Mme. Raisa stood in the doorway of her New York apartment, ready to greet us as we were shown the way to her. Her figure, clad in close-fitting black velvet, looked especially slender; her manner was kind and gracious, and we were soon seated in her large, comfortable salon, deep in conference. Before we had really begun, the singer’s pet dog came bounding to greet us from another room. The tiny creature, a Mexican terrier, was most affectionate, yet very gentle withal, and content to quietly cuddle down and listen to the conversation.
“I will speak somewhat softly,” began Mme. Raisa, “since speaking seems to tire me much more than singing, for what reason I do not know. We singers must think a little of our physical well being, you see. This means keeping regular hours, living very simply and taking a moderate amount of exercise.
“Yes, I always loved to sing; even as a little child I was constantly singing. And so I began to have singing lessons when I was eight years old. Later on I went to Italy and lived there for a number of years, until I began to travel. I now make my home in Naples. My teacher there was Madame Marchesio, who was a remarkable singer, musician and teacher—all three. Even when she reached the advanced age of eighty, she could still sing wonderfully well. She had the real bel canto, understood the voice, how to use it and the best way to preserve it. I owe so much to her careful, artistic training; almost everything, I may say.
THE SINGER’S LIFE
“One cannot expect to succeed in the profession of music without giving one’s best time and thought to the work of vocal training and all the other subjects that go with it. A man in business gives his day, or the most of it, to his office. My time is devoted to my art, and indeed I have not any too much time to study all the necessary sides of it.
“During the season, I do regular vocal practice each day and keep the various roles in review. During the summer I study new parts, for then I have the time and the quiet. That is what the singer needs—quiet. I always return to Naples for the vacation, unless I go to South America and sing there. Then I must have a little rest too, that I may be ready for the labors of the following season.
“Even during the busiest days technic practice is never neglected. Vocalizes, scales, terzetta—what you call them—broken thirds, yes, and long, slow tones in mezza di voce, that is, beginning softly, swelling to loud then gradually diminishing to soft, are part of the daily regime. One cannot omit these things if one would always keep in condition and readiness. When at work in daily study, I sing softly, or with medium tone quality; I do not use full voice except occasionally, when I am going through a part and wish to try out certain effects.