must from me then be taken), are printed thus:

[Music: Ah! si la liberté]

The situation is where Armide perceives the knight Renaud in the
gardens of her enchanted palace, whither he has come to destroy the
sorceress on account of her magic arts. Although the enchantress knows
that the mission of the knight is to deprive her of liberty, she
herself succumbs to the fatal passion of love. I have briefly
described the scene in order that my meaning may be clear. In the
second half of the first bar, the _acciaccatura_ was never intended by
the composer to be actually sung as printed. It was his only way of
indicating the sob or sigh whereby Armide finishes her exclamation,
"Ah!" The effect is called "the Dramatic sob," and is known to every
opera-singer. Here is the composer's meaning, as far as it is possible
to convey it in writing:

[Music: Ah! si la liberté]

(A _portamento_ must be made from the first note to the next, when the
breath must be taken quickly to give the idea of a sob or sigh.)

Again, in a recent edition of the same air by the distinguished
composer Vincent d'Indy (_Nouvelle Édition Française de Musique
Classique_), occurs the following:

[Music: tu règnes dans mon coeur!]

The effect of the _F_ sharp in the last bar, if sung against the
harmony given, in which the preceding chord is resolved, would be
intolerable. Surely, the composer intended a pronounced _rallentando_
on the latter half of the bar, and a carrying of the voice by a
_portamento_ to the last note. Thus:

[Music: tu règnes dans mon coeur!]

In the edition of the immortal air in the opera of _Xerxes_,
universally known as the "Largo of Handel," also revised and edited by
d'Indy, may be noticed the following:

[Music: Non v'oltraggino mai la cara pace, ne giunga a profanarvi
austro rapace!]

Of course, every operatic conductor knows that the chord in the
orchestra must be played "after the voice," as the technical phrase
has it. But not every pianist or organist is familiar with this usage,
and the effect would be very disagreeable if given as written. It
should be performed thus:

[Music: Non v'oltraggino mai la cara pace, ne giunga a profanarvi
austro rapace!]

Besides, why claim that a certain edition is "revised and edited,"
when all the care and musical knowledge seem to have been expended on
the harmonies only? Surely, the voice-part in these classics is not
without its need of elucidation.

An edition of _The Messiah_, revised for performance, can scarcely be
called accurate when such defects as the following occur:

     "And [fermata symbol over "they"] they ---- [breath symbol] were
     sore afraid."

The following is the authentic mode of performing the phrase:

     "And [fermata symbol over dash] ---- [breath symbol] [slur symbol
     and "sombre" over the following words] they were sore afraid."

In the same edition for the solo singers occurs: ("Behold and see"):

[Music: If there be any sorrow like un_to_ His sorrow.]

But by a slight syllabic rearrangement, the disagreeable accent on the
last syllable of "un-_to_" is avoided, and the accent placed on the
word "His," to which it belongs, while the composer's music remains

[Music: like unto _His_ sorrow.]

Again, in the same air occurs:

[Music: (as printed)

like un_to_ His sorrow.

(should be sung)

like unto _His_ sorrow.]

While recognizing the benefits conferred by some of these specially
prepared editions, there remains still more to be accomplished in this
direction before the work is complete. A flood of light has been
thrown on the dark and nebulous places of the instrumental classics by
various distinguished and highly competent musicians. It is sincerely
to be hoped, in the interests of this branch of the æsthetics of vocal
art, that those competent to speak with authority will do so, in order
that in this direction also "the crooked shall be made straight, and
the rough places plain."

