“You of course speak several languages?” questioned the listener.
“Yes, I speak eight,” she answered modestly. “Russian, of course, for I am Russian; then French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Roumanian and English. Besides these I am familiar with a few dialects.
“So many young singers are so impatient; they want to prepare themselves in three or four years for a career,” and Madame frowned her disapproval. “Perhaps they may come before the public after that length of time spent in study; but they will only know a part—a little of all they ought to know. With a longer time, conscientiously used, they would be far better equipped. The singer who spends nine or ten years in preparation, who is trained to sing florid parts as well as those which are dramatic—she indeed can sing anything, the music of the old school as well as of the new. In Rome I gave a recital of old music, assisted by members of the Sistine Chapel choir. We gave much old music, some of it dating from the sixth century.
“Do I always feel the emotions I express when singing a role? Yes, I can say that I endeavor to throw myself absolutely into the part I am portraying; but that I always do so with equal success cannot be expected. So many unforeseen occurrences may interfere, which the audience can never know or consider. One may not be exactly in the mood, or in the best of voice; the house may not be a congenial space, or the audience is unsympathetic. But if all is propitious and the audience with you—then you are lifted up and carry every one with you. Then you are inspired and petty annoyances are quite forgotten.
“You ask a very difficult question when you ask of what vocal mastery consists. If I have developed perfect control throughout the two and a half octaves of my voice, can make each tone with pure quality and perfect evenness in the different degrees of loud and soft, and if I have perfect breath control as well, I then have an equipment that may serve all purposes of interpretation.
“Together with vocal mastery must go the art of interpretation, in which all the mastery of the vocal equipment may find expression. In order to interpret adequately one ought to possess a perfect instrument, perfectly trained. When this is the case one can forget mechanism, because confident of the ability to express whatever emotion is desired.”
“Have you a message which may be carried to the young singers?” she was asked.
“Tell them to have patience—patience to work and patience to wait for results. Vocal mastery is not a thing that can be quickly accomplished; it is not the work of weeks and months, but of years of consistent, constant effort. It cannot be hurried, but must grow with one’s growth, both mentally and physically. But the reward of earnest effort is sure to come!”