“I was trained first as a coloratura and taught to do all the old Italian operas of Bellini, Rosini, Donizetti and the rest of the florid Italian school. This gives the singer a thorough, solid training—the sort of training that requires eight or ten years to accomplish. But this is not too much time to give, if one wishes to be thoroughly prepared to sing all styles of music. In former days, when singers realized the necessity of being prepared in this way, there existed I might say—one voice; for the soprano voice was trained to sing both florid and dramatic music. But in these days sopranos are divided into High, Lyric, Coloratura and Dramatic; singers choose which of these lines seems to suit best their voice and temperament.
“It is of advantage to the singer to be trained in both these arts. In the smaller opera houses of Italy, a soprano, if thus trained, can sing Lucia one night and Norma the next; Traviata one night and Trovatore the next.
“Modern Italian opera calls for the dramatic soprano. She must be an actress just as well as a singer. She must be able to express in both voice and gesture intense passion and emotion. It is the period of storm and stress. Coloratura voices have not so much opportunity at the present time, unless they are quite out of the ordinary. And yet, for me, a singer who has mastery of the beautiful art of bel canto, is a great joy. Galli-Curci’s art is the highest I know of. For me she is the greatest singer. Melba also is wonderful. I have heard her often—she has been very kind to me. When I hear her sing an old Italian air, with those pure, bell-like tones of hers, I am lifted far up; I feel myself above the sky.
“The younger singer need not yield to discouragement, for she must know from the start, that the mastery of a great art like singing is a long and arduous task. If the work seems too difficult at times, do not give up or say ‘I cannot.’ If I had done that, I should have really given up many times. Instead I say; ‘I can do it, and not only I can but I will!’
“There are so many sides to the singer’s equipment, besides singing itself”; and Mme. Raisa lifted dark eyes and spread out her graceful hands as though to indicate the bigness of the subject. “Yes, there is the piano, for instance; the singer is much handicapped without a knowledge of that instrument, for it not only provides accompaniment but cultivates the musical sense. Of course I have learned the piano and I consider it necessary for the singer.
“Then there are languages. Be not content with your own, though that language must be perfectly learned and expressed, but learn others.”