TO THE YOUNG SINGER
“If I have any message to the young singer, it would be: Stick to your work and study systematically, whole-heartedly. If you do not love your work enough to give it your best thought, to make sacrifices for it, there is something wrong with you. Then choose some other line of work, to which you can give undivided attention and devotion. For music requires this. As for sacrifices, they really do not exist, if they promote the thing you honestly love most.
“Do not fancy you can properly prepare yourself in a short time to undertake a musical career, for the path is a long and arduous one. You must never stop studying, for there is always so much to learn. If I have sung a role a hundred times, I always find places that can be improved; indeed I never sing a role twice exactly in the same way. So, from whatever side you consider the singer’s work and career, both are of absorbing interest.
“Another thing; do not worry, for that is bad for your voice. If you have not made this tone correctly, or sung that phrase to suit yourself, pass it over for the moment with a wave of the hand or a smile; but don’t become discouraged. Go right on! I knew a beautiful American in Paris who possessed a lovely voice. But she had a very sensitive nature, which could not endure hard knocks. She began to worry over little failures and disappointments, with the result that in three years her voice was quite gone. We must not give way to disappointments, but conquer them, and keep right along the path we have started on.
“Modern music requires quite a different handling of the voice and makes entirely different demands upon it than does the older music. The old Italian operas required little or no action, only beautiful singing. The opera houses were smaller and so were the orchestras. The singer could stand still in the middle of the stage and pour out beautiful tones, with few movements of body to mar his serenity. But we, in these days, demand action as well as song. We need singing actors and actresses. The music is declamatory; the singer must throw his whole soul into his part, must act as well as sing. Things are all on a larger scale. It is a far greater strain on the voice to interpret one of the modern Italian operas than to sing one of those quietly beautiful works of the old school.
“America’s growth in music has been marvelous on the appreciative and interpretive side. With such a musical awakening, we can look forward to the appearance of great creative genius right here in this country, perhaps in the near future. Why should we not expect it? We have not yet produced a composer who can write enduring operas or symphonies. MacDowell is our highest type as yet; but others will come who will carry the standard higher.