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Full text of "The art of singing and vocal declamation"

THE ART OF SINGING 

AND 

VOCAL DECLAMATION 



GOLD1NG MUSIC CO. 

294 CARLTON ST. 
(NEXT TO THE FREE PRESS) 

MAN. 
PHONE N 9296 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO 
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD. 

TORONTO 



The Art of Singing 

and 

Vocal Declamation 



BY 
SIR CHARLES SANTLEY 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

'N ; / / 



ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON i / ( , 



1908 

FACULTY OF MUSIC 



, 
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO L \ l> 






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First Edition June 1908 


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Reprinted September 1908 


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TO 

PAULINE V1ARDQT GARCIA 

DEAR PAULINE, 

Although an unworthy offering to your 
great genius, I dedicate this work to you ; as whatever 
of good it may contain is chiefly the result of the 
influence of that genius, and the valuable instruction 
I received from your lamented brother Manuel. 

I pray you, accept my offering as a small token of 
my esteem and affection. 

Tour devotedly attached Friend, 

C. SANTLET. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTORY . . . . . ix 

1. ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE DESIROUS 

OF JOINING THE VoCAL PROFESSION I 

2. ON THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY TO 

FORM A SINGER . . . 6 

3. ON THE CHOICE OF A MASTER . 9 

4. To THE PUPIL .... 27 

5. THE USE OF TOBACCO . . .36 

6. THE SISTER ARTS .... 4.0 

7. OBEDIENCE . . L ^ . . 46 

8. To THE PUPIL (continued] '~ . . 49 

9. STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS . , 53 

10. DRAMATIC CONCEPTION ... 66 

11. THE CONTINUATION OF SAME . . 70 

12. AT THE BASE OF THE LADDER . . 8 1 

13. ABOUT THEATRES AND HALLS BUILT 

EXPRESSLY FOR MUSICAL, DRAMATIC, 

AND ORATORICAL PURPOSES . 93 
vii 



viii THE ART OF SINGING 



PAGE 



14. ABOUT SELF ..... 104 

15. ABOUT ACTING . . . . 116 

1 6. ABOUT REHEARSAL AND PERFORMANCE 129 
POST SCRIPTUM . . . . .136 
EPITAPH ...... 144 



INTRODUCTORY 

FOR some time regret has been expressed 
that the Art of Singing is dying out. 
There is no reason why it should ; but 
it will die out if the system of teaching 
at present generally in vogue continues. 

There is only one system by which 
anything art, science, or profession 
can be learned ! 

A housemaid can never become expert 
if she does not first learn to handle 
broom, brush, and duster ; carpets will 
be worn to shreds, furniture scratched, 
ornaments defaced, long before they 
ought to show the least sign of " wear 
and tear." 

If such be the effect of imperfect 
education in the ordinary profession of 



IX 



x THE ART OF SINGING 

keeping a house clean and orderly, what 
must be the necessity for acquiring first 
principles in order to attain perfection 
in the exercise of one, if not the most 
difficult of all arts ! 

In the course of the remarks I intend 
to make, I wish it to be distinctly 
understood that I make them as adviser, 
not as dictator. They will be opinions 
formed on theoretical and practical 
experience extending over upwards of 
sixty years. As I have always minutely 
studied the results of the work of those 
artistes with whom I have been asso- 
ciated, as well as of my own, I believe 
I may justly hope that my remarks will 
prove useful to those who are desirous 
of studying singing with the object of 
adopting the vocal art as a profession. 

It is a mistake to suppose that because 
in modern compositions for the voice 
there is an absence, or nearly so, 
of "fioritura," the exercise of scales, 
solfeggi, etc., is unnecessary ; as such 



INTRODUCTORY xi 

exercises have other two objects of 
greater importance than that of acquir- 
ing even rapid execution, viz. of equal- 
ising the quality and power of the 
voice, and of preserving it intact until 
age destroys its charm. 

It is a general idea that florid music 
was introduced to "show off" the 
technical ability of the singer. It was 
not ! The " fioritura " is a great assist- 
ance to declamation, whether in serious 
or comic (buffo) music. " Plain chant " 
is the most ancient vocal music, I 
believe, in use at the present day ; I 
could quote innumerable examples of 
it from the Gradual and other music 
books used in the Roman Church, 
abounding in " fioriture." They surely 
could not have been written to " show 
ofF" the technical ability of the monks 
or priests whose office it was to sing 
them ; but by holding the ear in sus- 
pense with attractive sound, to intensify 
materially the declamation of the text ! 



xii THE ART OF SINGING 

There must have been a reason for 
wedding words to music and singing 
instead of reciting them. A sonorous 
singing voice is more sympathetic than 
a speaking voice, and consequently, when 
well trained, makes more, and a more 
lasting, impression on the generality of 
mankind ; moreover, a singing voice 
properly trained is more distinctly 
audible in a large space than a speaking 
voice of equal power. 

This probably led to the adoption of 
musical representation in the theatre, 
and so laid the foundation of the opera, 
for which the training of the singers 
must have been severe, judging from 
exercises written by the old singing 
masters from the end of the seventeenth 
to the early part of the nineteenth 
century, which few of the best singers 
of the present day could execute with- 
out a considerable amount of study. 
They embrace every species of florid 
and sustained singing, besides affording 



INTRODUCTORY xiii 

the dramatically gifted student the 
means of attaining proficiency in vocal 
declamation. 

Most of the composers of vocal 
music of our own day have either been 
ignorant of or have paid no attention 
to the capabilities of the human voice ; 
and for this reason alone it is impera- 
tive that young singers should be 
perfectly exercised in the rudiments of 
singing, that they may know how to 
husband their resources, so as to avoid 
unnecessary "wear and tear." How 
many voices, originally sonorous and 
sympathetic, are utterly ruined through 
the study of unvocal so-called dramatic 
music, before the rudiments of singing 
have been thoroughly mastered ! 

The voice is the most sympathetic 
and the most perfect of all musical 
instruments, but being at the same 
time the most delicate, in its exercise 
during study, and afterwards during the 
singer's career, it must be treated with 



xiv THE ART OF SINGING 

the utmost care and attention. I will 
point out the only means by which this 
can be accomplished. It must be clearly 
understood that by singer I mean the 
person whose object is, being possessed 
of the necessary qualifications, to become 
an artiste, not the one whose sole object 
is to use those qualifications merely to 
make money. 

It is a generally received idea that a 
singer's life is a merry one little to do, 
storms of applause, topped -up with 
sacks of gold, and amusement without 
end. My experience does not confirm 
that idea in the least ; my anticipation 
which pointed to merriment broke 
down in the realisation. No gold nor 
amusement could repay the toil, worry, 
and disappointment of a singer's life as 
I know it. 

I have been happy when my con- 
science told me my performance was 
good, and 1 received the congratulations 
of those who I knew praised it con- 



INTRODUCTORY xv 

scientiously, and in whose judgment I 
had faith. The happiest time of my 
musical life were the two hours a week 
I spent at the rehearsals of the " Societa 
Armonica," where I played principal 
second violin for four or five years 
previous to my leaving Liverpool to 
continue my vocal studies in Milan. I 
was not much of an executant, but 
being a good sight- reader and time- 
keeper, I was entrusted with that post 
by our director. My first year in Milan 
was a happy time, as I felt I was work- 
ing with an object ; except that I ex- 
perienced an occasional pang when I was 
reminded that I ought to be making 
a name and earning my living at the 
Scala or other great theatre, knowing 
that I was not yet sufficiently advanced 
to aspire to engagements at such im- 
portant houses. I may say that with 
that year ended for me the merry side 
of the singer's life. Wandering from 
one agent's office to another, to be told 



xvi THE ART OF SINGING 

I had not sufficient voice to sing in a 
theatre, and that my style of singing 
was not adapted to the exigencies of 
the then public taste, that it was neces- 
sary to have the voice of a bullock 
and to sing like a butcher, were not 
encouraging, to say the least. This is 
the story of all those who earnestly 
endeavour to repay the talents entrusted 
to them with interest. I am witness 
to the struggle every day, and my great 
object in writing this book is to warn 
those who are about to enter the arena 
of what they will have to encounter, 
and at the same time to encourage 
them to fight valiantly, and never lose 
sight of the goal as long as their powers 
last. If they are faithful to their trust 
they will reap the only reward worth 
fighting for the satisfaction of having 
done their duty. 



I 



ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE 

DESIROUS OF JOINING THE 

VOCAL PROFESSION 

MANY young people are induced to 
believe they will attain eminence as 
vocal artistes ; because they have great 
ambition, that they feel it is the line 
they are called to adopt, that music is 
their only joy ; because their parents 
and intimate friends declare they have 
but to go through a course of training, 
if only for a short period, to arrive at 
the " top of the tree " ; because, being 
engaged in some commercial or other 
business, they find the close confine- 
ment of an office, shop, or factory 
& i B 



2 THE ART OF SINGING i 

engenders headache and general lassi- 
tude and cramps their genius ; because 
having been well brought up, and 
owing to the death or failure of the 
family bread-winner they find them- 
selves reduced to comparative poverty, 
they wish to exercise their musical 
knowledge and faculties in the laudable 
endeavour to provide for themselves 
and reinstate their family in comfort. 

Ambition is a virtue if tempered with 
discretion, which, however, is rarely 
developed to sufficient extent for the 
purpose in the young ; therefore it 
would be well for parents to instil into 
the minds of their children the neces- 
sity for cultivating this virtue, in order 
that their ambition may not run wild 
and lead them to attempt things for 
which they do not possess the natural 
qualifications. At the same time it is 
cruel as well as stupid to curb ambi- 
tion without due consideration (and 
advice from an adept, in case the 



i ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE 3 

parents are not conversant with the 
object of the child's ambition), with 
harsh commands or cynical words. 

The ambition to become a wealthy 
merchant would only end in failure if 
not guided by discretion ; but the 
lesson derived from the failure would 
lead a courageous man to make a fresh 
start and probably succeed, whereas in 
the Fine Arts such uncurbed ambition 
could only end in total shipwreck. 
The adventurer might make money, 
but could never become an artiste. If 
we reflect on the number of those who 
have arrived at artistic excellence how 
few they are when compared with the 
population of the universe a mere 
handful ! 

A danger to be carefully avoided in 
choosing any one of the Fine Arts as 
a profession is the interference of 
ignorant, injudicious friends, who, hav- 
ing no knowledge of Art, or of the 
qualifications necessary to form an 



4 THE ART OF SINGING i 

artiste, raise hopes (already too eagerly 
nursed), which can rarely be fulfilled. 

Those who pay for the solace or 
amusement they find in exhibitions of 
pictures, musical and dramatic per- 
formances or reading, have a perfect 
right to enjoy all the pleasure they 
derive from them, but that does not 
constitute them connoisseurs of paint- 
ing, music, the drama, or literature, all 
of which require an intimate knowledge 
of their rudiments to judge of their 
merits and of the talent of the artistes 
who conceived and executed them. If 
such be the case with regard to works 
already executed and their executants, 
it must be of paramount importance 
that those who are called upon to 
judge of qualifications and talents in 
embryo should be thoroughly acquainted 
with the exigencies of Art and the 
qualifications necessary to form an 
artiste, it being a question of a life 
made or marred. 



i ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE 5 

The only adviser to be consulted is 
a conscientious, practical artiste who has 
" gone through the mill " and come out 
stamped " genuine " ! 

I urge this point emphatically, as in 
the course of my career I have come 
across many lives wrecked through the 
interference of injudicious, ignorant 
parents and friends which might have 
turned out successful. I use the word 
ignorant only as regards the Fine Arts. 



II 



ON THE QUALIFICATIONS 
NECESSARY TO FORM A SINGER 

IT is said that on being asked what 
were the qualifications necessary to 
form a singer, Rossini replied, " Voice ! 
Voice ! Voice ! " but it is quite evident, 
from even a casual acquaintance with 
the music he wrote for singers, that 
there must be something more than 
voice alone, or there will be no singer. 
An artiste with very little voice, if it 
be of a sympathetic quality, could not 
fail to give pleasure to an audience 
composed of artistes, but audiences are 
very rarely so composed. Among a 
large audience at the opera, or in the 
concert room, the small number of 
6 



ii QUALIFICATIONS FOR A SINGER 7 

those capable of judging of the per- 
formance or the performers may be 
generally counted on the fingers of 
the two hands at most, the major 
number being solely attracted by a 
sonorous voice. 

Very often a singer is dubbed great 
who possesses little or no merit, be- 
yond beauty and power of voice, which 
would almost lead to the supposition 
that artistic cultivation is unnecessary 
that it is, in fact, labour thrown 
away. 

If a large reward is to be earned by 
voice alone, why spend time, labour, and 
money on acquiring artistic excellence ? 
Here the money-making question enters, 
and that I have already abjured. Given 
a sonorous voice of sufficient compass, 
one, whose aim is to use it as an 
artiste, must be gifted with a true 
ear, accent, the sense, if not the know- 
ledge, to a certain extent, of harmony ; 
beside the gifts necessary for all who 



8 THE ART OF SINGING H 

enter on an important career untiring 
patience and perseverance, and the 
courage to be undismayed by repeated 
failure and the adverse criticism of 
" candid friends." 