I admit that this question of revising the composer's written text is
an exceedingly delicate and difficult one. It should be attempted only
by those possessed of the requisite authority, those who combine tact
and taste with judgment and experience. To these qualities should be
added a sincere and reverential desire to place in the highest relief
the meaning of both poet and composer.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have said that the license formerly accorded by composers to
singers--particularly operatic singers--manifested itself in a twofold
form. The second of these phases was the introduction in the body of a
theme or melody, and also at its close, of embellishments. Sometimes
the composer briefly sketched these ornaments; at other times their
places only were indicated. The ornaments in the body of an air are
known as _abbellimenti_ or _fioriture_; those at its close, as

Here is an example of the former, taken from the duet in _Elisa e
Claudio_ by Mercadante:

[Music: Se un istante all'offerta d'un soglio vacillasse il mio genio

The following is the same passage ornamented:

[Music: Se un istante all'offerta d'un soglio vacillasse il mio genio

(As sung by Mme. Malibran. Quoted from "_Mécanisme des Traits_," by de
La Madelaine, 1868.)

The rôle of Rosina in Rossini's _Il Barbiere_ has long been a
favourite peg with prime donne on which to hang interpolated ornaments
for the display of their vocal agility. Some of these are not always
in good taste, being trivial or banal in character, thus concealing
the natural charm of the original melody under a species of Henri Herz
variations. Others, however, such as those used by the Patti and the
Sembrich, for instance, are of great originality and excellent effect.

Here are some of the traditional ornaments and cadenzas sung by
certain famous singers of the past in Rosina's entrance cavatina:
"_Una voce poco fa_." This air was originally written by Rossini in
_E_ major, the part of Rosina being intended for a mezzo-soprano, and
was thus sung by the late Paulina Viardot-Garcia. This exceptionally
gifted artist, possessing a voice of very great compass, was enabled
to sing not only the rôles assigned to mezzo-soprano contraltos, such
as Orphée, or Fidès (_Le Prophète_), which she created, but also the
parts given to dramatic sopranos. Mme. Viardot was thus able, with
some slight modifications, to sing Norma, Desdemona (_Otello_:
Rossini), Rachel (_La Juive_), etc.

The rôle of Rosina has now definitely passed into the possession of
florid or _coloratura_ sopranos; much, therefore, of the music is of
necessity transposed, the air in question being now sung one half-tone
higher, in the key of _F_.

Here is a change used by Mme. Cinti-Damoreau, who sang the music in
the original key. The composer wrote:

[Music: Si Lindoro mio sarà.]

Mme. Cinti-Damoreau sang thus:

[Music: Si Lindoro mio sarà.]

In the same bar Mlle. Henrietta Sontag, who sang the air a semitone
higher, introduced the following:

[Music: Si Lindoro mio sarà.]

Rossini wrote no cadenza to the air:

[Music: lo vincerò!]

Cadenza of Mlle. Sontag:

[Music: Ah! ah! ah! lo vincerò!]

I have already spoken of the bad taste exhibited by some mediocre
singers in covering a coloratura air with so many roulades, etc., as
to render it barely recognizable. It was after hearing one of his own
arias overloaded and disfigured in this manner that Rossini, who was
noted for his biting wit and stinging sarcasms, is said to have
remarked: "What charming music! Whom is it by?"

Bellini, Donizetti, and composers of their school, sometimes did
little more than hand over to the singer engaged to create their works
a rough sketch, as it were, which the artists were supposed to fill in
and perfect. Singers were expected to add such _fioriture_, or
"flowers," as would best display their salient points of style and
individual characteristics. The Cavatina, or slow movement of the
aria, was the medium which called for the qualities of expressive
singing, while the Cabaletta was a vehicle for the display of
virtuosity and technical mastery. In this latter movement, the
equivalent of the Rondo in instrumental music, the performer was left
perfectly free to use such embellishments as set forth his own gifts
to the greatest advantage. Some singers excelled in bold and rapid
flights of scales, chromatic and diatonic; others, in the neat and
clean-cut execution of involved _traits_ or figures. It must be
remembered, that the great singers of the past were perfectly
competent to add these ornaments themselves, as they possessed a
complete and sound musical education.

More: sometimes these singers even collaborated with the composers.
Crescentini, the last famous male sopranist, is reputed by history or
legend--the two are not infrequently synonymous--to have been himself
the composer of the well-known aria "_Ombra adorata_," introduced by
him in Zingarelli's opera _Romeo e Giulietta_, as also of the prayer
sung by Romeo in the same work. His singing of it is said to have
moved his audience to tears, and gained for him the decoration of the
Iron Crown, conferred upon him by Napoleon I. The Emperor also
induced him, by the offer of a large salary, to settle in Paris as
professor of singing.

