BEGINNING VOCAL STUDY WITH OPERA
“So I did not begin my studies with a regular vocal teacher, but with a dilettante—I do not know just how you say that in English. This gentleman was not a professional; he was a business man who at the same time was a good musician. Instead of starting me with a lot of scales and exercises, we began at once with the operas. I was twelve years old when I began, and after one year of this kind of study, made my debut in the role of Inez, in L’Africaine. About this time I lost my kind instructor, who passed away. I then worked by myself until I was sixteen, when I began to study technic systematically. As you see, then, I am practically self-taught. It seems to me, if one has voice and intelligence, one can and should be one’s own teacher. No one else can do as much for you as you can do for yourself. You can tell what the sensations are, what parts are relaxed and what parts are firm, better than any one else. You can listen and work on tone quality until it reaches the effect you desire. I do not neglect vocal technic now, for I know its value. I do about three quarters of an hour technical practice every day—scales and exercises.
“I memorize very easily; it only takes a few weeks to learn an operatic role. I spent three weeks on Coq d’Or, and that is a difficult part, so many half tones and accidentals. But I love that music, it is so beautiful; it is one of my favorite roles. Some parts are longer and more difficult than others. Of course I know most of the Italian operas and many French ones. I should like to sing Mireille and Lakme here, but the Director may wish to put on other works instead.
“Yes, we have native opera in Spain, but the works of our operatic composers are little known in other lands. The Spanish people are clannish, you see, and seem to lack the ambition to travel abroad to make their art known to others; they are satisfied to make it known to their own people. Casals and I—we are perhaps the ones who regularly visit you, though you have several Spanish singers in the opera who reside here permanently.
“As for Spanish composers of instrumental music, you are here somewhat familiar with the names of Grovelez and Albeniz; Granados you know also, both his opera, Goyescas, which was performed at the Metropolitan, and his personality. He came to America to witness the premier of his opera, and while here proved he was a most excellent pianist as well as a composer of high merit, which fact was revealed in his piano and vocal compositions. The American people were most kind and appreciative to him. When the disaster came and he was lost at sea, the testimonial they sent his orphaned children was a goodly sum, though I hardly think the children appreciated your goodness.