Ill 

ON THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 

IT is said that at the present time there 
are about ten thousand persons engaged 
in teaching singing in London alone ; 
in the larger provincial towns there is 
a large number ; in the smaller the 
organist of the parish church and other 
places of worship almost invariably 
teaches singing. A short time ago a 
friend, a teacher of singing, remarked 
to me that nowadays every individual 
who found it difficult to make a living 
turned his or her attention to u teaching 
singing " or " selling coals " ; probably 
an exaggerated statement, but no doubt 
there are hundreds who teach " singing " 
and " production of the voice" who never 

9 



io THE ART OF SINGING in 

had a lesson in " singing " in their lives, 
and do not know what they mean by 
" production of the voice." 1 I have 
been asked to take a pupil for "sing- 
ing " who had already received twelve 
months' instruction in " production," 
which is simply an exhibition of crass 
ignorance on the part of the person who 
asked the question, the intended pupil, 
and his " production " master ; as what 
is called " production " cannot be taught 
without teaching singing, and vice versa. 
A master must be an accomplished 
practical artiste, gifted with the faculty 
of imparting his knowledge, and must 
ever bear in mind the trouble and 
anxiety he caused his master, especially 
during the course of his early studies. 
If I were questioned as to the requisites 
of a singing master, as Rossini to the 
question regarding those of a singer, 
I would reply, " Patience ! Patience ! 

1 The " production " of the voice is Nature's work ; the 
singing-master's work begins with teaching the "emission " 
of the voice after its " production." 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER u 

Patience ! " A singing master has the 
most trying task of all teachers ! He 
has to teach an instrument which cannot 
be seen except by an expert, and cannot 
be touched at any time for practical 
purposes. He must do all in his power 
by precept and example to develop 
moral as well as musical, poetical, and 
dramatic sentiment, and instil in the 
minds of his pupils the necessity for 
strict attention to bodily health and 
grace of speech and movement. Bodily 
ill -health will cause diminution of 
sonority, and at times total loss of 
voice ; rough speech will cause the loss 
of kind and influential friends ; ungainly 
movement of the body will seriously 
diminish the effect an otherwise pro- 
mising young artiste might be expected 
to make when called upon to face an 
audience. 

As far as numbers are concerned 
there are plenty of masters to choose 
from. I might, without impropriety, 



12 THE ART OF SINGING in 

paraphrase what Max O'Rell says in 
Jonathan and his Continent "The popula- 
tion of the United States numbers about 
60,000,000, chiefly colonels " ! and say 
" the professional musical population of 
England numbers about so many thou- 
sands, chiefly masters " ! There is the 
only professor of the true Italian method, 
" // bel canto Italiano " ; the only pro- 
fessor who understands the management 
of the breath (with a newly invented 
pair of bellows) ; there is the professor 
of voice production (in my early days 
the birch rod was considered the ablest 
professor of that art), and innumerable 
other onlys, including one who styled 
himself on his professional card " Voice 
Builder." To any daring individual 
desirous of following in this gentleman's 
footsteps, I would venture to remark 
that even a good builder, unless he were 
also a good architect, or employed one, 
would be very liable to build here and 
pull down there at random, and so 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 13 

endanger, if not destroy, the beauty 
and solidity of his building. 

A teacher of singing must be, or 
must have been, a good singer. It is 
not enough that he should have mixed 
with or heard good singers, or have 
accompanied them either as orchestral 
conductor, or on the pianoforte or other 
instrument ; such experiences may give 
him an insight into the effects an artiste 
can produce, but they will afford him 
none into the means by which these 
effects are produced. As well might I 
undertake to teach the organ, having 
blown the bellows for my father when 
he practised the organ ; or the piano- 
forte because I turned over the leaves 
for him whilst he played the pianoforte, 
as an organist or pianist undertake to 
teach singing whose only knowledge of 
the art is derived from accompanying 
singers. Without a thorough know- 
ledge of the rudiments it is impossible 
to teach anything, and these cannot be 



14 THE ART OF SINGING in 

picked up at random ; they must be 
mastered by study and exercise. 

It is very important that students 
should be placed, from the beginning, 
under a thoroughly competent master, 
as inferior tuition may ruin a voice, 
or certainly so far impair its quality 
and power as to cost much trouble and 
time to restore its original strength 
and freshness. In the first place, the 
register of the voice, soprano, con- 
tralto, tenor, or bass, must be clearly 
established. These, again, are sub- 
divided into high soprano, dramatic 
soprano, mezzo soprano, high or florid 
tenor, robust tenor, high baritone, 
low baritone, or basso cantante^ and 
bass. 

In England these distinctions are not 
properly observed ; a singer is supposed 
to be capable of singing whatever music 
is written in the soprano, alto, tenor, or 
bass clef respectively. At times, no 
doubt, there will be found some diffi- 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 15 

culty, even by an experienced master, in 
deciding to which class a particular 
voice belongs, if it is of more than 
ordinary limited or extensive compass ; 
the quality of the voice, not its com- 
pass, is the only reliable test. 

As I cannot illustrate this better than 
by my own case, I will, though I dislike 
doing so, speak of myself. When my 
voice recovered after the usual break 
(which occurred to me before I was 
fourteen years of age), my father insisted 
on my singing tenor, which I did, con- 
trary to my own opinion that I was not 
a tenor. As such I passed an examina- 
tion before the committee of the Liver- 
pool Philharmonic Society on my fifteenth 
birthday, 28th February 1849, an< ^ was 
unanimously elected a performing mem- 
ber of the Society, and took part in the 
chorus at the festival with which their 
present fine hall was opened (I will say, 
by the way, the most complete and 
comfortable hall, both for public and 



1 6 THE ART OF SINGING m 

artistes, I have ever sung in) in the 
month of August of the same year. 
The morning performances included 
Elijah^ The Messiah, Rossini's Stabat 
Mater, Mendelssohn's Lauda Sion, and 
selections from Israel in Egypt and 
other works ; the evening concerts in- 
cluded, for the chorus, some madrigals, 
four-part songs, etc. My voice suffered 
from excitement and the work, but 
recovered in a day or two. I felt sure 
that my own opinion of the register of 
my voice was correct, but I submitted 
to my father's decree, and continued as 
I had begun until I arrived at the 
age of seventeen to eighteen, when I 
rebelled and dropped into the bass clef. 
I was then (as I had a certain power in 
the low notes) pronounced a bass, and 
sang any music written in the bass clef 
which fell to my lot. When I was 
studying in Milan, 1855 to 1857, my 
master, Gaetano Nava, kept me to the 
baritone parts of Rossini, Donizetti, 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 17 

Bellini, Mercadante, and others of that 
school, with an occasional dip into the 
more exacting Verdi. It was not until 
I made my operatic debut with the 
" Pyne and Harrison " company in 
1859 as -H- oe l in Dinorah, that my real 
register was revealed to me (high bari- 
tone) ; I then began to see my way 
and feel my legs ; the future depended 
on the use I might make of experience. 
After singing the same part every night 
for six weeks running, I changed it on 
the Monday of the seventh week for that 
of Count di Luna in The Trovatore ; 
and continued in these and other operas 
throughout the season, which lasted 
nearly six months, every night, except 
during a part of the run of the pantomime, 
and two nights when I was prevented 
by a bad cold from appearing during the 
run of Lurline, by W. V. Wallace, the 
last opera produced that season. My 
part in it, Rhineberg, was intended for 
a bass, but what of it was already written 

c 



1 8 THE ART OF SINGING in 

Wallace transposed to suit my register, 
and my part in the last act, which was 
not written until after he had heard me, 
he wrote expressly for me. 

I made my debut in Italian opera at 
Coven t Garden in 1862, when I took 
the part of the Conte di Luna in // 
Trovatore for three nights in place of 
Graziani to oblige Mr. Gye. Shortly 
after, in the same season, I was engaged 
by Mapleson for Her Majesty's Theatre, 
and remained with him there until the 
theatre was burned down in 1867, and 
afterwards at Drury Lane and Covent 
Garden until 1869. My last season in 
Italian opera in London was with George 
Wood at Drury Lane in 1870, when 
I played Vanderdecken in The Flying 
Dutchman, the first opera of Wagner 
produced in England. 

During my operatic career, with the 
exception of Vanderdecken, Caspar in 
Der Freischutz, Leporello in Don 
Giovanni, St. Bris in Les Huguenots, 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 19 

and my work at the " festivals, 1 ' I sang 
none but pure baritone parts. 

As I have already said, I introduce 
this portion of my work by way of illus- 
tration, and, I will now add, also by way 
of advice and warning. Had I followed 
the commands of my first musical in- 
structor, to keep to the tenor clef, or 
the advice of would-be instructors when 
I adopted the bass clef, the inevitable 
result would have been ruin to, or total 
loss of, my voice. 

I owe the preservation of my voice to 
the study of the best vocal exercises I 
could find the study of the result of 
study, in the work of the great singers it 
was my privilege to hear from an early 
age, and to my good fortune in being 
able to use my voice in its proper regis- 
ter, with slight deviation, for a number 
of years. 

Since I have been a singing master, 
I have found that these two great 
requisites to form a vocal artiste, viz. 



20 THE ART OF SINGING m 

the study of vocal exercises and the 
study of the work of great artistes, are 
almost universally neglected. A few 
exercises are got through, not studied, 
and the pupil is in too short a time 
launched into the study (if it can be 
called study where the preparation for 
study is lacking) of difficult music ; and 
the study of artistes is confined to criti- 
cism without the knowledge necessary to 
form an opinion, or to the adoration of 
an idol of an ignorant public. There is 
no doubt there is fault on both sides, but 
I ascribe the greater fault to the master. 
It is his business to ascertain the natural 
compass of each pupil's voice. In order 
to develop its quality and power, it is 
absolutely necessary that all exercises be 
adapted to that compass, so as not to 
force the voice beyond it, up or down. 

It is here that the experienced practi- 
cal singer is required. An instru- 
mentalist, however accomplished, cannot 
be of any service. An instrumental 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 21 

pupil has an instrument of wood or 
iron, or both, under his hands ; the 
vocal pupil one of flesh and blood, 
which he can neither see nor touch, at 
any rate when in action. I have had 
great trouble with pupils taught by 
instrumentalists, and also with others 
taught by singers, who, though they may 
be worthy of admiration as vocalists, 
earnest and well-intentioned though they 
may be, do not possess the requirements 
of a teacher, or, having them, have not 
formed any system by which they could 
be made available. 

Another and most cogent reason why 
a master must be a practical singer is, 
that he must be prepared to illustrate 
practically what he teaches. True, a 
violinist or 'cellist could " sing " a par- 
ticular phrase on his instrument, but that 
would teach the pupil nothing more than 
how that phrase could be rendered the 
mechanism of the rendering would re- 
main a dead letter to him. 



22 THE ART OF SINGJNG m 

To those people who wish to learn a 
few songs, duets, etc., in order better to 
entertain their friends, or to those 
victims of adulation who, restrained by 
their position in society from becoming 
professional singers, believe they are 
robbing the world of brilliant operatic 
or concert luminaries (while not fit to 
sing at a penny reading), it is of little 
consequence whom they may choose for a 
master ; but for those God-gifted beings 
who possess, besides a fine voice, a soul 
to use that voice as an artiste (few and 
far between as angels' visits), the master 
such as I have described is the only 
master possible. 

I have dwelt at length on the choice 
of a singing master, as there are many 
gifted young people (albeit not of the 
angel-visit class) capable of doing good, 
interesting work, who are robbed of 
their birthright by (I know no other 
name for them) quacks ! A great 
deal of fuss has been made of late 



HI THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 23 

years by persons professing to teach the 
production of the voice on scientific 
principles. The result of a recent action 
in the Court of King's Bench ought to 
serve as an eye-opener to those deluded 
individuals who hope to have voices 
made and brains provided for them. 
The evidence of two eminent scientific 
witnesses proved to the judge and the 
jury that the so-called scientific principles 
were a delusion ; in fact, they were 
totally opposed to all that has been 
discovered with regard to the organs 
employed in singing. This is but one 
instance out of numbers of scientific 
methods in vogue. Some of the pranks 
I have heard of being played on pupils 
are so egregiously ridiculous that it is 
scarcely possible to imagine any human 
being such a ninny as to allow himself to 
be gulled into entertaining the idea of 
reaping any benefit from their exercise. 
But man is a gullible animal, as Thomas 
Carlyle says, and not only gullible, but 



24 THE ART OF SINGING m 

he prefers to be gulled. That is the 
only possible explanation I can find for 
the profuse way in which people go on 
paying for " unsound science " when they 
might procure " sound instruction " for 
a tithe of the money. 

