It is seven years since Miss Hempel first came to sing at the Metropolitan. America has advanced very greatly in musical appreciation during this period. Miss Hempel herself has grown in artistic stature with each new character she has assumed. This season she has exchanged the opera field for that of the concert room, to the regret of opera patrons and all music lovers, who desired to see her at the Metropolitan. Being so constantly on the wing, it has been extremely difficult to secure a word with the admired artist. Late one afternoon, however, toward the end of her very successful concert season, she was able to devote an hour to a conference with the writer on the principles of vocal art.
How fair, slender and girlish she looked, ensconced among the cushions of a comfortable divan in her music room, with a favorite pet dog nestling at her side.
“And you ask how to master the voice; it seems then, I am to give a vocal lesson,” she began, with an arch smile, as she caressed the little creature beside her.
“The very first thing for the singer to consider is breath control; always the breathing—the breathing. She thinks of it morning, noon and night. Even before rising in the morning, she has it on her mind, and may do a few little stunts while still reclining. Then, before beginning her vocal technic in the morning, she goes through a series of breathing exercises. Just what they are is unnecessary to indicate, as each teacher may have his own, or the singer has learned for herself what forms are most beneficial.
“The pianist before the public, or the player who hopes to master the instrument in the future, never thinks of omitting the daily task of scales and exercises; he knows that his chances for success would soon be impaired, even ruined, if he should neglect this important and necessary branch of study.
“It is exactly the same thing with the singer. She cannot afford to do without scales and exercises. If she should, the public would soon find it out. She must be in constant practice in order to produce her tones with smoothness and purity; she must also think whether she is producing them with ease. There should never be any strain, no evidence of effort. Voice production must always seem to be the easiest thing in the world. No audience likes to see painful effort in a singer’s face or throat.
“The young singer should always practice with a mirror—do not forget that; she must look pleasant under all circumstances. No one cares to look at a singer who makes faces and grimaces, or scowls when she sings. This applies to any one, young or older. Singing must always seem easy, pleasant, graceful, attractive, winning. This must be the mental concept, and, acted upon, the singer will thus win her audience. I do not mean that one should cultivate a grin when singing; that would be going to the other extreme.