“When singing a role, I am always listening—watching—to be conscious of just what I am doing. I am always criticizing myself. If a tone or a phrase does not sound quite correct to me as to placement, or production, I try to correct the fault at once. I can tell just how I am singing a tone or phrase by the feeling and sensation. Of course I cannot hear the full effect; no singer ever can actually hear the effect of his work, except on the records. There he can learn, for the first time, just how his voice sounds.
“How do I begin a new part? I first read over the words and try to get a general idea of their meaning, and how I would express the ideas. I try over the arias and get an idea of those. Then comes the real work—the memorizing and working out the conception. I first commit the words, and know them so well I can write them out. Next I join them to the music. So far I have worked by myself. After this much has been done, I call in the accompanist, as I do not play the piano very well; that is to say, my right hand will go but the left lags behind!
“Yes, as you say, it requires constant study to keep the various roles in review, especially at the Metropolitan, where the operas are changed from day to day. Of course at performance the prompter is always there to give the cue—yet the words must always be in mind. I have never yet forgotten a word or phrase. On one occasion—it was in the Damnation of Faust, a part I had already sung a number of times—I thought of a word that was coming, and seemed utterly unable to remember it. I grew quite cold with fear—I am inclined to be a little nervous anyway—but it was quite impossible to think of the word. Luckily at the moment when I needed the word I was so fearful about, it suddenly came to me.
“Of course there is always anxiety for the artist with every public appearance. There is so much responsibility—one must always be at one’s best; and the responsibility increases as one advances, and begins to realize more and more keenly how much is expected and what depends on one’s efforts. I can assure you we all feel this, from the least to the greatest. The most famous singers perhaps suffer most keenly.
“I have always sung in Italian opera, in which the language is easy for me. Latterly I have added French operas to my list. Samson and Delilah, which I had always done in Italian, I had to relearn in French; this for me was very difficult. I worked a long time on it, but mastered it at last.