Manuel Garcia is held up as the 
pioneer of scientific teachers of singing. 
He was but he taught singing, not 
surgery ! I was a pupil of his in 1858 
and a friend of his while he lived, and 
in all the conversations I had with him, 
I never heard him say a word about 
larynx or pharynx, glottis, or any other 
organ used in the production and 
emission of the voice. He was per- 
fectly acquainted with their functions, 
but he used his knowledge for his own 
direction, not to make parade of it before 
his pupils, as he knew it would only 
serve to mystify them, and could serve 
no good purpose in acquiring a know- 
ledge of the art of singing. My experi- 
ence tells me that the less pupils know 



in THE CHOICE OF A MASTER 25 

about the construction of the vocal 
organs the better ; in fact, as I heard a 
master once remark, " better they should 
not be aware they had throats except for 
the purpose of swallowing their food." 
I am confident that great harm has been 
done by mixing up " singing " and 
" surgery." Young people are prone to 
imagine they are suffering from diseases 
of the throat, and resort to applica- 
tions of tannin, iron, and even nitrate 
of silver, besides swallowing draughts 
and sucking lozenges of the effects 
of which they are entirely ignorant, 
when a little attention to regularity and 
choice of diet and proper outdoor 
exercise would keep their throats in a 
perfectly healthy condition. Without 
doubt, any one is liable to suffer from 
a cold and partial or complete loss of 
voice in such case it is imperative to 
consult an experienced medical man 
and follow his directions implicitly. 
Here I may offer a word of advice to 



26 THE ART OF SINGING in 

all singers, especially the inexperienced. 
After singing, the vocal organs are 
always slightly congested, therefore I 
advise them when they leave the warm 
atmosphere of the theatre or concert- 
room to encounter the cold air, especially 
at night, to keep the mouth quite closed 
and breathe gently through the nostrils, 
and so avoid talking and laughing. 
After singing, being a smoker, I always 
light a cigar before stepping into the 
open air ; those who do not smoke 
ought to cover the mouth and nose with 
a light woollen wrap. 



IV 
TO THE PUPIL 

IF there are many so-called masters who 
cannot teach, there are many more 
would-be pupils who cannot or will not 
learn. If Rossini said, " Voice ! Voice ! 
Voice ! is the only requisite of a singer " 
(which I do not believe), with all due 
respect to his memory I say he did a 
great deal of harm. Human beings, 
especially young ones, are not prone to 
be industrious, and a great man having 
told them, as it pleases them to believe 
or fancy, that voice is all-sufficient, they 
shirk everything in the way of work. 
A simple scale may be made interesting 
by a combination of voice and soul, and 
most uninteresting by a voice without 
27 



28 THE ART OF SINGING iv 

the soul (the soul which lives to work !). 
Any ass can bray without a soul, but I 
doubt whether his music is interesting 
even to his own species ; he may astonish 
them (all kinds of asses like to be 
astonished, it is their greatest pleasure, 
they are willing to pay dear for it) with 
the amount of noise he produces, but 
from which most animals not of his 
species fly in affright or disgust. 

What a laudable aim to have in view, 
to bray loud enough to drown the efforts 
of one's fellows ! Yet it seems the aim 
in view of many singers who ought to 
have become worthy of assisting the 
angels in their song, " Holy ! Holy ! 
Holy ! Lord God of Sabaoth " ! and 
so have used their gifts in praise of their 
Giver. Shame ! Shame ! Shame ! on 
their idleness and neglect ! And yet 
there is some excuse for the younger of 
their number who see that one who can 
bray louder than his fellows stuffs his 
pockets with gold, decorates himself with 



iv TO THE PUPIL 29 

jewels of price and is decorated with 
unearned or ill-earned honours. I would 
put this plain question to those who take 
the trouble to read this : Is it not dis- 
graceful that a being, having received a 
heavenly gift, instead of using it in the 
service of the Giver, simply barters it for 
money ? I like money as much as any 
man, but I like to earn it honourably, 
and I say distinctly that though such 
may earn their wealth by the sweat of 
their brow, they earn it with dishonour 
to themselves and their Creator. 

Your voice is not your possession ; it 
is a seed intrusted to your care, to 
cultivate that it may grow up a fruitful 
tree. The mttier (if I may use the 
word) of Art is not to make money 
for the professors of Art ; it is a Divine 
office ; its productions, the picture of 
the painter, the statue of the sculptor, 
the work (prose or poetry) of the 
author, the song of the singer (vocal or 
instrumental), are meant to satisfy the 



30 THE ART OF SINGING iv 

cravings of the purely artistic soul, and 
to solace the soul to which the seed 
from which Art fruit is produced has 
been denied. 

Your duty is to cultivate the tree 
grown from the seed intrusted to you 
as long as a drop of sap flows in it, 
that the fruit may become as perfect 
as human efforts can make it. 

The question arises, Are you fulfilling 
the duty imposed on you ? If you 
reflect on it and your conscience tells 
you you are not, if you are honest you 
will set your shoulder to the wheel and 
face the difficulties which confront you 
with courage and zeal, and work on 
until you become worthy of the name 
you covet. If, on the contrary, you 
have no conscience, or do not heed its 
prickings if you have one, you will give 
vent to "Fiddlesticks!" or "What rot!" 
or some such vulgar exclamation, and 
lay yourself out (better be laid out !) to 
grasp money that you may get rid of 



iv TO THE PUPIL 31 

the trouble and worry of work and pass 
a useless retirement eating and drinking 
and making merry (if you can) ! What 
a glorious end ! Those who outlive 
you, though they will be deprived of 
your company, will be reminded of you 
very probably by a marble slab set up 
in some conspicuous place relating how 
you sacrificed yourself (Heaven help 
us !) on the altar of Art. I would fain 
add Reg ui esc at in pace, but I have a 
conscience ! 

Now that I have told you something 
you must not do, I will tell you some- 
thing you must do to fulfil the end for 
which you were endowed with the means. 

In every phase of life we must all 
practise self-denial, attach ourselves to 
what is good for us, and detach our- 
selves from what is merely pleasant. 
In the matter of food, it is not the 
quantity or quality of what is taken, 
but what is digested which feeds ; 
lolling about in a close atmosphere is 



32 THE ART OF SINGING iv 

not a specific for calming the nervous 
system ; lying in bed until a late hour, 
unless when suffering from unavoidable 
fatigue, is not refreshing to mind or 
body. An artiste must exercise modera- 
tion in all things food, bodily exercise, 
sleep and study. 

Overfeeding produces a disordered 
stomach, which, acting on the voice 
and brain, robs both of their brightness ; 
pottering about in a close atmosphere 
without any distinct object in view 
produces irritation ; and sloth produces 
sluggishness of mind, with consequent 
negligence of study, ending in destruc- 
tion of all hope of advancement. This 
applies equally to the artiste in embryo 
and the artiste in career. Moderation, 
exercised from the first, will become a 
confirmed habit, and there will then be 
little risk of falling victim to immodera- 
tion. 

Immoderate consumption of solid or 
liquid food is equally destructive of 



iv TO THE PUPIL 33 

health ; the glutton, however, may 
cover his inability to fulfil his duty with 
the excuse of (fictitious) cold, whereas 
the votary of Bacchus, with " winks and 
nods and wreathed smiles,'' or more 
unattractive signs, makes it patent to 
every one concerned that it is not cold 
but heat (of liquor) which interferes 
with his performance. 

My experience is that sound, light 
Bordeaux or Italian wines are prefer- 
able to all other liquid foods, and 
should be used strictly as food except 
on occasions when the bodily and mental 
strain caused by the execution of a 
trying scene in opera, oratorio, or 
concert is succeeded by momentary 
depression ; then a glass of wine (at 
times a glass of good old port may be 
substituted for the lighter fluid) will 
enable the artiste to finish the remaining 
work with brilliancy. 

Great caution must be observed, how- 
ever ; for the use of stimulant if in- 

D 



34 THE ART OF SINGING iv 

dulged in frequently becomes a habit ; 
its effect decreases and the quantity 
must be constantly increased, until the 
unfortunate victim becomes a confirmed 
drunkard. Not men alone, but many 
women originally of most temperate 
habits have come to an untimely end 
through the lack of strength of mind 
to nip this too easily acquired habit in 
the bud. I could enumerate at least a 
dozen examples, my own comrades, male 
and female, all of whom might have 
filled a high position in their profession, 
who have been either cut off prematurely 
by death ; or, disabled, have lingered 
through a poverty-stricken old age, a 
burthen to their relations and old com- 
rades, from the deadly effect of drinking 
to excess. Two great artistes whom I 
knew, one an intimate friend, so ended 
prematurely a glorious career ; the one 
began with a teaspoonful of sal volatile 
in a wine-glassful of water, and ended 
by imbibing a great part of a bottle of 



iv TO THE PUPIL 35 

brandy on the road from his residence to 
the theatre where he was the particular 
star ; the other, from a sip of weak 
brandy and water, finished by gulping 
down from half to a whole pint of raw 
whisky at a draught. So, I repeat, be 
careful, and curb any inclination to 
increase the quantity of stimulant at the 
first sign of its appearance ; let your 
potations be strictly limited to a moder- 
ate quantity of wine taken with your 
solid food. 



THE USE OF TOBACCO 

WITH regard to the use of tobacco, I 
may be allowed to say a word. The 
innocent vegetable has been a " bone of 
contention " for some time, even from 
its first introduction into this country. 
One royal personage described it as 
"that filthy herb." Where the filth 
exists my limited knowledge fails to 
discover. Tobacco is grown in good 
clean earth, it is washed by the gentle 
rain which drops from heaven, during 
its growth it is as tenderly nurtured as 
the costly orchid ; when mature it is 
still tended by watchful eyes and hands 
until it is ready for use in the shape of 
cigar, cigarette, cut for the pipe, snuff, 
36 



v THE USE OF TOBACCO 37 

or for chewing, every process being 
carried on with perfect cleanliness ! 
Again I repeat, Where does the filth 
come in ? I own my first encounter 
with tobacco was anything but soothing, 
but I was only about eight years of age, 
and my essay was made on my grand- 
father's pipe, in which I found he had left 
some of the weed. Not content with 
lighting up, I covered the mouth of the 
bowl with putty, so as to prevent any 
of the fragrance escaping. The conse- 
quences were dire, and I "swore off" 
and never tried a smoke again until I 
was one day weather-bound at Lecco 
on the Lake of Como. Having no 
means of whiling away the time, as a 
resource I procured a couple of cigars 
and smoked them ; the only disagree- 
able result being, that I dreamt that 
night I was making a meal of choice 
Havanas, and I made up my mind I 
preferred the domestic cabbage. I 
either took a dislike to tobacco or 



38 THE ART OF SINGING v 

fancied I did (the latter, I believe), and 
when I had a house of my own, for two 
or three years, when my father paid me 
a visit, I used to insist upon his parading 
in front of my house after dinner whilst 
he indulged in the post-prandial pipe. 
But I changed my tune when indigestion 
and domestic bliss began to interfere 
with my work and my temper. I was 
advised to try the soothing effect of 
tobacco. I did, and in a short time I 
could digest tenpenny nails, anything, 
even slighting remarks made about the 
weed by feeble-minded scoffers, and I 
bore the squalling of the baby and 
smashing of crockery, not to mention 
other little disturbances, with perfect 
equanimity. The filth I have never yet 
discovered. I have seen lately that one 
eminent personage declares he takes it 
as an insult even to ask him " What he 
would smoke ? " Another, that he has 
never indulged in the filthy habit of 
smoking, it being disgusting to his 



v THE USE OF TOBACCO 39 

fellow-creatures to smell the stale smoke. 
I don't object ; but for myself I prefer 
the odour of even second-hand tobacco 
smoke to the exhalations arising from 
unsound teeth or stomach. I was asked 
by a medical man of note, when I told 
him I smoked, if I did not find it 
bad for the voice, and if other singers 
smoked. I replied that I smoked in 
moderation, and found it had the effect 
of making my voice clear, and that I 
had never known but two or three 
rather indifferent singers who did not 
smoke. I do not advocate smoking ; 
those who find themselves perfectly well 
without, should leave well alone ; those 
who find themselves perfectly well with 
it, ditto ! ditto ! ! ditto 1 ! ! ditto ! ! ! ! 



VI 
THE SISTER ARTS 

A VOCAL artiste must have a nodding 
acquaintance, at least, with the sister 
Arts, literature, prose and poetry 
(especially the latter), and painting ; 
he must have a knowledge of other 
languages, to read them well, with 
their proper pronunciation and accent, 
so as to understand the text of the work 
to be studied and sing it with appro- 
priate declamation. Italian is the most 
useful, as the best works as studies for 
a singer are written in that language. 
The easiest and surest way to learn it 
would be to reside for a time in some 
quiet little city in Tuscany with a 
family ignorant of English, and where 
40 



VI 



THE SISTER ARTS 41 



there are no gay distractions to disturb 
the rest or interfere with study. Three 
months ought to suffice for a con- 
scientious student to understand and 
make himself understood, after which 
he would soon begin to converse with- 
out much difficulty. During these three 
months it would be better to exercise 
the singing voice in studies without 
words. 

I have often heard English singers say 
they prefer singing in Italian, as it is so 
much easier to pronounce than their own 
language. I differ with them entirely. 
My experience is that Italian is the 
most difficult of all the languages most 
generally wedded to music. Few people 
of other nations than Italian ever acquire 
a pure pronunciation of the Italian 
language. English Italian is especially 
defective ; we do not divide our words 
nor the component syllables of our words 
distinctly ; the Italians do both. In a 
place such as I have indicated above, the 



42 THE ART OF SINGING vi 

peasant speaks with as perfect a pro- 
nunciation, and in a language as elegant 
and poetic, as the refined orator an un- 
speakable advantage to a student. 

Possible perfection can never be at- 
tained without study ; study to be 
profitable must be systematic and must 
be directed solely to the attainment of 
perfection in the Art we desire to adopt 
as a profession ; consequently each step 
must be mastered before attacking the 
next in order. Jumping from one exer- 
cise to another, or to a song or other 
piece, or scrambling through an accom- 
paniment on the piano under pretence of 
studying a piece of music, is not work, 
and tends only to irritate and discourage ; 
time so occupied is simply wasted. Much 
more profitable would it be to walk out 
into the fresh air and observe how 
everything in Nature is busy with 
systematic work, and take a lesson 
therefrom. 

