“I studied stage deportment and acting from one of the greatest singing actors of the French stage, Paul Lherie. What an artist he was! So subtle, so penetrating, so comprehensive. The principles he taught are a constant help to me now, and his remarks often come back to me as I study a new role.
“As I say, I studied this line of work, not knowing what would grow out of it; I did it on faith, hoping that it might prove useful.”
“It seems to me,” remarked the composer, “that young singers would do well to make a study of acting, along with languages and piano. Then, if the voice developed and an operatic career opened to them, they would be so much better prepared; they would have made a start in the right direction; there would not be so much to learn all at once, later on.”
“If the girl could only be sure she was destined for a stage career,” said Mme. Homer, thoughtfully, “she might do many things from the start that she doesn’t think of doing before she knows.
“To go on with my Paris story. I kept faithfully at work for a year, preparing myself for I knew not just what; I could not guess what was in store. Then I got my first opera engagement, quite unexpectedly. I was singing for some professional friends in a large saale. I noticed a man standing with his back to me, looking out of one of the long windows. When I finished, he came forward and offered me an engagement at Vichy, for the summer season. The name Vichy only suggested to my mind a kind of beverage. Now I learned the town had a flourishing Opera House, and I was expected to sing eight roles. Thus my stage career began.”
“And what must the girl possess, who wishes to make a success with her singing?” was asked.
“First of all, as I have already said, she must have a voice; she can never expect to get very far without that. Voice is a necessity for a singer, but it rests with her what she will do with it, how she will develop it.
“The next asset is intelligence; that is as great a necessity as a voice. For through the voice we express what we feel, what we are; intelligence controls, directs, shines through and illumines everything. Indeed what can be done without intelligence? I could mention a young singer with a good natural voice, who takes her tones correctly, who studies well; indeed one can find no fault with the technical side of her work; but her singing has no meaning—it says absolutely nothing; it only represents just so many notes.”
“That is because she has not a musical nature,” put in Mr. Homer. “To my mind that is the greatest asset any one can have who wishes to become a musician in any branch of the art. What can be done without a musical nature? Of course I speak of the young singer who wishes to make a career. There are many young people who take up singing for their own pleasure, never expecting to do much with it. And it is a good thing to do so. It gives pleasure to their family and friends—is a healthful exercise, and last but not least, is financially good for the teacher they employ.