When these great artists--their career as public singers being
ended--began in turn to form pupils, they were admirably fitted for
the task of imparting instruction, being excellent musicians, and, as
I have said, composers of no insignificant merit. They had a sound
theoretical knowledge, compared with which that of many of our modern
singers seems but a pale and feeble reflection.

The collaboration of composer and interpreter is not altogether
unknown in the domain of instrumental music. Is it not historical that
Mendelssohn profited largely from the wise counsels of the celebrated
violinist Ferdinand David in the composition of his concerto for
violin and orchestra? This does not mean that David contributed any
musical phrases or ideas to the work; but that his practical knowledge
of the special characteristics and capabilities of the solo instrument
enabled him to suggest how the composer's thoughts might be most
fittingly presented.

Returning to the question of the introduction of ornaments, etc., into
a composer's work, the following extract may be of interest to the
musical student. It is from a volume of criticism, now out of print, a
copy of which is possessed by the present writer. The article appeared
in _La Patrie_ more than forty years ago, and was called forth by the
ornaments written by the then well-known singer and teacher of great
ability, Stéphan de La Madelaine. These changes were for the great
air of Agathe in the second act of _Der Freischütz_, and were the
cause of much discussion among the music-critics of the time.

"Following the example of celebrated vocal virtuosi whom he had
formerly known, and availing himself of the license then permitted,
the master (de La Madelaine) has introduced several alterations
(_changements_). These, however, in no sense clash with the original
character of the air itself.

"That the introduction of such ornaments has caused an outcry, is not
surprising. We should remember, however, that the _Freischütz_ was
written at a period when, in certain places, the composer left the
field entirely open to the singer, permitted him to make such changes
as he might deem necessary. It must not be thought that in so doing
the interpreter corrects the composer: he simply seeks to express, to
the utmost of his abilities, the intention of the author.

"The operas of Bellini, of Rossini, and, in general, of all the
Italian masters, are full of these intentional gaps (_lacunes_) which
were filled in by the singers. Nay, in the earliest days of the
Neapolitan school, still greater liberty was allowed; the recitatives
were all improvised by the executants, and were not even noted down.
Each singer made his own, which the _maestro al cembalo_ accompanied
with a few simple chords.

"In the cavatina in _Norma_, each _cantatrice_ introduces her own
changes on the recurrence of the principal theme, and the public
applauds. Why then this outcry against the same procedure in _Der

"_That this custom or practice might lead to great abuse and that it
is necessary to uproot it gradually, is our opinion._ But this radical
reform can be realized only in forthcoming works; those of the ancient
school ought to be interpreted by following the conventions which the
composer himself has respected.

"That the _changements_ written by M. de La Madelaine for the air of
the _Freischütz_ are permissible, is proved by the fact that Weber
himself has sanctioned and approved them, as, if need be, a great
number of contemporaries can attest." (FRANCK-MARIE.)

Whoever has had the good fortune to hear Mme. Marcella Sembrich in the
rôle of Amina, in Bellini's _La Sonnambula_, will have heard an
excellent example of remarkable technical skill or virtuosity, with
irreproachable taste regulating its display. The ornaments and changes
used by her in the _rondo finale_, "_Ah, non giunge_," are models of
their genre. What else could be expected of an artist so gifted as to
be able to perform the lesson-scene in Rossini's _Il Barbiere_
(introducing therein the air with variations by Proch) in Italian; and
in the course of the same scene sing, in German, "_Ich liebe dich_,"
by Grieg, and play the Andante and Rondo Russe, for violin, by de
Bériot, and a valse by Chopin on the piano?