Many students, and professors too, 



vi THE SISTER ARTS 43 

consider that Bohemian life, so-called, 
is the only artistic existence. I beg 
to deny it ! Bohemian life may suit 
Bohemians, another name for " would- 
be's " ; they who adopt it, or affect to 
adopt it, never rise to a place in the 
"angels' visit" class. I never yet 
encountered a great artiste who led a 
Bohemian life, or was unsystematic in 
his work. 

Of the sluggard I need only say, " Let 
him complain, 'You have waked me 
too soon, I must slumber again ' " ! He 
may dream of greatness, but never can 
realise it ! 

Study, to be available, must be 
judiciously regulated. The voice, how- 
ever strong the constitution of its pos- 
sessor may be, is a delicate instrument ; 
it must be exercised with great care. 
If strained, especially the higher and 
lower tones of its register, both its 
quality and power will suffer ; only 
such exercises as lie well within its 



44 THE ART OF SINGING vi 

natural compass should be made use of 
at first, the range being extended as the 
voice develops. The length of time 
occupied in exercise, regulated according 
to the physique of the student, should 
be from thirty to forty minutes at a 
spell, including an occasional pause of a 
minute or two for rest and meditation ; 
the actual exercise of the voice would 
thus occupy from twenty to thirty 
minutes. Three, or at most four, such 
spells, the first fully half an hour after a 
light breakfast, the others an hour before 
or an hour after a meal is concluded, are 
sufficient for each day. I will add, make 
Sunday a day of rest ; suspend your 
studies entirely, occupy yourself, if not 
spiritually inclined, with reading good 
prose or poetry in English and Italian. 

Nothing must be allowed to interfere 
with the regularity of the hours devoted 
to exercise of the voice ; you cannot be 
an artiste and a votary of Society at the 
same time. It has been often tried and 



vi THE SISTER ARTS 45 

always proved a failure. The exigencies 
of Society will interfere with the punct- 
ual performance of your duty, and 
(which is of equal importance) will run 
you into expenses you are not justified 
in incurring, as the means of carrying 
on your studies are, in nearly every case, 
provided by your parents or generous 
friends, which means you are bound in 
honour to apply solely to the object for 
which they are provided. Your duty 
is to work that you may be able to repay 
your benefactors, be they parents or 
friends, the full amount they have been 
called upon to expend on your educa- 
tion and probation ! If they be well- 
to-do, and you do not work to repay 
them, your conduct is dishonourable ; 
if they can ill afford to assist you and 
are obliged to forgo relaxation from 
work and legitimate pleasures to pro- 
vide you with funds, and you do not 
work to repay them, your conduct is 
dishonourable and cruel ! 



VII 
OBEDIENCE 

OBEDIENCE to your teacher must be as 
strict as obedience to your parents. In 
an important epoch of your life he stands 
in the relation of a parent to you ; you 
are bound to respect and honour him as 
such, mindful that he labours under 
this disadvantage : he cannot administer 
punishment for inattention and negli- 
gence as your parents are bound to do. 
Being in earnest, he is exigent ; and if in 
his zeal for the welfare of his pupil he 
insist rigorously on strict obedience, if 
you do not acknowledge his authority 
he runs the risk of losing a promising 
pupil. Young people (and some old 
ones) kick at the traces and at times 
4 6 



vii OBEDIENCE 47 

break them to their own detriment, 
as good masters are scarce ; and to 
the master's loss not pecuniary loss ; 
money could never repay the loss of 
a pupil whose talents justify the hope 
of producing an artiste worthy of the 
name! 

Trust your master, and obey him im- 
plicitly; make him your friend by your 
diligence and attention ; never interrupt 
his instructions or explanations ; be silent 
until he has concluded, then, if they are 
not clear to you, request him folitely to 
repeat them until you understand them 
perfectly. A good master will have no 
difficulty in varying the mode of ex- 
planation without interfering with the 
sense. It is excessively vulgar to inter- 
rupt, or, by word or gesture, to indicate 
contempt or indifference. Presump- 
tuous pupils are liable to make such a 
suggestion as, "Do you not think it 
would be better I should try such an 
exercise or sing it in such a way?" I 



48 THE ART OF SINGING vii 

always reply, "Had I thought so, I 
would have already told you so ! " 

Your place is to keep your tongue 
still and the ears of your intellect open, 
and not to make parade of your fancied 
knowledge. A chattering pupil profits 
little or not at all by the clearest ex- 
planation or instruction. Let not a 
syllable escape you except, as I have 
before said, to ask politely for a re- 
petition of any explanation you have not 
clearly understood. In your case the 
proverb " Silence is golden " is partic- 
ularly apt. 

Between an accomplished master and 
intelligent and obedient pupil it is only 
natural that affection, offspring of sym- 
pathy of mutual interest, should be called 
into existence. Young women, never 
allow that affection to ripen into one of 
a more tender nature ; it will prove but 
a hindrance to your progress, and, as 
we are all human, might lead to un- 
pleasant consequences. 



VIII 
TO THE PUPIL (continued} 

IN this chapter I will indicate what 
more you must do ; it is your master's 
business to teach you how that must be 
done ; with which it is not my business 
to interfere. 

You must begin your studies by learn- 
ing to sing one note at a time slowly, 
commencing, continuing, and concluding 
each note in strict time, perfect tune, 
and with equal power throughout, with- 
out the slightest shock at the beginning 
or the end ; in fact, forming a perfect, 
solid rectangle of sound. 



50 THE ART OF SINGING vin 

This accomplished, you must then learn 
to sing two notes in succession without 
slur, executed each as in the example 
above, and without break between them, 



taking breath at each bar, for which a 
momentary cessation of sound will be 
necessary at the end of each bar, and so 
on to three and four notes following. 




This is the foundation of the Art of 
Singing, on which all culture of the 
voice depends ; equality and beauty ot 
tone, power, sustaining the power and 
quality (loud or soft), and rhythm, one 
of which lacking, singing can never be 
perfect. 

The sound of the voice is produced 



vin TO THE PUPIL 51 

by the breath acting on the vocal chords, 
the tone or emission of the voice is 
consequent on the influence of the 
formation of the throat and mouth. 
Unless there exist some peculiarity of 
formation (rare in my experience), the 
tone ought not to be interfered with, 
as it is this formation which gives the 
character to the voice, by which persons 
may be as readily distinguished as by 
their faces or movements. The tone 
may be peculiar, even to a certain extent 
disagreeable, but the peculiarity may, 
by an intelligent student aided by an 
equally intelligent master, be turned to 
such account as to render it a striking 
speciality in the rendering of certain 
dramatic parts. If your voice is of 
good quality and sufficient power, never 
allow it to be tampered with by " pro- 
duction quacks " ; a master of the Art 
of Singing knows all that is requisite 
to develop your natural qualifications. 
When you have mastered this step, 



52 THE ART OF SINGING vm 

you can proceed to increase by slow 
gradations the compass and speed of 
your exercises. Give your artistic feel- 
ing full play even at this early stage ; a 
simple scale or a single note may be 
interesting if sung with the feeling of 
an artiste, while if blurted out in a 
commonplace style, it may cause your 
neighbours to entertain a desire to indict 
you as a nuisance. Persevere diligently 
with the exercises I have indicated until 
your master is satisfied, then follow on with 
" vocalises " and " solfeggi " until you are 
ready to apply what you have learned to 
its object, the interpretation of such good 
vocal music as is adapted to the quality 
and compass of your voice, irrespective 
of its character or style. The more 
these are varied the better, in order that 
you may bring out whatever dramatic 
talent you may possess, and thus discover 
where your strength lies in tragedy, 
light comedy, or low comedy. 



IX 
STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 

ENUNCIATION AND BREATHING 

BEFORE entering on the study of vocal 
works, it is absolutely necessary to make 
a serious study of pronunciation and 
enunciation, that is, the sounding of 
words and their delivery. The object 
of wedding music to words is surely to 
give greater emphasis to the sentiment 
or passion those words express ; then if 
those words are not distinctly audible 
what becomes of the emphasis ? The 
English-speaking peoples, more than 
any other, require to pay strict attention 
to this study ; as a rule, they are totally 
regardless of uttering letter or syllable 

S3 



54 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

clearly in ordinary conversation, and so 
acquire a slipshod, inelegant enunciation 
which requires patient, persevering study 
to correct and fit them for public speak- 
ing or singing. 

English is a fine language for both, 
but as practised by the generality of 
public speakers and singers it is devoid 
of accent, unpleasant to the ear, and at 
times even unintelligible. I was once 
present at a performance of The Merchant 
of Venice at the Princess's Theatre. Carl 
Formes, the once celebrated bass singer, 
played Shylock. He always preserved a 
strong German accent in conversation ; 
but though all the other characters in 
the play were sustained by Englishmen, 
the only one who recited his lines to be 
understood was Formes. The reason 
was obvious ; he pronounced the letters, 
divided the syllables, and accented the 
accented syllables, so that, though now 
and then his pronunciation of a word 
was not quite English, his enunciation 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 55 

was perfectly distinct. I did not miss 
a single syllable throughout his entire 
performance. The study must be com- 
menced by learning to pronounce each 
letter distinctly and purely, adopting the 
Italian pronunciation of the vowels. 

a as ah in English. 
e long as a in fate, 

short as in let. 
i long as ee in feet, 

short as in ink. 
o long as in rose, 

short as in lot. 
u as oo in English. 

By purely, I mean the sound of the 
vowel must be preserved intact as long 
as it is held. We have the defect in 
England of adding ee after a syllable or 
word ending with a vowel, as day-ee, 
defy-ee, pray-ee-ing, abi-ee-ding, which 
is not only inelegant, it is vulgar. 

The consonants must be pronounced 
promptly and firmly, using the tongue, 
the teeth, and the lips otherwise the 



56 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

words will not be distinct and their 
sense be lost. They must not intrude 
on the value of the vowels, otherwise 
the voice speaking or singing will lose 
in resonance and carrying power. The 
mouth ought not to open more than 
sufficient to introduce the tip of a 
finger ; if the under jaw is lowered 
beyond what is necessary for this it is 
impossible to pronounce the consonants 
promptly and firmly, as the tongue, teeth, 
and lips will be too far apart to fulfil 
their office. Moreover, the wagging of 
the lower jaw is destructive of any expres- 
sion of sentiment the countenance ought 
to display. In low comedy licence 
may be permitted, but in tragedy or 
elegant comedy such grimacing is not 
permissible. 

The most advantageous, and at the 
same time the most pleasing and elegant, 
position of the mouth is the approach to 
a smile, all the muscles of the face being 
kept perfectly supple so as to be ready 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 57 

to second every change of expression 
occurring in the work the performer is 
engaged on, but without exaggeration ; 
there is but one step from the sublime 
to the ridiculous, which exaggeration 
would inevitably make. 

This must be followed by learning to 
pronounce distinctly single syllables, 
then combinations of syllables, each 
syllable distinct in itself though joined 
to its fellows ; which can only be 
effected by making a short pause after 
each syllable and joining them by degrees 
until the word becomes a perfect whole. 

Great care must be taken to make a 
clear distinction between single and 
double consonants. In England the 
tendency is to neglect this, and we hear 
"a-tention" instead of " at-ten-tion," 
" fe-low " instead of " fel-low " ; while 
we also have the opposite, as in the first 
example given below. 

Few English singers take the trouble 
to study their words sufficiently to give 



58 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

the accented syllable its due force ; in 
recitative, where accent is left entirely to 
the performer, those who are attentive 
will hear very curious things. For 
example, the fine recitative in Judas 
Maccabeus 

Oh let eternal honours crown his name 

rendered more or less (generally more) 
in this wise : 

Olletteturnullhonnurs crownnhis na-em ; 

and in a matter-of-fact style, seemingly 
without a notion that it is a call to the 
Israelitish nation to celebrate with due 
honour the glorious victory obtained 
over their foe by Judas, the leader of 
their army. 

Again, in the same oratorio, when 
Judas himself speaks, " Sound an alarm," 
which as generally interpreted becomes 
" Sounddannalaam." 

