“What message have you, Madame, for the young singer, who desires to make a career?”
“Ah, yes, the debutante. Tell her she must practice much—very much—” and Madame spread out her hands to indicate it was a large subject; “she must practice several hours every day. I had to practice very much when I began my study—when I was sixteen; but now I do not have to spend much time on scales and exercises; they pretty well go of themselves”; and she smiled sweetly.
“You say,” she continued, “the debutante—the young singer—does not know—in America—how much she needs the foreign languages. But she should learn them. She should study French, Italian and Spanish, and know how to speak them. Because, if she should travel to those countries, she must make herself understood, and she must be able to sing in those languages, too.
“Besides the languages, it is very good for her to study piano also; she need not know it so well as if she would be a pianist, but she should know it a little; yet it is better to know more of the piano—it will make her a better musician.”
“You love the coloratura music, do you not, Madame?”
“Ah, yes, I love the coloratura,—it suits me; I have always studied for that—I know all the old Italian operas. For the coloratura music you must make the voice sound high and sweet—like a bird—singing and soaring. You think my voice sounds something like Patti’s? Maybe. She said so herself. Ah, Patti was my dear friend—my very dear friend—I loved her dearly. She only sang the coloratura music, though she loved Wagner and dramatic music. Not long before she died she said to me: ’Luisa, always keep to the coloratura music, and the beautiful bel canto singing; do nothing to strain your voice; preserve its velvety quality.’ Patti’s voice went to C sharp, in later years; mine has several tones higher. In the great aria in Lucia, she used to substitute a trill at the end instead of the top notes; but she said to me—’Luisa, you can sing the high notes!’”
“Then the breathing, Madame, what would you say of that?”
“Ah, the breathing, that is very important indeed. You must breathe from here, you know—what you call it—from the diaphragm, and from both sides; it is like a bellows, going in and out,” and she touched the portions referred to. “One does not sing from the chest,—that would make queer, harsh tones.” She sang a few tones just to show how harsh they would be.
“You have shown such wonderful breath control in the way you sustain high tones, beginning them softly, swelling then diminishing them.”
“Ah, yes, the coloratura voice must always be able to do those things,” was the answer.
“Should you ever care to become a dramatic singer?” she was asked.
Tetrazzini grew thoughtful; “No, I do not think so,” she said, after a pause; “I love my coloratura music, and I think my audience likes it too; it goes to the heart—it is all melody, and that is what people like. I sing lyric music also—I am fond of that.”