[Illustration: LOUISA TETRAZZINI]
Portraits often belie the artist, by accentuating, unduly, some individuality of face or figure, and Tetrazzini is no exception. From her pictures one would expect to find one of the imperious, dominating order of prima donnas of the old school. When I met the diva, I was at once struck by the simplicity of her appearance and attire. There was nothing pompous about her; she did not carry herself with the air of one conscious of possessing something admired and sought after by all the world, something which set her on a high pedestal apart from other singers. Not at all. I saw a little lady of plump, comfortable figure, a face which beamed with kindliness and good humor, a mouth wreathed with smiles. Her manner and speech were equally simple and cordial, so that the visitor was put at ease at once, and felt she had known the great singer for years.
Before the conference could begin a pretty episode happened, which showed the human side of the singer’s character, and gave a glimpse into her every day life. Mme. Tetrazzini was a little late for her appointment, as she had been out on a shopping expedition, an occupation which she greatly enjoys. Awaiting her return was a group of photographers, who had arranged their apparatus, mirrors and flash-light screen, even to the piano stool on which the singer was to be placed. She took in the situation at a glance, as she entered, and obediently gave herself into the hands of the picture makers.
“Ah, you wish to make me beautiful,” she exclaimed, with her pretty accent; “I am not beautiful, but you may try to make me look so.” With patience she assumed the required poses, put her head on this side or that, drew her furs closer about her or allowed them to fall away from the white throat, with its single string of pearls. The onlooker suggested she be snapped with a little black “Pom,” who had found his way into the room and was now an interested spectator, on his vantage ground, a big sofa. So little “Joy” was gathered up and held in affectionate, motherly arms, close against his mistress’ face. It was all very human and natural, and gave another side to the singer’s character from the side she shows to the public.
At last the ordeal was over, and Madame was free to leave her post and sit in one of the arm chairs, where she could be a little more comfortable. The secretary was also near, to be appealed to when she could not make herself intelligible in English. “My English is very bad,” she protested; “I have not the time now to learn it properly; that is why I speak it so very bad. In the summer, or next year, I will really learn it. Now, what is it I can tell you? I am ready.”
To ask such a natural born singer how she studies and works, is like asking the fish swimming about in the ocean, to tell you where is the sea! She could not tell you how she does it. Singing is as the breath of life to Tetrazzini—as natural as the air she breathes. Realizing this, I began at the other end.