Mr. De Luca, who speaks the English language remarkably well, greeted the writer with easy courtesy. His genial manner makes one feel at home immediately. Although he had just come from the Opera House, where he had sung an important role, he seemed as fresh and rested as though nothing had happened.
“I think the ability to act, and also, in a measure, to sing, is a gift,” began the artist. “I remember, even as a little child, I was always acting out in pantomime or mimicry what I had seen and felt. If I was taken to the theater, I would come home, place a chair for audience, and act out the whole story I had just seen before it. From my youngest years I always wanted to sing and act.
“As early as I could, at about the age of fifteen, I began to study singing, with a most excellent teacher; who was none other than Signor Wenceslao Persischini, who is now no longer living. He trained no fewer than seventy-four artists, of which I was the last. Battestini, that wonderful singer, whose voice to-day, at the age of sixty-five, is as remarkable as ever, is one of his pupils. We know that if a vocal teacher sings himself, and has faults, his pupils are bound to copy those faults instinctively and unconsciously. With Persischini this could not be the case; for, owing to some throat trouble, he was not able to sing at all. He could only whisper the tones he wanted, accompanying them with signs and facial grimaces.” And Mr. De Luca illustrated these points in most amusing fashion. Then he continued:
“But he had unerring judgment, together with the finest ear. He knew perfectly how the tone should be sung and the student was obliged to do it exactly right and must keep at it till it was right. He would let nothing faulty pass without correction. I also had lessons in acting from Madame Marini, a very good teacher of the art.
“After five years of hard study I made my debut at Piacenza, as Valentine, in Faust, November 6th, 1897. Then, you may remember, I came to the Metropolitan in the season of 1915-1916, where I have been singing continually ever since.
“The artist should have good health, that he may be always able to sing. He owes this to his public, to be always ready, never to disappoint. I think I have never disappointed an audience and have always been in good voice. It seems to me when one is no longer able to do one’s best it is time to stop singing.”
“It is because you study constantly and systematically that you are always in good voice.”
“Yes, I am always at work. I rise at eight in the morning, not later. Vocalizes are never neglected. I often sing them as I take my bath. Some singers do not see the necessity of doing exercises every day; I am not one of those. I always sing my scales, first with full power, then taking each tone softly, swelling to full strength, then dying away—in mezza voce. I use many other exercises also—employing full power. English is also one of the daily studies, with lessons three times a week.