The opera, _La Sonnambula_, requires much rearrangement both of the
music and of the verbal text, to which it is badly fitted. The greater
part of the music written for Elvino has to be transposed, mostly a
third lower, in order to make it practicable under existing

No effect whatever could be made were a cantatrice to follow
implicitly the written notes of this opera, such being merely a rough
sketch, as it were, of the composer's ideas, which the singer is
supposed to complete. Several instances from the andante "_Ah! non
credea mirarti_," will suffice to prove this. The following is the
printed version.


Ah non credea mirarti,
Sì presto estinto, o fiore.]

This is but a suggestion of the composer's idea. The artist will
therefore not follow too closely the printed version; but following
the evident indications for a pathetic and expressive _cantabile_ will
perform it thus:


Ah! non credea mirarti,
Sì presto estinto, o fiore.]

Again a brief outline, as printed:

[Music: Passasti al par d'amore, che un giorno, che un giorno sol

which, if sung as follows, fills in the details:

[Music: Passasti al par d'amore, che un giorno, che un giorno sol

Also the passage in the same aria, where Amina sobs as she slowly lets
fall to the ground the blossoms given her in the first act by Elvino,
requires an entire rearrangement of the syllables to bring out the
composer's meaning.


Che un giorno sol durò,
Passasti al par d'amor, d'amor.]

Let any one go over this passage carefully, and he will be convinced
that it is, as I have said, merely a sketch of the composer's idea. As
it stands in the published version it is impossible of execution, and
if it were possible, would be devoid of all effect: the syllables
being wrongly placed, no opportunity for breathing is given the
singer, and the final cadenza is marred by being allotted to the word
"amore." Here is a revision of the latter, the cadenza being one I
wrote for a pupil, Mme. Easton-Maclennan, of the Royal Opera, Berlin:


Che un giorno sol durò,
Passasti al par d'amor, ah! d'amor.]

It will thus be seen, from the numerous foregoing examples, that these
ornaments and interpolations are not added from a vulgar idea of
correcting or improving the composer's music, but are strictly in
accordance with certain conventions thoroughly understood by both
composer and singer. To omit them, or follow too closely the printed
text, would be to ignore the epoch, school and character of the music;
a careful study of which forms one of the cornerstones of
Interpretation. A skilled artist will always strive to analyze and
interpret the intentions of the author. If one to whom is confided the
vocal part of a composer's work were to limit himself to a
mathematically correct reproduction of the written notes only, instead
of searching below the surface for the author's meaning, his
performance would merely resemble the accurate execution of a
_solfeggio_ by a conscientious scholar. It would have the same
relation to high artistic effort as the photographic reproduction of
a landscape bears to the same scene as viewed and transmitted to
canvas by a great painter.

The sincere artist will carefully consider every detail. He will not
be content to study his own part only, but will study the orchestral
score which accompanies it. He will, in fact, follow the example set
by good string-quartet players, who listen attentively to the other
instruments during rehearsals, so that the perfect welding together of
the different parts may form a homogeneous whole. Such an artist, in
complete possession of the mechanical resources of his art, will
utilize them all to embody perfectly that which, with the composer,
existed only as a mental concept, inadequately transcribed, owing to
the limitations of his media--pen, ink and paper.

And it is only when in possession of the authentic traditions of
Oratorio and Opera that the singer, such as I have supposed, will be
able to vivify these great creations, will be able to invest them with
warmth and colour, and thus make clear all their meaning, reveal all
their beauty.



Although répertoire forms no integral part of Style, being rather the
medium for its practical application, a few words on this important
subject may not be out of place. The répertoire necessary for a singer
may be divided into two sections, Opera and Concert. The latter
includes Oratorio and Cantata.

In spoken Drama, a performer may begin his career by playing the
youthful lovers, and end it by impersonating the heavy fathers. He may
first sigh as Romeo, and later storm as Capulet. Not so in Opera, or
lyric Drama, where the line of work to be followed is determined at
the outset by the type of voice possessed by the aspirant, and which
line (or _emploi_, as it is termed) he follows of necessity to the end
of his professional career.