No wonder foreigners find English 
ineligible as a singing language. 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 59 

It is not the fault of the language but 
of those who speak it without learning 
how it should be spoken. However 
much one county may differ from 
another in its opinion of the pronuncia- 
tion, there can be no difference of 
opinion regarding the necessity for 
distinctness of enunciation or delivery 
either of a speech or song. In other 
countries I have heard many public 
speakers, and as a rule I have found 
them much more distinct than the 
generality of English public speakers 
I have heard ; but foreign singers I have 
found less distinct than their orators, yet 
still as a rule more distinct than English 
singers. The Germans, as far as my 
experience goes, sin more on the score 
of indistinctness than the Italians or 
French. I heard A'ida once at an im- 
portant city in Germany, and through- 
out I only heard three words, " Ach 
meine tochter," which did not explain 
much of the plot of a long opera. It 



60 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

should be the endeavour of all speakers 
and singers to get rid as much as 
possible of local pronunciations and 
accents, which in the north are somewhat 
rough and uncouth, although they 
preserve the full sound of the vowels 
better than those of the south, especi- 
ally the absurd pronunciation affected 
in and around the Metropolis, where 
we hear " Ow de-ah now ! " for " Oh 
dear no ! " " Down't wike the biby ! " for 
u Don't wake the baby ! " " Hawt " for 
"Heart," "Nevah" for "Never," 
"Men" for "Man," "Sinnin"' for 
"Singing." It has always appeared to 
me miraculous how a foreigner ever 
arrives at understanding English as 
spoken in London, with the defective 
pronunciation and the fusing of words 
into a conglomerate mass. In my 
opinion, the educated classes in Dublin 
and Edinburgh speak better English 
and better pronounced than is heard 
anywhere in England. 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 61 

Having acquired possible perfection 
of pronunciation, there is still a point 
without which enunciation would be 
imperfect, " the management of the 
breath," as without perfect control over 
the wind chest, equality, variety, and sus- 
tentation of tone could not be attained. 
It is a common idea that speakers and 
singers should be able to speak or sing a 
long phrase or sentence without a break. 
What they ought to learn is to be able 
to take breath at any convenient point 
in a phrase in such a way that the break 
may not be observable. The lungs 
should never be entirely exhausted ; in 
speaking, breath may be taken at any 
place where a comma might stand, and 
in singing before any weak accent in a 
bar, of course being careful not to divide 
the syllables of a word. There is no 
mystery or difficulty about breathing. 
All it requires is care in arranging 
convenient and appropriate places to 
take breath, and practising speech or 



62 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

song accordingly. Inexperienced people 
would do well to note that under the 
influence of nervousness they will find it 
more difficult to maintain a chestful of 
wind, and in studying they should mark 
places where an extra breath may be 
taken without interfering with the effect 
of their speech or song. The act of 
taking breath must not be accompanied 
by any visible sign, such as hunching 
the shoulders, nor any audible sound. 
Attention to these few remarks and 
careful practice are all that are necessary 
for the management of the breath. 

Immediately below the vocal cords 
there exists a valve ; the breath should 
be raised to that valve ready before the 
sound is required, then when the valve 
is opened the pressure of wind produces 
the sound or sequence of sounds the 
singer or speaker wills. The pressure 
must be maintained steadily as long as 
the phrase, sung or spoken, lasts, exactly 
as a glass-blower maintains the stream of 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS 63 

breath on the piece of glass he is shaping ; 
if he takes off the pressure for a moment 
his work is spoiled and he will have to 
find another piece of glass. In the same 
way, if you take off the pressure of breath 
for a moment you may probably make 
what is commonly called a " quirk," 
and break your phrase, which you un- 
fortunately cannot replace, but must 
bungle it through to the best of your 
ability. 

- I "Have heard and read most amusing 
instructions for breathing, but, of all, I 
think " abdominal breathing " is the 
most comical. I have in vain tried to 
discover whcreafouuts' in the abdomen 
there exists a store-room for breath ; 
wind there may be, perhaps, but not 
available for breathing purposes. I 
hope I do not incur any risk of an 
action for libel or hurt anybody's feel- 
ings in describing the authors of such 
theories as " wind-bags." 

It is not to be expected that an artiste 



64 THE ART OF SINGING ix 

great in one line should be equally great 
in another. There have been, however, 
a few of the "angels' visit*' class, 
perfect both in tragedy and comedy : 
Lablache ; Giorgio Ronconi ; Pauline 
Viardot, intensely tragic in Le Prophete, 
equally gracefully comic in // Barbiere> 
in // Flauto Magico, when it was revived 
at Covent Garden at the express desire 
of H.R.H. the Prince Consort in 1851, 
she made the otherwise unimportant part 
of Papagena an important feature in the 
revival ; Giulia Grisi in Norma and La 
Gazza Ladra ; Mario in Le Prophete 
and // Bar bier e ; and Gardoni, who had 
always been accepted as one of the most 
accomplished interpreters of the lighter 
tenor parts in serious and semi-serious 
opera, towards the close of his career 
displayed great talent for low comedy, 
which probably he himself never sus- 
pected, as Corentin in Dinorah. 

These examples will suffice to show 
what great artistes could do ; the least 



ix STUDY OF VOCAL WORKS .65 

you can do is to try with all your might 
to emulate them. You may not succeed 
in reaching the height they attained, but 
there are many honourable and agree- 
able places to be found on the ascent ; 
and though you may not rise beyond a 
moderate elevation, you will find that 
a limited genius developed by well- 
regulated study will not fail to make a 
pleasing and lasting impression. 



> 



DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 

EVERY part in a drama, or a detached 
piece, a song or poem, if it has any 
meaning at all, is essentially dramatic ; 
every action of our lives, every word we 
utter with an object, is dramatic ! What 
does the word dramatic imply ? It 
applies both to conception and inter- 
pretation ; a dramatic conception implies 
a sentiment or passion which its author 
desires to express clearly, forcibly, and 
logically ; a dramatic interpretation im- 
plies the expression of such sentiment 
or passion by an artiste whose gifts, 
developed by study and experience, 
render him capable of interpreting that 
66 



x DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 67 

conception clearly, forcibly, and logic- 
ally. 

The interpretation depends greatly 
on the idiosyncrasies of its interpreters ; 
if they are experienced artistes, though 
the mode of carrying out the interpreta- 
tion be in each case different, the result 
will be clear, forcible, and logical. It is 
not uncommon that the author of a 
drama or opera, whilst superintending 
the rehearsals of his work, is surprised 
to find the strength and beauty of 
his conception much enhanced by the 
suggestion, tacit or otherwise, of an 
artiste of genius. For instance, at the 
first stage rehearsal of Halevy's opera, 
La Juire, the author expostulated with 
Pauline Viardot for keeping her back 
turned to the auditorium while she 
gazed on the cauldron of boiling oil 
placed at the back of the scene, he 
being on the stage at the time. At her 
request he removed to the front of the 
house, and seeing the horror depicted 



68 THE ART OF SINGING x 

on her countenance through her attitude, 
he accepted and congratulated her on 
the improvement effected by her dramatic 
genius. 

We hear a great deal about traditions, 
and we consequently find lazy students 
who, to save trouble, imitate what they 
have seen, or what they have heard of 
their studious predecessors doing. Such 
a one may, by attentive observation, learn 
to copy the peculiarities or mannerisms 
of the artiste he takes for a model ; but 
the artiste knew how to turn such 
peculiarities to his advantage, whilst to 
the copyist they will not only prove a 
disadvantage, but will often render him 
an object of ridicule or pity. The in- 
dustrious student, on the contrary, pays 
no attention to peculiarities or manner- 
isms, his whole attention is directed to 
realising the value of the artistic qualities 
of his model, which, without scruple, he 
uses for his own advantage by applying 
them to his individual means. This is 



x DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 69 

no doubt imitation, but perfectly legiti- 
mate ; it is not the servile imitation of 
the mere copyist. 

Art must have commenced by imitating 
Nature alone ; then, as it progressed, by 
imitating Nature developed by artistic 
genius. There were both imitators and 
copyists at all times, but they are easily 
distinguished by those who possess 
artistic perception. The imitator, the 
artiste student, imitates the manner ; the 
impostor, the mere copyist, imitates the 
mannerisms of his model. 



XI 
THE CONTINUATION OF SAME 

I WOULD suggest, subject of course to 
your master's approval, the works of the 
best Italian masters for your first studies, 
as they contain all the elements to pro- 
duce a good singer and develop dramatic 
talent. These, after a short time, may 
be alternated with more serious works, 
such as any of Mozart's operas and 
Handel's operas and oratorios. I sug- 
gest them for study only, though many 
of them, and pieces taken from them, 
will prove useful for public performance ; 
for, spite of public taste, which is con- 
stantly subject to change, a considerable 
number of the works of the old masters 
are at all times received with acclamation 
70 



xi DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 71 

by old opera and concert frequenters, 
as also by the younger artistic genera- 
tion, who cannot but acknowledge their 
beauty, power, and freshness. They 
are of infinite service in the cultivation 
of dramatic expression ; each number 
taken separately being a small drama in 
itself, while yet forming a logical epi- 
sode in the entire drama of which it is 
a part. 

You find in them the invaluable study 
of recitative, greatly neglected by most 
students, who seem to try to "get 
through them " as fast as they can, in 
order to come to the " tune." As Mr. 
Ducrow, the celebrated equestrian, re- 
marked at the rehearsal of one of his 
dramas, finding the dialogue too long 
to suit his views, " Cut the cackle and 
come to the 'osses " ! 

The study of recitative is all-import- 
ant. To the studious it will prove a 
source of intense interest, to the young 
Ducrows it will prove an intense bore. 



72 THE ART OF SINGING xi 

There are two species of dialogue 
the farlanto (half-spoken), accompanied 
originally on the cembalo^ now by violon- 
cello and contrabasso, only used in opera 
buffa (in the French " opera comique " 
and English opera replaced by spoken 
dialogue), which presents no particular 
difficulty when you have acquired a 
tolerable acquaintance with the language, 
its pronunciation and accent. The other 
species, accompanied by the orchestra, is 
more important, as it contains, in a more 
serious degree, the subject, of which the 
piece it introduces is a meditation, re- 
flection, or maybe an explanation. 

Though divided into bars and the 
notes interspersed with rests, in the 
generality of cases the recitative is 
perfectly free as regards time ; the 
rhythm of the music is properly wedded 
to the accent of the words by all the 
good Italian composers. I do not re- 
member any instance of the contrary. 
In works translated from another Ian- 



xi DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 73 

guage errors occur which the student 
must learn to rectify. Unfettered, he 
may revel in the display of his dramatic 
instinct in the declamation of recitative, 
the perfection of which ought to be the 
aim, as it is the crucial test, of a vocal 
artiste. 

It is a great and not uncommon mis- 
take to leave out the recitative when 
introducing an operatic scene at a con- 
cert, with the excuse that it may be 
tedious and bore the audience. None 
but those who have no business at a 
concert of refined music are ever bored 
by a true dramatic interpretation of a 
true dramatic conception, even though 
it may be rendered in a language the 
bulk of the audience does not under- 
stand ; and again, which is no doubt a 
reason of minor importance except to 
the performer, the recitative gives the 
artiste, who, however experienced, must 
suffer from a certain amount of anxiety, 
time to collect himself, and so be better 



74 THE ART OF SINGING xi 

prepared to concentrate his vocal power 
and skill on the execution, with appro- 
priate sentiment, of the piece of which 
it is the introduction. If you believe 
you have dramatic talent, do not hide 
it under a bushel ; have the courage of 
your conviction, and show it in that 
part of your work where it can shine 
most conspicuously. 

The study of the works I have re- 
commended above is also the surest 
road to the acquirement of the perfect 
sostenuto (sustained singing), without 
which a slow movement will present a 
choppy, confused series of sounds sig- 
nifying nothing in particular, instead of 
a broad, elegant, passionate recitation of 
the words of the text emphasised by 
the music to which they are wedded. 
A quick movement will present a hope- 
less muddle of badly constructed fire- 
works. Every note, however short, has 
its just time -value, which if not sus- 
tained, the sound has not time to vibrate 



xi DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 75 

sufficiently to render it audible at even 
a short distance, the consequence being 
that groups of rapid notes introduced 
as ornaments in a slow movement, and 
in such passages as constantly occur in 
quick florid music, might as well be left 
out. 

Again I refer you to the exercise you 
commenced with, and repeat that it is 
the foundation of the art of singing. 
The lack of attention to it not only 
obviates the chance of your being heard, 
but leads to such executions (murders, I 
might call them) as the following : 



76 THE ART OF SINGING xi 



m p. * M - f m 

F * P-C- P p I I 



II mio te so - wo ro in ta - wan to 



2. 



Love sounds tha - la wa - wa - wa - wi 



fee 



g 



In ser we we we we we we we we we we we 



we we we we we we we we we wer-pewent er - ror 



Re - joi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi 



woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi 



woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woi 



-g ' r~t 



woi woi woi woi woi woi woi woice great ly 



xi DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 77 

These are not the ravings of a dis- 
ordered brain as you might suppose ; I 
heard them exactly as I have written 
them, within the last three or four years ; 
specimens of the modern school of sing- 
ing performed by singers holding the 
first rank. Good gracious ! what will 
the singing of the future be ? 

I can imagine Mozart, Handel, and 
Haydn in concert, with hands uplifted 
in horror, exclaiming, " Vot is dat for 
singing ? " Either master or pupil or 
both must have mistaken their voca- 
tion. At most it is meaningless cachin- 
nation, bearing no relation to the art 
of singing. It is productive of great 
harm, for young people witnessing the 
storm of acclamation with which such 
shocking caricature is greeted, are led 
to believe that the only way open to 
them to advance in popular favour is to 
adopt the reprehensible slovenliness of 
those who ought to be their models of 
perfection in Art. 



78 THE ART OF SINGING xi 

I have heard bad singers in my youth, 
not a few enjoying a reputation which their 
lack of merit did not justify ; but there 
were giants too, men and women who 
had reached the topmost rung of the 
ladder of Fame by obedience to the 
direction of competent masters interested 
in their advancement, united to their 
own unflagging zeal, untiring patience, 
and indomitable courage. After I re- 
turned from Italy most of those still 
living received me as a personal friend, 
and accepted me as a c< comrade in 
arms." To three of their number 
Mario, Giorgio Ronconi, and Sims 
Reeves I owe much ; from my first 
acquaintance with them professionally, 
they took sufficient interest in my work 
to act as my guides, and I thank Pro- 
vidence for gifting me with sufficient 
common sense to accept and profit by 
such able guidance. 

