“We hear much about need for study of languages by the singer, and indeed too much stress cannot be placed on this branch of the work. I realize that in America it is perhaps more difficult to impress people with this necessity, as they have not the same need to use other languages in every day life. The singer can always be considered fortunate who has been brought up from earliest years to more than one language. My mother was Spanish, my father Italian, so this gave me both languages at home. Then in school I learned French, German and English, not only a little smattering of each, but how to write and speak them.”
“You certainly have mastered English remarkably well,” I could not help remarking, for she was speaking with great fluency, and with hardly any accent. This seemed to please her, for she gave me one of those flashing smiles.
“Would you be pleased,” I asked, “if later on your voice should develop into a dramatic soprano?”
Mme. Galli-Curci thought an instant.
“No,” she said, “I think I would rather keep the voice I have. I heartily admire the dramatic voice and the roles it can sing. Raisa’s voice is for me the most beautiful I know. But after all I think, for myself, I prefer the lyric and coloratura parts, they are so beautiful. The old Italian composers knew well how to write for the voice. Their music has beauty, it has melody, and melodic beauty will always make its appeal. And the older Italian music is built up not only of melody and fioriture, but is also dramatic. For these qualities can combine, and do so in the last act of Traviata, which is so full of deep feeling and pathos.
“Perhaps, in Vocal Mastery, the greatest factor of all is the breathing. To control the breath is what each student is striving to learn, what every singer endeavors to perfect, what every artist should master. It is an almost endless study and an individual one, because each organism and mentality is different. Here, as in everything else, perfect ease and naturalness are to be maintained, if the divine song which is the singer’s concept of beauty, is to be ‘floated on the breath,’ and its merest whisper heard to the farthest corner of the gallery.
“To sum up then, the three requirements of vocal mastery are: a, Management of the Larynx; b, Relaxation of the Diaphragm; c, Control of the Breath. To these might be added a fourth; Mixed Vowels.
“But when all these are mastered, what then? Ah, so much more it can never be put into words. It is self-expression through the medium of tone, for tone must always be a vital part of the singer’s individuality, colored by feeling and emotion. Tone is the outlet, the expression of all one has felt, suffered and enjoyed. To perfect one’s own instrument, one’s medium of expression, must always be the singer’s joy and satisfaction.”