“It makes such a difference—in quality of tone and in effect—whether you sing in a small or large space. Things you do in the studio and which may sound well there, are quite different or are lost altogether in a large hall. You really cannot tell what the effect will be in a great space, by what you do in your studio. In rehearsing and study, I use half voice, and only occasionally do I use full voice, that is when I wish to get a better idea of the effect.”
As we stood at the close of the conference, I asked the supreme question—What do you understand by Vocal Mastery? The artist looked as though I were making an impossible demand in requiring an answer to so comprehensive a subject. He took a few strides and then came back.
“I can answer that question with one word—Disregard. Which means, that if you have such control of your anatomy, such command of your vocal resources that they will always do their work, that they can be depended upon to act perfectly, then you can disregard mechanism, and think only of the interpretation—only of your vocal message. Then you have conquered the material—then you have attained Vocal Mastery!”
A fact, often overlooked when considering the career of some of our great singers of to-day, is the fact that they started out to become an instrumentalist rather than a singer. In other words they become proficient on some instrument before taking up serious study of the voice. In this connection one thinks of Mme. Sembrich, who was both pianist and violinist before becoming known as a singer. It would be interesting to follow up this idea and enumerate the vocalists who have broadened their musicianship through the study of other instruments than their own voices. But this delightful task must be reserved for future leisure. For the present it can be set down here that Miss Sophie Braslau, probably the youngest star in the constellation of the Metropolitan artists, is an accomplished pianist, and intended to make her career with the aid of that instrument instead of with her voice.
But we will let the young artist speak for herself. On the occasion in question, she had just returned from a walk, her arms full of rosebuds. “I never can resist flowers,” she remarked, as she had them placed in a big silver vase. Then she carried the visitor off to her own special rooms, whose windows overlooked an inner garden, where one forgot one was in the heart of New York. “Indeed it is not like New York at all, rather like Paris,” said Miss Braslau, answering my thought.
On a chaise longue in this ivory and rose sanctum, reposed a big, beautiful doll, preserved from childish days. The singer took it up; “I don’t play with it now,” she said with a smile, “but I used to.” She placed it carefully in a chair, then settled herself to talk.