I warn you to be on your guard and 
avoid an error which, I grieve to say, I 



xi DRAMATIC CONCEPTION 79 

frequently fell into in my early days. 
Never use the little you know to criticise 
those who know and have done a great 
deal ! Let your observation be directed 
to discovering the method by which 
they arrived at high artistic excellence, 
and do your best to emulate them. 
"Anno Domini" will come, as my 
doctor once remarked to me when I 
had a fit of the " grumbles." Pass over 
the defects (if you choose to call failing 
power and freshness defects), and study 
the art with which they bridge over the 
ravages of time. Respect their age, and 
be silent though the estimation of your 
own baby efforts blind you to the merits 
of an artiste whose power and freshness 
of voice are on the wane. This does 
not apply merely to the great artiste 
who surveys the whole of his world 
from the top of the ladder ; on every 
step you may discover a real artiste if 
you will keep your common sense awake, 
and allow your self-esteem to slumber. 



8o THE ART OF SINGING xi 

Your progress will entirely depend 
on diligent practice. However slow 
it may be, leave nothing undone, make 
each step safe before proceeding to 
another. Those who advance carefully 
though slowly, advance more surely, 
and, in the long-run, if not in point of 
time, will beat the swift student, by 
gaining a higher degree of perfection. 
It is not what we swallow, but what 
we digest which gives us strength to 
sustain us in the race. 



XII 
AT THE BASE OF THE LADDER 

YOUR preliminary studies terminated, 
your master having pronounced you 
ready to try your strength in public, as 
you are still ignorant of what you will 
now have to face, and with what and 
with whom you will have to deal, I will 
devote this chapter to an endeavour to 
enlighten you, bearing in mind that I 
am dealing with an aspirant to artistic 
fame only. You are sound in wind and 
limb, you possess a voice of sufficient 
power and quality to cope with any 
music or any style of music you may be 
called upon to perform ; you have had 
the advantage of exercising it under the 
direction of an able master ; by your 

81 G 



82 THE ART OF SINGING xii 

obedience to 'his instructions, and your 
own industry and perseverance, you are 
now in a position to say with justice : 
" I am prepared for all emergencies. 
Whatever may be the result, I am re- 
solved to exercise the gifts I am endowed 
with in following out the counsels of 
my master, so as to show my gratitude 
to Him who entrusted me with my 
natural means, to the master by whose 
knowledge, patience, and unremitting 
attention those means were developed ; 
to be an honour to both, and to my 
parents ; and to leave behind me, when 
I die, the story of a life distinguished 
for industry, perseverance, and courage, 
bearing the stamp of the true votary of 
Art." 

I admire your resolution ; stick fast 
to it ! You will have need of all your 
fortitude, the path you are entering on 
being narrow, steep, and rugged. I 
daresay at times during your pre- 
liminary course you felt disheartened, 



xii THE BASE OF THE LADDER 83 

perhaps inclined to give up all hope of 
success ; but the difficulties you had to 
surmount as a student were baga- 
telles compared to those that confront 
you as a professional performer. Be 
" bold and brave " and you will over- 
come them ! 

u Forewarned is forearmed ! " I will 
endeavour to prepare you for the 
combat ; I can do so from my personal 
experience in Italy and in England. 

During your student days you had a 
master to guide, advise, and encourage 
you ; now you have only yourself to 
depend on. 

As musical affairs are at present con- 
stituted, your master can render you 
very slight assistance. You must learn 
to pocket your pride (except pride in 
doing your work well) ; to be patient 
under reverses and delays ; to be 
courteous to all you meet, even those 
you know to be detractors, inclined 
rather to injure than to aid you ; to 



84 THE ART OF SINGING xn 

control your nerves (always active in an 
artistic temperament), without which 
though, if uncontrolled by force of will, 
they paralyse your powers to a greater 
or less extent you could not give 
adequate expression to the sentiment or 
passion you wish to portray ; to conquer 
shyness and give full play to your 
artistic feeling, whilst preserving be- 
coming modesty of demeanour ; and 
last but by no means least, to keep a 
silent tongue. 

Never discuss the talents of your 
fellow-artistes nor your own prospects, 
your prospective engagements or the 
remuneration you expect to receive 
from them ; they are your business 
only, and once you confide them to 
your bosom friend, they will soon be 
everybody's business, and probably end 
in no business at all. 

You will have trouble with agents ; 
I have already told you how I fared 
with those I had to visit in Milan. As 



xii THE BASE OF THE LADDER 85 

the agent is now an established feature 
in England, you will probably meet 
with disappointments and difficulties 
such as I endured. As in all pro- 
fessions, there are agents who know 
their business, who honourably fulfil 
their duties for the fees they exact ; but 
there are, unfortunately, also those who 
know nothing about the qualities which 
distinguish an artiste, who take up the 
business simply because it entails little 
labour ; and the reward, if they are 
lucky, is ample to satisfy their desires. 
It is a pity there is no power to limit 
their number to those who by examina- 
tion obtain a legal right to exercise the 
calling. 

There are many who, having little 
or no musical knowledge, have the 
audacity to insist upon hearing artistes 
seeking engagements play or sing, 
in order to judge of their profici- 
ency. Imagine an accomplished young 
vocalist or instrumentalist compelled 



86 THE ART OF SINGING xn 

to undergo such an absurd, degrading 
ceremony. 

We can only hope that the " Incor- 
porated Society of Musicians" will 
before long obtain legal influence to put 
a stop to such business. It is bad for 
caterers and artistes alike, as to my 
knowledge incompetent artistes obtain 
engagements they have not the talent to 
fulfil, where competent artistes could be 
engaged on the same and even lower 
terms, who would fulfil their engage- 
ments to the satisfaction of the caterer 
and the public. 

The only advice I can offer you is 
Be careful, before dealing with an agent, 
to ascertain that he is a person of 
probity, and that he understands his 
business sufficiently to render you 
useful service for adequate remunera- 
tion. Have nothing to do with those 
who tell you that the only way to make 
a name, and so procure engagements, is 
to give a concert or recital in which you 



xii THE BASE OF THE LADDER 87 

would have an opportunity to display 
your talents in their various phases and 
obtain notices of your performance in 
the public journals (the quality of 
which they, the agents, can command), 
which will spread your name far and 
wide, together with sundry similar 
chimerical advantages. They do not 
tell you, at the same time, that your 
chances are a hundred to one against 
any benefit to be derived by you from 
your speculation. In the first place, 
whatever ability you may possess, you 
are almost sure to be paralysed with 
stage fright, and cannot therefore do 
yourself justice ; in the second place, 
unless you are provided with ample 
funds, the expense of giving even a 
modest concert will assuredly cripple 
your means of living, if it do not 
leave you bankrupt. 

The management of a theatre or of 
concerts is no sinecure ; they are both 
attended with great pecuniary risk, 



88 THE ART OF SINGING xn 

public taste either as regards music or 
drama being subject to fluctuation. The 
expense attendant on operatic perform- 
ances or concerts on a grand scale is 
enormous ; consequently managers of 
such entertainments must be wary in 
the choice of the artistes they engage, 
not only as regards their talent, but also 
as regards their power of attracting the 
sympathy of the public. An artiste of 
great talent lacking the particular charm 
which would render it sympathetic will 
have to give place to one of inferior 
talent. That is not the manager's fault ; 
his success is at stake, and he is bound 
to cater for those who provide him with 
the means of carrying on his enterprise. 
In former times, when the great 
theatres in Italy received a government 
subvention, there were laws by which 
both manager and artiste were bound 
mutually to abide by the stipulations 
put forth in their contract, under penalty 
for contravention of same. An obstinate 



xii THE BASE OF THE LADDER 89 

artiste refusing to comply with the terms 
of his contract would be lodged in "Santa 
Margarita" (the prison) for a term of 
days, conducted to the theatre to do 
his work each evening and back to 
prison by the police, who kept a watchful 
eye on him during the performance, 
until his contempt was purged ; the 
manager was liable to similar treatment 
if he did not carry out his part of the 
agreement. 

We have no such laws here, so it 
behoves manager and artistes to have 
all stipulations in a contract clearly set 
forth. Promises are proverbially made 
of pie-crust, and should be avoided in 
order to preserve a mutual good under- 
standing. The manager has a right to 
exact all he pays for, and the artistes 
to refuse to do anything they are not 
paid for ; all dealings on both sides 
ought to be arranged entirely on busi- 
ness principles. Through neglect of 
attention to this I involved myself in 



9 o THE ART OF SINGING xii 

a sea of troubles, and, much against my 
inclination, I resolved to quit the stage, 
the passion and lodestar of my life, as 
early as the year 1877. 

Solo musical artistes are more than 
all others victims to the very tempera- 
ment which is the great cause of their 
excelling in their art ; sensitive, nerv- 
ous, and excitable, wayward as spoiled 
children, and consequently requiring 
special treatment, the iron hand must 
be clothed in a glove of down. . Velvet 
would be useless. Managers do not 
always remember this, hence follow 
disturbances which, with a little tact, 
might easily be avoided ; rivalries are 
set up which serve to widen the breach 
in a dispute instead of filling it up, to 
the detriment of one or both parties 
concerned. 

Rivalry is good when fair means are 
used on both sides ; it sharpens the 
wits ! Honest and earnest rivals leave no 
stone unturned until one wins honour- 



xii THE BASE OF THE LADDER 91 

ably and the other accepts honourable 
defeat. At the present time anything 
except brains and honour are to be 
bought with money even a coveted 
position as an artiste. Why should I 
blame a manager if he allows a not 
highly gifted person to make use of the 
prestige of his theatre or hall, and the 
forbearance of his audience, for a 
stipulated sum ? 

The gilded aspirant to fame, if suc- 
cessful, will probably reap good interest 
on the capital invested ; if unsuccessful, 
as long as money is forthcoming, oppor- 
tunities will offer to conclude similar 
bargains, until a success of some kind 
is scored or patience and funds are 
exhausted. Let such a one pass with 
the charitable hope that he or she will 
not meet with the reward they merit. 
To the manager the immediate result 
may not matter, but in the long-run, 
if such bargains are persisted in, he will 
surely find his prestige as a caterer 



92 THE ART OF SINGING xn 

diminish, as likewise his exchequer. 
In the meantime a young artiste who 
is not gifted with means to buy a 
position, or, if so gifted, unwilling to 
use them disloyally, but endowed with 
natural gifts and talent, is kept in the 
background. Whatever difficulties may 
stand in the way, they may be sur- 
mounted by faith, courage, and patience 
virtues at all times difficult to exercise, 
but especially so for an artistic tempera- 
ment. The situation must be accepted 
without murmur, and every available 
moment be devoted to study ! study ! 
study ! 

The clouds will disperse, the sun 
will shine when least expected, and the 
long-sighed-for, merited reward will be 
gained. 



XIII 

ABOUT THEATRES AND HALLS 

BUILT EXPRESSLY FOR MUSICAL, 

DRAMATIC, AND ORATORICAL 

PURPOSES 

OF the "Laws of Sound" I know 
nothing scientifically ; practically I do 
know something. Whatever professors 
of the science may know ; architects, who 
ought to carry out practically the Laws 
of Sound, are either unacquainted with 
them or do not abide by them. A 
theatre or hall may be perfect for the 
listener, yet be imperfect for the singer 
or speaker, or vice versa. I have sung 
and spoken in theatres and halls in 
many parts of the world, and my ex- 

93 



94 THE ART OF SINGING xin 

perience is that of the greater number 
the acoustic properties are very im- 
perfect. Perfection we need not hope 
to attain, an approach to it would be 
satisfactory. I was in St. Peter's, 
Rome, on the occasion of the reception 
of pilgrims from Germany, Spain, Italy, 
etc., who, with the addition of cardinals, 
archbishops, bishops, and others officially 
engaged, formed an audience number- 
ing between thirty and forty thousand. 
His Holiness pronounced his blessing 
at the termination of the ceremony, 
every word of which was distinctly 
faintly in some parts, but distinctly 
heard in every corner of the vast area. 
It may be suggested that the Pope was 
a fine orator, but I deem that beside 
the question. Theatres and halls are 
not built solely to accommodate fine 
singers and speakers ; there are others 
less gifted who have to be heard and 
seen in them, and so entitled to 
consideration. 



xiii ABOUT THEATRES 95 

I am inclined to believe that in de- 
signing a theatre or hall an architect's 
attention is directed more to the beauty 
of his design than to the Laws of 
Sound. By all means let the building 
be a " thing of beauty," but if it is not 
adapted to the purpose for which it was 
intended it will not be a "joy for ever " ! 
Very often I have heard it stated by 
those who are supposed to know, that 
acoustic properties are a matter of 
chance. Granted that such be the case 
and a completed building turn out 
defective, if the architect is versed in 
the Laws of Sound, surely he would be 
able to apply them in order to remedy 
the defect to some extent, if not 
entirely. 

I would like to ask <c one who 
knows " how it is that, being in equally 
good voice and humour, "ready for 
my work," in one room I go through 
it in perfect comfort, without fatigue, 
and in another with so much discomfort 



96 THE ART OF SINGING xm 

that I am glad to land safe at the end ? 
Again, why is it that from the place I 
occupy when singing in an oratorio in 
a certain room I hear every note and 
word distinctly repeated somewhere in 
the ceiling apparently, and in another 
room I can scarcely hear a note I 
utter ? 

If science can cope with these defects, 
why are they not remedied, that the 
singer may be at ease to interest and 
amuse the audience ? 

