“I do not like to call this a school,” he began, “although it amounts to one in reality, but only in so far as we take up the various subjects connected with vocal study. I consider languages of the highest importance; we have them taught here. There are classes in analysis, in pedagogy—teaching teachers how to instruct others. We have an excellent master for acting and for stage deportment: I advise that students know something of acting, even if they do not expect to go in for opera; they learn how to carry themselves and are more graceful and self-possessed before an audience.
“The work has developed far beyond my expectations. There are over two hundred students, and I have eight assistants, who have been trained by me and know my ways and methods. Some of these give practice lessons to students, who alternate them with the lessons given by me. These lessons are quite reasonable, and in combination with my work, give the student daily attention.
“My plan is not to accept every applicant who comes, but to select the most promising. The applicants must measure up to a certain standard before they can enter. To this one fact is due much of our success.”
“And what are these requirements?”
“Voice, to begin with; youth (unless the idea is to teach), good looks, musical intelligence, application. If the candidate possesses these requisites, we begin to work. In three months’ time it can be seen whether the student is making sufficient progress to come up to our standard. Those who do not are weeded out. You can readily see that as a result of this weeding process, we have some very good material and fine voices to work with.
“We have many musicals and recitals, both public and private, where young singers have an opportunity to try their wings. There is a most generous, unselfish spirit among the students; they rejoice in each others’ success, with never a hint of jealousy. We have had a number of recitals in both Aeolian and Carnegie Halls, given by the artist students this season. On these occasions the other students always attend and take as much interest as though they were giving the recital themselves.”
“You have remarked lately that ’singers are realizing that the lost art of bel canto is the thing to strive for and they are now searching for it.’ Can you give a little more light on this point?”
“I hardly meant to say that in any sense the art of bel canto was lost; how could it be? Many singers seem to attach some uncanny significance to the term. Bel canto means simply beautiful singing. When you have perfect breath control, and distinct, artistic enunciation, you will possess bel canto, because you will produce your tones and your words beautifully.
“Because these magic words are in the Italian tongue does not mean that they apply to something only possessed by Italians. Not at all. Any one can sing beautifully who does so with ease and naturalness, the American just as well as those of any other countries. In fact I consider American voices, in general, better trained than those of Italy, Germany or France. The Italian, in particular, has very little knowledge of the scientific side; he usually sings by intuition.