I know there are some few instances of artists who, later, have
successfully adopted rôles demanding another range than the one needed
for their earlier efforts. But it is an open question whether the
performer's instrument really changed. It must either have been
wrongly classified at one of the two periods, or the vocal
keyboard--so to speak--transposed a little higher or lower. The
character of the instrument remains the same; a viola strung as a
violin would still retain its viola quality of tone.

The case is different where a soprano who may have begun by singing
the florid rôles of opera, has so gained in volume of voice and
breadth of style as to warrant her devoting these acquisitions to
characters requiring more dramatic force than was needed, or could be
utilized, in coloratura rôles. Mlle. Emma Calvé, Mesdames Lilli
Lehmann and Nordica, are notable examples of this. Each of these
distinguished artists began her career by singing what are known as
"Princess" rôles, before successfully portraying Carmen or the
Brünnhildes. As a rule, it is by singing many different rôles that the
lyric artist gains the skill and sureness that may ultimately render
him famous in a few. Mlle. Grandjean, now principal first dramatic
soprano at the Paris Opéra, began her career there--after a few
appearances at the Opéra-Comique--by singing the very small part of
the nurse Magdalene in Wagner's _Die Meistersinger_. Perseverance, if
allied to ability, can accomplish much.

When the type of voice and the natural temperament of the singer do
not accord--as sometimes happens--he would be unwise not to adhere to
the work for which his vocal means, not his preference, are best
adapted. To follow the contrary path, and essay rôles requiring for
their fitting expression more dramatic fire and intensity than his
vocal instrument can supply, would be to shorten his career, owing to
the certain deterioration and possible extinction of the voice. There
are sufficient voiceless examples to prove, were proof needed, the
truth of this assertion; and their atonic condition is due to the
cause mentioned.

The first requisite for the aspirant who wishes to follow the operatic
career is undoubtedly a voice possessed of the three essential factors
of Quality, Power and Compass; what is termed in Italy a "_voce di
teatro_," or voice for the theatre.

But an opera-singer is actor as well as singer, and in this direction
more--much more--is now demanded of him than formerly. But to those
possessed of what is known as the Instinct of the Theatre, or Scenic
Instinct, the gestures and attitudes of the operatic stage, being
largely conventional, are soon acquired. Scenic accomplishments are
undoubtedly necessary to the stage-singer, but his mimetic studies
should not preclude him from making himself a thorough master of the
vocal side of his art. There is a difference between an actor who
sings, and a singer who acts.

Besides the mimetic faculty, certain physical gifts are also needed by
the opera-singer, according to the requirements of the line of rôles
to which he is inevitably assigned by the nature and type of his
particular voice. It is true that stage artifice has now reached great
perfection; but it has its limits, and cannot accomplish miracles.

It requires much imagination and great generosity on the part of the
public to accept a tenor, whose waist-girth would not unfit him for
the part of Sir John Falstaff, as a youthful and romantic Romeo, or a
half-starved and emaciated Rodolphe. Illusion is rudely shaken, if not
absolutely dispelled, in witnessing a soprano, whose age and
_embonpoint_ are fully in evidence, impersonate a girlish Gilda or a
consumptive Traviata. Such discrepancies may be overlooked by the
public in the case of old established favourites, but it would be
unfortunate for the débutant to commence with these drawbacks. And yet
there have been a few famous artists whose extraordinary vocal talent
atoned for other very pronounced defects. Such an one was the
Pisaroni, a celebrated contralto, said to have been so ill-favoured
that she always forwarded her likeness to any opera director to whom
she was personally unknown, who offered her an engagement. But so
exceptional were her voice and talent, that certain of her
contemporary artists have declared that by the time Pisaroni had
reached the end of her first phrase, the public was already conquered.

