HOW AN ARTIST WORKS
“I am always studying, always striving to improve what I have already learned and trying to acquire the things I find difficult, or that I have not yet attained to. I do vocal technic every day; this is absolutely essential, while one is in the harness. It is during the winter that I work so industriously, both on technic and repertoire, between tours. This is when I study. I believe in resting the voice part of the year, and I take this rest in the summer. Then, for a time, I do not sing at all. I try to forget there is such a thing as music in the world, so far as studying it is concerned. Of course I try over Mr. Homer’s new songs, when they are finished, for summer is his time for composition.
“Since the voice is such an intangible instrument, the singer needs regular guidance and criticism, no matter how advanced she may be. As you say, it is difficult for the singer to determine the full effect of her work; she often thinks it much better than it really is. That is human nature, isn’t it?” she added with one of her charming smiles.
THE START IN OPERA
“How did you start upon an operatic career?” the singer was asked.
Just here Mr. Homer entered and joined in the conference.
“I do not desire to go into my life-history, as that would take too long. In a few words, this is how it happened—years ago.
“We were living in Boston; I had a church position, so we were each busy with our musical work. My voice was said to be ‘glorious,’ but it was a cumbersome, unwieldy organ. I could only sing up to F; there were so many things I wanted to do with my voice that seemed impossible, that I realized I needed more training. I could have remained where I was; the church people were quite satisfied, and I sang in concert whenever opportunity offered. But something within urged me on. We decided to take a year off and spend it in study abroad. Paris was then the Mecca for singers and to Paris we went. I plunged at once into absorbing study; daily lessons in voice training and repertoire; languages, and French diction, several times a week, and soon acting was added, for every one said my voice was for the theater. I had no idea, when I started out, that I should go into opera. I had always loved to sing, as far back as I can remember. My father was a Presbyterian clergyman, and when we needed new hymn books for church or Sunday School, they used to come to our house. I would get hold of every hymn book I could find and learn the music. So I was always singing; but an operatic career never entered my thought, until the prospect seemed to unfold before me, as a result of my arduous study in Paris. Of course I began to learn important arias from the operas. Every contralto aspires to sing the grand air from the last act of Le Prophete; you know it of course. I told my teacher I could never do it, as it demanded higher tones than I had acquired, going up to C. He assured me it would be perfectly easy in a little while, if I would spend a few moments daily on those high notes. His prediction was correct, for in a few months I had no trouble with the top notes.