There are halls built for the purpose 
of holding political or other public 
meetings where some of the audience 
have to keep their attention riveted to 
hear what might be called the ghost of 
a speech or discourse, while others 
remain in blissful ignorance of what 
they came to hear ? Why is it that in 
some halls I know, the unfortunate 
people who are seated about the middle 
of the body may indulge in a nap with- 
out fear of being disturbed by anything 



xin ABOUT THEATRES 97 

taking place in the orchestra (unless 
startled by a sudden crash of trumpets 
and drums), while their fortunate neigh- 
bours, a yard or two before or behind, 
are enjoying the music and muttering 
anathema on the brazen blast common 
in modern orchestral compositions. 

For a speaker such rooms are trying ; 
for a singer who has to execute long 
sustained phrases they are exhausting. 
His labour, which ought to be "of love," 
becomes one of pain, mental and physical. 

Attached to or forming part of the 
concert-room, there ought to be a re- 
tiring-room, generally designated the 
"green-room," for the accommodation 
of artistes taking part in a concert. In 
only a few instances is the room fit for 
the occupation of ladies and gentlemen 
who wear decent attire and have to do 
delicate work in front of and for the 
amusement of an audience. As a rule, 
if there is a room at all, it is one com- 
pared to which the third-class waiting- 

H 



98 THE ART OF SINGING xm 

room at an ordinary railway station is a 
boudoir. Are singers supposed to com- 
bine the two natures of the Laplander 
and the salamander ? In one " green- 
room " they run the risk of being 
frozen " blue," in another of being 
roasted " brown," owing to the absence 
of the means of proper ventilation ; the 
only pretension to the name of " green- 
room " being an effluvia suggestive of 
"green mould." 

I have known more than one young 
girl to have an elegant dress, bought 
with her hard-earned money, entirely 
ruined on stepping into such a place. 
Such a one, engaged to sing at a small 
town, after travelling some hours in a 
third-class carriage, arrives a short time 
before she has to appear on the platform ; 
she engages a room at the best hotel in 
the place, probably a public-house of the 
better class ; being modest, she does 
not like the company of the frequenters 
of the house, and must take her meals 



xni ABOUT THEATRES 99 

in her bedroom ; she must dress by the 
dim light of a couple of candles or single 
jet of gas without the assistance of a 
maid ; she must make her way alone to 
the concert-room, perhaps on foot, and 
there make herself as comfortable as she 
can in such a room as I have described, 
during the time she is not occupied in 
her work, while her satisfied audience 
is under the impression that she has 
nothing to do but enjoy herself. I 
would the gentleman who designed her 
bower of enjoyment had to go through 
his work in the discomfort his neglect 
provided for that poor child ! If he pos- 
sessed a trifle of the milk of human 
kindness he would, in future, while pro- 
viding for the convenience and comfort 
of the audience, take care to provide a 
retiring-room, sufficiently decent and 
convenient, for the accommodation of 
people who, for their endowments and 
education, are chosen to entertain the 
musical public. 



ioo THE ART OF SINGING xm 

I took part in Gounod's Faust, in 
Italian, at the opening of a new theatre 
in the north of England. The architect 
who designed it was an intimate acquaint- 
ance of mine. He told me that before 
drawing out his plans he had visited the 
Scala, Milan, the San Carlo, Naples, and 
all the principal theatres on the Conti- 
nent ; that, constructed as they were, he 
was convinced that half the audience 
could neither see the stage nor hear the 
singers ; and that, after a considerable 
amount of study, he had developed a 
plan for a theatre where the entire 
audience should see and hear perfectly, 
and where the performers should sing 
with perfect ease. As one of the per- 
formers I can truly say it was one of the 
most trying places I ever sang in ; and 
it was found that a third of the audience 
could not see the stage, and as many 
could not hear the singers. The audi- 
torium was altered on various occasions 
with doubtful result. At a subsequent 



xiii ABOUT THEATRES 101 

date I sang at a theatre in Scotland, 
shortly after it was opened, in Zampa, 
in English, when I had both to sing and 
speak. I did not know the architect 
who designed it. Being his first attempt 
in the theatrical line, he also had made 
the round of continental theatres and 
found them generally excellent as re- 
gards sound and sight. The result of 
his experience was, to my mind, a model 
theatre. When I had sung my first 
phrase I was satisfied that, for audience 
and singer, the acoustic properties were 
of the highest order, and after I had 
spoken my first lines I was satisfied that 
they were equally perfect for the audience 
and speaker. 

Allow me to remark that after these 
two examples I cannot believe that all 
architects comprehend or pay due 
attention to the " Laws of Sound." 

My experience of foreign theatres 
is limited. I sang at the Liceo, Barce- 
lona, during the carnival, 1864-65 ; at 



102 THE ART OF SINGING xm 

the Scala, Milan, in 1865-66 ; at the 
Opera-houses, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, 
and Baltimore, in 1872 all very large 
theatres, and all perfect as far as acoustics 
are concerned. In Great Britain and 
Ireland I found on a par with these, 
though more limited in size : Her 
Majesty's Theatre, London (burned 
down in 1867) ; the old Theatre 
Royal, Liverpool (a little gem, con- 
verted into a cold store some years ago) ; 
and the Amphitheatre, Liverpool (now 
the Court Theatre) ; the Theatres 
Royal, Birmingham, Manchester, Glas- 
gow, and Dublin (burned down some 
years ago). 

But in not one of them did I find a 
decently appointed dressing-room ; with 
few exceptions they were at a distance 
from the stage, and approached by a 
narrow staircase, often stone steps ; the 
performer passing to and fro exposed 
to draughts of cold air, such as are only 
to be encountered on the stage at all 



xiii ABOUT THEATRES 103 

seasons of the year. No wonder singers 
are disabled by sudden loss of voice 
from fulfilling their duty ; it is a wonder 
such disappointments are not of more 
frequent occurrence. Preventive appli- 
ances may have been discovered since I 
retired from the stage ; for the sake of 
the younger generation, I sincerely hope 
they have. 



XIV 
ABOUT SELF 

POLONIUS 

Yet here, Laertes ! aboard, aboard, for shame ! 

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail, 

And you are stay'd for. There ; my blessing with 

thee! 

And these few precepts in thy memory 
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue, 
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act. 
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. 
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, 
Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel ; 
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment 
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware 
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, 
Bear't, that the opposed may beware of thee. 
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice ; 
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy 

judgement. 

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, 
But not expressed in fancy ; rich, not gaudy ; 
104 



xiv ABOUT SELF 105 

For the apparel oft proclaims the man, 
And they in France of the best rank and station 
Are of a most select and generous chief in that. 
Neither a borrower nor a lender be ; 
For loan oft loses both itself and friend, 
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 
This above all : to thine own self be true ; 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
Thou canst not then be false to any man. 
Farewell : my blessing season this in thee ! 

Hamlet, ACT i. Scene 3. 

THESE precepts contain the soundest 
advice that could be offered to young 
people when starting on the journey of 
active life. They ought to be printed 
in large type and hung up in each class- 
room of every school or college in every 
place where the English language is 
spoken ; and expounded from time to 
time by a competent person, that every 
student may clearly understand them. 
No more fitting memorial could be 
erected to the genius of our immortal 
Shakespeare. 

(" Tet here> Laertes ! "etc.}. You have 
secured an engagement to sing at the 



106 THE ART OF SINGING xiv 

opera ; you have been cast for a part, 
rehearsals are soon to begin. Do not 
wait for your music to be sent to you ; 
go at once to the librarian and procure 
it ; and learn it by heart in anticipation, 
in order that during the rehearsals you 
may direct your whole attention to the 
development of the character you have 
to represent ; and to the assimilation of 
your part with those of your fellow-per- 
formers, that you may do your share in 
carrying out the interest of the drama. 

(" And these few precepts" etc.}. I 
recommend you to commit them to 
memory, that you may at all times 
recall them, and use them as a sure, 
safe guide. They will remind you of 
the consideration you owe to others as 
well as to yourself, and teach you how 
to regulate your conduct so as to form 
lasting friendships of mutual advantage 
in fulfilling your duty to God and 
man. 



xiv ABOUT SELF 107 

You have now your own battle to 
fight ; you will have your share of trials, 
difficulties, and disappointments ; temper 
self-interest with self-denial, and accept 
them cheerfully ; what may appear at 
the first glance a hard task will then 
become a pleasant duty. The most 
tempestuous life may be made sunny 
by a cheerful spirit. Procure a copy 
of Evenings at Home, by Mrs. Barbauld, 
and read a story it contains, entitled, 
"How to make the best of it." 
It is very simple, but if you read 
it carefully so as to remember it, 
you will find it an invaluable help. 
I did. 

(" Give your thoughts no tongue" etc.}. 
The will controls the thoughts and 
actions. Your will is your self, there- 
fore you must be unceasingly on guard 
that you may control your speech, which 
is the expression of your thoughts in 
language ; and your actions, which are 



io8 THE ART OF SINGING xiv 

the expression of your thoughts in acts, 
moral or physical. 

(" Be thou familiar " etc.). Our copy- 
books used to tell us " Familiarity breeds 
contempt " ; if you are not careful you 
will find it breeds many other disagree- 
able things. A theatrical company is 
a society whose members, constantly 
thrown together at rehearsals and per- 
formances, soon become more or less 
intimate. Be on your guard ; do not 
let familiarity breed contempt of danger. 
In a mixed company, as you will find it, 
there is danger. Artistes spring from 
all ranks of society ; among your com- 
rades you will find ladies and gentlemen 
by birth, position, and education ; others 
may be of low origin, unacquainted with 
the exigencies of polite society, who, 
being gifted with artistic feeling, have 
succeeded in raising themselves to the 
position they hold by work and observa- 
tion, and therefore worthy of your re- 



xiv ABOUT SELF 109 

spect and consideration. Be courteous 
and good-natured to all, but avoid 
familiarity of speech and manner, or you 
may be led into unpleasant intimacies, 
more easily formed than broken off. 

(" The friends thou hast" etc."). On 
the other hand you may form acquaint- 
ances ending, after mature consideration 
and trial, in solid friendships. Hold 
them fast ; friends are not easily found ; 
at one time or other you may have need 
of one ; or, better by far, be able to show 
yourself a true friend to one who requires 
consolation and assistance. 

(" Beware of entrance to a quarrel" etc?). 
Keep strict guard over your tongue 
and you will avoid quarrels ; if, how- 
ever, a quarrel be unavoidable and your 
opponent determined " to fight it out," 
do not give way to anger ; be calm and 
courteous, content to parry the thrusts 
aimed at you without attempting to 



no THE ART OF SINGING xiv 

return them until your opportunity, 
which is sure to arrive, gives you the 
chance to end the combat with the most 
deadly blow you can inflict " the soft 
answer which turneth away wrath." 

(" Give every man thy ear" etc?). 
If you are good-natured, as I take for 
granted you are, you will have ample 
scope for exercising this precept. You 
will be made a receptacle for troubles of 
all kinds ; listen to them patiently ; if 
you cannot heal them, you can pour oil 
on the wounds and soothe the pain, real 
or imaginary. The " crushed tragedian " 
will indulge you with the censure of the 
manager who cannot see his fitness for 
the part which he has made his own all 
over the world ; the ancient dancer, with 
her comments on a stupid ballet-master 
who allows her grace and experience to 
lie neglected while a clumsy, inexperi- 
enced beginner in whom he is interested 
is allowed to take the place which is 



xiv ABOUT SELF in 

hers by right. Listen patiently, but do 
not constitute yourself judge. If your 
judgment does not coincide with the 
lady's you will make an enemy of her ; 
if it does it will be quoted with addi- 
tions, and you will make two enemies, 
the manager and the ballet-master. 

(" Costly thy habit" etc.}. Your dress 
is an important factor in your appearance 
on the stage. Before paying a visit to 
the wardrobe make yourself acquainted 
with the style of dress worn by such a 
personage as you are called upon to re- 
present at the period in which the drama 
you take part in is laid. Plates of the 
characters in most of the operas, old and 
modern, are published in Paris, etc., and 
failing these, there are many excellent 
works on costume, with illustrations, 
including minute details of ornaments, 
to be seen at the British Museum. 
Your costume as provided by the 
manager may not be to your liking ; 



ii2 THE ART OF SINGING xiv 

do not grumble. What may appear by 
daylight little better than a bundle of 
rags, may, with tact and taste, be turned 
into an appropriate elegant costume when 
seen by the glare of the stage lights. 
Spend what you can afford upon it ; you 
need not be alarmed by the word 
<c costly " in the precept ; adroitly used, 
a piece of old flannel, if clean, will often 
make a better show than the finest cloth. 
Consult your authority with regard to 
the manner of wearing the hair, beard, 
etc., and conform to the instructions as 
closely as possible ; and learn to " make 
up " your face that the colour does 
not hide the lines of expression ; and 
above all, I recommend the ladies to be 
careful in the use of black cosmetic for 
the eyes ; I have seen many who appeared 
as though adorned with horn spectacles. 
Whatever ornaments you wear, let them 
be in good taste, " rich, not gaudy " ; 
nor too lavish in quantity ; elegant sim- 
plicity is more becoming, and to the 



xiv ABOUT SELF 113 

refined portion of your audience more 
pleasing than a great display of jewels, 
however costly they may be. 