As personal preference is very often mistaken for aptitude or natural
fitness, a lyric artist is not always the best judge as to which of
the rôles in his répertoire are really fitted to display his abilities
to the best advantage. The singer combines in himself both instrument
and performer; therefore he rarely, if ever, hears himself quite as
does another person. Until possessed of the ripened judgment gained by
experience, he would do well to be guided in this matter by one who,
to the knowledge required, adds taste and discernment. That a liking
or preference is sometimes mistaken for the aptitude and gifts
necessary for the successful carrying out of certain work, is too well
known to be even questioned. It is the constantly recurring case of
the low comedian who wishes to play Hamlet. A young tenor whose great
vocal and physical advantages made him an ideal Duke in _Rigoletto_, a
fascinating Almaviva in _Il Barbiere_, found but little enjoyment in
life because his director refused to allow him to try Otello and
Tannhäuser, for which he was vocally unfitted. Never show the public
what you cannot do, is the best advice that can be given in such
cases. Even the finest and most experienced singers are occasionally
liable to make mistakes in the choice of rôles. Madame Patti once sang
Carmen, and Madame Melba essayed Brünnhilde; but I am not aware that
either of these famous cantatrices repeated the experiment.

       *       *       *       *       *

For those who intend to follow a concert-singer's career, there is a
vast literature of vocal music specially written for this purpose,
from which to select. There are few modern operatic excerpts which do
not suffer somewhat by being transplanted from the stage to the
concert-platform. In no case is this more clearly proved than in the
selections so frequently given from Wagner's music-dramas. Of course,
I am speaking more particularly of those extracts which require the
services of a vocalist. Such selections given in the concert-room are
in distinct violation of the composer's own wishes, frequently
expressed. Besides lacking the necessary adjuncts of gesture, costume
and scenery, the musical conditions of the concert-room are very
unfavourable to the unfortunate singer. He has to struggle to make
himself heard above the sonorities of a powerful orchestra generally
numbering over a hundred musicians, and placed directly around and
behind him, instead of on a lower level, as in the case of a lyric
theatre. Besides which, Wagner's works can now be heard in all large
cities under the conditions necessary for their proper presentment,
and as intended by their author-composer. Therefore, there is no
longer the same reason as may have existed years ago, for the
performance of extracts at purely symphonic concerts.

In cases where the singer has to select numbers for a symphonic
concert and to be accompanied by an orchestra, there is a mine of
wealth, not yet exhausted, in the operas of the older classic
composers. These, being less heavily orchestrated than the ultra
modern works written for the theatre, do not suffer in the same degree
from the different disposition of the orchestral instruments.

There are also a few vocal numbers with orchestral accompaniments
written in the form of a "scena," such as the "Ah, perfido" of
Beethoven, and the "Infelice" of Mendelssohn, which might possibly
form an agreeable change to the frequenters of symphonic concerts,
jaded a little, perhaps, with the oft-repeated "Dich theure Halle" and
"Prayer" from _Tannhäuser_.

In order to render them more in keeping with the conditions of
symphonic concerts, orchestral accompaniments, to many songs by the
classic composers, have been made by excellent musicians from the
original piano-part. The ethical question involved in the presentation
of such works in a form other than that written by the composer, need
not be considered here. Each artist must decide the matter for

So far as songs with accompaniments for the piano are concerned, there
is a mine practically inexhaustible and from which new treasures are
constantly brought to light. For Recital purposes, the choice and
sequence of a programme is second in importance only to its execution.
And although suppleness and adaptability are valuable, even necessary,
qualities, in a concert-singer, he will sometimes find that certain
songs--admirable in themselves--are unsuited to him, for reasons which
it is not always possible to define. In such cases it is not a matter
of compass, or _tessitura_, of voice, or even temperament; there is
some hidden lack of sympathy between the composer and his interpreter.
A song should seem like a well-fitting garment; not only admirably
made, but specially designed for the person who wears it.



The art of Singing is at present in a period of transition; and all
unsettled conditions are unsatisfactory. Former standards are being
thrown down; and the new ones are not yet elected, or, if chosen, not
yet firmly fixed in the places of the old.

All Arts have a period in their history when they seem to reach their
culminating point of technical perfection. Perhaps this point is
reached when the art is practised for its own sake, without giving
much consideration or attributing special importance to what it
expresses. Sculpture reached its apogee under the Greeks, who, more
than any other race, prized Form--particularly as manifested in its
highest expression, the human figure. Painting also was at its climax
of technical development during the Renaissance, when life was full of
movement, and costume picturesque. But at this period in each of the
two arts, skill was regarded as of more importance than the subject.
In other words, the perfection of the sculptor's statue or the scene
depicted by the painter was of more interest and importance than the
object or scene itself. If the work were admirably executed, the story
it told had relatively little importance.

Singing, which is speech conveyed through music, similarly reached its
highest point of technical excellence when the voice of the singer
was considered as little more than a mechanical instrument; when
beauty of tone-quality and perfect virtuosity were the only ends for
which to strive. This period was at its height with Farinelli,
Caffarelli, Gizziello, and ended perhaps with Crescentini. That these
singers possessed extraordinary technical skill, or execution, is
amply attested by the exercises and airs, still extant, written for
them by Porpora, Hasse, Veracini, and others. That they also had
musical sentiment or expression, is authoritatively proved from the
emotion caused in their auditors by their performance of a slow
movement or _cantabile_. But it was musical expression only, and as if
performed on a solo instrument, as a flute or violin, which does not
possess the faculty of uttering words. The operas in which these
singers appeared had some plot or story, it is true; but its
importance was of the slightest--analogous to, and of the same value
as, the subject in painting and sculpture at corresponding periods of
their history.

But singing, like these two sister-arts, has passed the period when it
was, or could be, appreciated purely for the perfection of its
technique. It has developed and broadened in other directions, and
more now is demanded of the singer than mere mechanical perfection.
Composers--notably Gluck--began to perceive the great possibilities to
be attained by the development of the Greek lyric ideal; that is, the
presentation of the Poetic idea by, and through the medium of, music;
instead of being, as formerly, merely its excuse, a framework for the
musician upon which to hang melodies.

Although Gluck, like all innovators, was considered by his
contemporaries as a revolutionary and iconoclast, he only strove to
develop and perfect an art that had already existed in a primitive
form. This was the art of animating a poetic idea by means of
melopoeia; which Wagner later developed still further.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gradually, two essentials of good singing--tone-quality and truth of
intonation--began to be neglected. But why should either of these two
factors be less essential to a singer than to an instrumentalist?

Of late it has been tacitly assumed, if not boldly claimed, that
sentiment, passion, temperament, atoned for--even if they did not
entirely replace--voice and lack of skill in the artist. But what
constitutes an artist? Art has been defined by an English
lexicographer as "Doing something, the power for which is acquired by
experience, study or observation;" and an artist, as "One skilled in
the practice of any art." The French writer d'Alembert says, "_L'art
s'acquiert par l'étude et l'exercice_" (Art is acquired by study and
practice). If these definitions of art be accepted, its external
expression or manifestation is essential through some vehicle or
medium, otherwise there is neither art nor artist. Concepts or ideals
have their genesis in mind, but were they to remain there, the poet,
painter, sculptor or musician (composer or interpreter) would have no
right to the title of artist, because his concepts remained in
thought-form only, and unexpressed. Therefore, as a composer can be
accepted as artist only when he has given that to the world which
entitles him to the distinction, how can his so-called interpreter be
considered an artist when, through insufficiency of technical ability,
he is unable to present satisfactorily the author's concept? No matter
in what abundant measure such a performer may possess the good
qualities of earnestness, conviction and sincerity, he is not an
artist. "_Poeta nascitur, non fit_," has long been accepted as a
truism; and similarly, it is supposed that the artist also is born,
not made. But seeing that the mechanical side of any art is learned by
experience, study, or observation--still to quote the definition--without
which an adequate manifestation of that art is impossible, then
certainly the artist is made. He is born with certain qualities
necessary for the artist, it is true; but failing his technical skill,
these other gifts can never be fully utilized.

It is to be deplored that the studies of many vocal aspirants are not
conducted on the same plan that is followed by those who desire to
attain perfection on a musical instrument. These acquire a technique,
and learn or study many works which may broaden or perfect their
style, before commencing to prepare a répertoire. The opposite course
is followed by many students of singing, who study rôles, instead of
learning first how to sing. The full meaning of the highest examples
of the modern lyric drama can be made apparent only by those who have
fully mastered the vocal, as well as the mimetic, side of lyric art.
Too much importance is, in my opinion, attached to the latter branch,
at the cost of the former. I repeat, an opera-singer should be a
singer who acts, not an actor who sings.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the occasion of the bestowal of awards at the Paris Conservatoire
in August, 1905, M. Dujardin-Beaumetz, Under-Secretary for the Fine
Arts, in his address to the students made pointed allusion to the
difference of results between the instrumental classes and those for
singing. Said the orator: "It is claimed that singing is in a state of
decadence, and that the cause is largely due to the style of modern
music. It is rather owing to the fact that this art is not studied at
present with the same methodic diligence that formerly obtained. I
would remind the students of singing that they gain nothing by
neglecting the earlier studies, and that their professional future
would be better assured if it rested on a solid basis of vocal
technique. It is, therefore, in their interest that, with a view to
assure this important point, certain reforms will be instituted."[6]

[Footnote 6: One of these reforms was that the first year's study is
to be devoted entirely to tone-formation; no attention being paid to
the employment of the tones in melody. Nor are the professors of
singing at the Conservatoire now selected--as was formerly the
case--exclusively from among ex-opera-singers.]

The professors of the classes for singing were also advised to draw
more on the great classic writers for the voice, instead of confining
themselves principally to the operatic répertoire.

Every art reaches its apex of perfection, and then seems to decline;
it may even temporarily disappear. But, being immortal, it is never
lost. It finds other modes of manifestation, and reappears in other
forms. The principles on which it is founded do not change; but
constantly changing conditions necessitate a new application of these
principles. This necessity was acknowledged for poetry itself by André

"_Sur des pensées nouveaux, faisons des vers antiques._" (Let us
embody modern thoughts in classic verse.)

Music follows the great laws of development to which all things are
subject. It would be foolish, nay, impossible, to try to resuscitate
an old form of art. Foolish, because the art itself would have lost
all except its archaic charm or interest; impossible, because
conditions have so completely changed that the attempt would be merely
the galvanizing of a corpse, not its reanimation.

Similarly, the art of singing can be successful only in proportion as
it recognizes the existence of other conditions. These it meets by
observing the old principles, but changing their mode of application.

The education of the singer of to-day requires to be conducted on
broader and more comprehensive lines than in the past, on account of
the different conditions which have presented themselves.
Singing--that is, the alliance and utterance of Music and Poetry--is
one of the highest manifestations of the Beautiful, and is man's
supreme and greatest creation. Therefore, singing will not seek in
future to rival a mechanical instrument. It will, it is evident, give
to the poetic idea a prominent, though not a predominant, place. But
this poetic idea can be revealed to the listener only by a singer who
is master of all the technical phases of his art. These component
parts of his vocal education must of necessity comprise--as was laid
down in the opening chapter of this work--Pose of Voice, Technique,
Style, and Répertoire.

It has been demonstrated that the first of these elements is
essential, because the other stones of the complete structure cannot
be successfully laid on an insecure foundation. The singer must have
the second, or he will be unable to materialize his concept, like an
unskilled carver who possesses the necessary material and tools, but
lacks the technical ability to utilize either. He must possess Colour,
whereby his vocal palette is set with the varied tints necessary for
the different sentiments to be expressed; Accent, so that character
may be given to the music and appropriate emphasis to the text; and
Phrasing, in order that he may punctuate the music effectively and the
words intelligently.

Perfect master of these, he is in possession of all that goes to make
up Style. And, if these premises be accepted, it must be evident that
he is in possession of the qualities that were necessary to make
singers great in the past, and are indispensable to make them great in
the future.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Style in Singing" ***

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