It has become a fashion to wear orders 
of distinction at ordinary concerts, which 
being only intended for use on State 
occasions, are quite out of place ; they 
who wear them show lack of good taste 
and thoughtless disregard for the feel- 
ings of their less fortunate comrades. 

(" Neither a borrower nor a lender be" 
etc.*). If you can assist a comrade, it 
is your duty to do so, without thought 
of reward or repayment ; but first be 
sure that your assistance is bestowed 
on a worthy object ; ad captandum lend- 
ing is not generosity ; on the contrary, 
it is productive of evil in various ways ; 
you may suffer loss which your pocket 
cannot afford, and loss of friendship 
your heart cherished ; you may also 
be providing means for indulgence in 
intemperate habits. 

i 



ii4 THE ART OF SINGING xiv 

Work for your living, keep strictly 
within your means, do not indulge in 
expenses in anticipation of what you 
expect to earn ; make it a hard and 
fast rule to pay your way as you go ; 
you will then avoid the necessity and 
mortification of becoming a borrower. 

(" This above all: to thine own self be 
true" etc.}. Self-government is the 
most difficult task we have to perform. 
As in all other tasks, its successful 
accomplishment depends on ourselves. 
Teachers can inculcate principles, but 
the only master who can guide us in 
their application is our own conscience. 
Hence from our earliest years the neces- 
sity for attention to moral instruction, 
in order that our conscience may have 
a clear perception of what we owe to 
our Creator, our fellow -creatures, and 
ourselves : to our Creator, all we are, 
all we have, and all we can do ; to our 
fellow-creatures, charity ; to ourselves, 



xiv ABOUT SELF 115 

the exercise of abnegation, for without 
this we cannot pay what we owe to 
God and man. Our passions rise up 
in defiance of conscience when we least 
expect ; the struggle is a lifelong duel 
a outrance. Woe betide us if conscience 
succumbs ; the man exists no longer ; 
the being is reduced to the level of the 
beast of the field. 

Look to your conscience every 
moment of your life ; learn to keep 
your passions in subjection ; you will 
then be true to yourself, and cannot be 
otherwise to your fellow-creatures. 

(" Farewell" etc.)." Make the best 
of it " whatever befalls you ; and you 
will triumph over all difficulties which 
may confront you. 



XV 
ABOUT ACTING 

HOWEVER great you may estimate your 
dramatic genius, do not imagine you 
are a born actor ; no such being ever 
existed. True it is, that dramatic genius 
or instinct must be born with the indi- 
vidual, but unless that genius is kept 
in proper bounds by the rules of the 
art of declamation, the gifted individual 
will never become an actor. Declama- 
tion comprises the just delivery of the 
words in speech or song, and the gesture 
or action appropriate to their sense. 

Barring the experience necessary to 
develop your powers to their full 
extent, you have mastered the former; 
it is now your business to turn your 

116 



xv ABOUT ACTING 117 

attention to the latter. The office of 
action is to emphasise the words you 
utter ; occasionally to supply the place of 
an unuttered word or sentence ; hence 
you will easily perceive how necessary 
it is that the action should coincide with 
the meaning of the words, uttered or 
not. Sawing the air with your arms, 
straddling on chairs and tables, con- 
stantly changing your position on the 
stage, only distract the attention of 
the audience and consequently diminish 
the effect of your performance. Unless 
there is some positive reason for such 
movements they only serve to show to 
people of judgment your ignorance of 
the art of declamation. 

To prepare for the stage you ought 
to place yourself under a master of 
gesture, that you may learn how to 
use your head and limbs with elegance 
and grace, and "to suit the action to 
the word." This is not the place to 
enter into minute instructions, but a few 



ii8 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

general hints will give you an idea of the 
necessity for this particular study. Each 
action is a combination of two or more 
movements, each one a segment of a 
circle, united in such a manner as to 
present the appearance of a single move- 
ment. Any angularity or rigidity would 
destroy the elegance of your action. 
You have to learn to stand perfectly 
still, and perfectly at ease I think the 
most difficult of all stage business for 
a beginner. 

If you go to Italy you will have no 
difficulty in finding a good master among 
the mimes who carry on the action of 
the ballets produced at the Scala and 
other great theatres. I had a course 
of instruction from Effisio Catte, the 
principal mime at the Scala, whilst I was 
studying in Milan, from which I reaped 
great benefit in after-years. 

Grace and elegance in ordinary life 
are natural to some people ; for the 
stage they must be studied, they must 



xv ABOUT ACTING 119 

be artistic. A person may be perfectly 
graceful and elegant in a drawing-room, 
who, without proper study, would appear 
awkward and clumsy on the stage. You 
have to " hold the mirror up to Nature," 
and that can only be done by Art. 

Again, each action, though performed 
directly by the head or limbs, must be 
indirectly performed by the whole body. 
The face, especially the mouth, should 
indicate the sentiment you would por- 
tray ; if, then, your action is not accom- 
panied by appropriate expression of the 
face, it loses all the meaning it is in- 
tended to convey ; and if the expression 
depicted on your countenance is not 
seconded by the expression of your 
whole body, it will not impress your 
audience with the idea that you are in 
earnest. I believe it was Dr. Johnson 
who told David Garrick, after seeing 
him play Romeo, that in the balcony 
scene he was in love all over except his 
left hand. 



120 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

As you have to be listener as well as 
speaker you can never remain unoccu- 
pied ; you must show you are listening, 
which cannot be done with a blank face 
and inert body ; at the same time, you 
must not interrupt or interfere with 
the speaker by meaningless grimace or 
movement. 

And lastly, which perhaps ought to be 
firstly, you will have to learn to walk 
again, the stage being an inclined plane. 
The master of gesture will teach you 
your steps, and you will have ample 
opportunity for practising them during 
the intervals when you are unoccupied 
during rehearsal. These details are of 
great importance ; pay great attention 
to them, as their acquisition or neglect 
shows the difference between the artiste 
and the artizan. 

As an instance of perfection in the 
art of declamation, I cite Pauline 
Viardot in Le Prophete. When she was 
kneeling at the feet of her misguided 



xv ABOUT ACTING 121 

son, imploring him to give up his wild 
project and return to her, to the spec- 
tator's imagination every fibre in her 
body was vibrating with intense pas- 
sionate love and devotion, without the 
slightest touch of exaggeration in word 
or gesture ; that is the way to embody a 
part. 

If you can afford it, spend at least a 
month in Paris, and make a study of the 
actors at the Theatre Fran$ais and other 
good theatres, and you will come away a 
wiser and better-prepared man or woman 
for the work you will have to under- 
take. You will learn it is not by making 
an effect in any particular scene which 
shows the artiste, but by logically repre- 
senting a character throughout the drama. 
You must be a figure in a picture, or a 
series of pictures, which anything over- 
done or underdone will displace ; your 
attention must be concentrated on keep- 
ing the figure in its place. When you 
are alone on the stage you must, in 



122 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

theatrical terms, fill it ; you have the 
picture all to yourself; a moment's in- 
attention may spoil it, the audience will 
lose interest which you will have diffi- 
culty in reawakening. 

I once saw Got play Sganarelle in Le 
Cocu Imaginaire^ in which occurs a mono- 
logue occupying about five pages in a 
small 8vo edition. It was a master- 
piece of declamation ; without a single 
grimace or interpolation of his own 
witticisms, he kept the audience bound 
in perfect silence until the end, when he 
received a storm of applause, not from 
the claque, but from the entire house, 
men and women. It was a revelation, 
after the jibbering tomfoolery I had often 
witnessed in my own country. 

Got was as great in serious work as in 
comic ; for instance, as Giboyer in Le 
Fils de Giboyer. I mention him speci- 
ally, as he was the leading actor at the 
Fran$ais in my day, but his companions 
were all great artistes Mdlle. Favart, 



xv ABOUT ACTING 123 

Madeleine Brohan, Delaunay (the beau 
ideal of the jeune premier), Bressant, 
PreVost, Worms, Coquelin aine. When 
playing together, as I have seen them in 
the above-mentioned comedy, there was 
no hopping about from one perch to 
another, smoking cigars or cigarettes 
at inopportune times, pirouetting about 
the stage fluttering pocket-handkerchiefs 
in the air, or employing other adventi- 
tious aids to cover awkwardness. 

I was once present at a performance 
of a comedy in which there was an 
important drawing-room scene. During 
the few moments employed by the stage 
attendants in furnishing the stage with 
tables, chairs, couches, etc., I remarked 
to the friend who shared the box with 
me that, without knowing the number 
of actors who would take part in the 
scene, I was sure that each one would 
sit on each chair and couch before the 
scene concluded ; my companion re- 
plied, " Stuff ! Nonsense ! Impossible ! " 



124 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

Although not a betting man, I offered 
to bet a sovereign to a shilling that he 
would find I was right. He accepted 
my bet, and (there were eight or nine 
actors engaged in the scene) I won it ! 
but we were not in Paris ! 

During my career I found only one 
stage manager from whose directions I 
reaped any material benefit, or who took 
the trouble to study the drama he had 
to put on the stage. 1 I had the good 
fortune to profit by his instructions for 
three seasons at the English opera, 
Covent Garden, and two or three years 
at the Italian opera. 

When Robin Hood was produced at 
Her Majesty's Theatre in 1860, at the 
first full rehearsal, during the finale of 
the second act, we came to a deadlock ; 
the crowd of chorus singers, ballet, and 
principal singers had got into such a 
hopeless muddle that nobody knew how 
to move. 1 had figured to myself during 

1 William (familiarly called Billy) West. 



xv ABOUT ACTING 125 

the preceding rehearsals how the scene 
could be effectively arranged, and, find- 
ing that the stage manager was quite at 
sea, I spoke to Reeves, explaining my 
idea ; he seemed to enter into my views ; 
so with Halle's (our conductor then) per- 
mission my plan was tried and adopted 
with complete success, the stage man- 
ager being only too pleased with such a 
comfortable solution of his difficulty. 
He confessed he had not even read the 
libretto. 

I could quote many similar instances, 
as in the Flying Dutchman (Wagner), 
The Water Carrier (Cherubini), The 
Siege of Rochelle (Balfe), etc. etc., not 
as a boast of superior knowledge, but 
to show what may be accomplished by 
giving your steadfast attention to your 
work keeping the picture in which you 
are to be a figure constantly before 
you, and profiting by the example of 
those of your companions who are more 
experienced than yourself. 



iz6 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

It is not enough you should know 
your own part, you ought to make 
yourself well acquainted with the whole 
drama in which you are a figure. You 
cannot be an attentive "stage-listener" 
unless you know to what you are listen- 
ing, ready with your lines at the proper 
moment. In a work entirely musical 
you must be "up to time," therefore 
you are bound to know perfectly the 
music of every scene in which you 
take part. Among your comrades you 
will probably find " procrastinators " and 
" slow studies " ; very tiresome they 
are to deal with ; never give way to 
temper, but having carried out what I 
have just advised, render them all the 
assistance which lies in your power, in a 
friendly spirit. 

There is another tiresome person you 
may meet an experienced actor who 
plays tricks when he has to deal with 
a "greenhorn." When I played Don 
Sallust in Howard Glover's Ruy Bias 



xv ABOUT ACTING 127 

I had the advantage of Walter Lacy's 
instruction for the dramatic element. 
He cautioned me about the scene in the 
third act, where Don Sallust interrupts 
Ruy Bias in the midst of a great speech, 
requesting him to pick up his handker- 
chief which he has purposely dropped 
from his hand. "Be on your guard," 
said Lacy ; " your Ruy Bias is an old 
stager, and as you are not on the best 
of terms, will one night, when he thinks 
he has caught you napping, withdraw 
the handkerchief; do not close your hand 
until you feel you have it fast, or you 
will raise a laugh at your own expense, 
and make an end of your dignified 
demeanour." And, surely, during the 
second week of the run of the opera, 
when I felt myself quite at home, I 
nearly fell into the trap. I was just 
closing my hand and preparing my 
sneering " Thank you," when I felt the 
handkerchief slipping ; fortunately the 
warning flashed on my mind, I did not 



128 THE ART OF SINGING xv 

move a finger until all was safe ; I then 
turned to my old stager and sneered a 
" Thank you " he did not forget. 

When you arrive at being an old 
stager do not you play tricks on the 
inexperienced it is bad manners, un- 
kind, and instead of enhancing your 
reputation, will lessen you in the esti- 
mation of those among your audience 
and comrades who are aware of your 
disloyal conduct. 

In what I have said about stage 
management I intend no slight on what 
is done in England. Of late years I 
have seen many plays staged to per- 
fection by some of our noted <c actor- 
managers." My experience was on the 
operatic stage, and there I did not find 
stage management as perfect as it might 
have been with the good material at 
command. 



XVI 

ABOUT REHEARSAL AND 
PERFORMANCE 

IN an operatic theatre the musical 
director is the responsible head of all 
that concerns the stage, the commander 
of the forces placed at his disposal 
artistes, chorus, orchestra, and ballet 
where employed in the opera. The 
manager of the theatre, if a singer 
taking part in the performances, is 
bound to obey him as strictly as any 
member of his own company. 

Rehearsals are tedious or enjoyable 
according to the way in which they are 
conducted, which depends almost en- 
tirely on the business capacity of the 
musical director. He must use an iron 

129 K 



130 THE ART OF SINGING xvi 

hand in a velvet glove ; singers are, as 
a rule, a " rebellious " crew, and very 
"touchy" under reproof. He should 
insist on punctuality, but arrange "calls'* 
so as not to encroach on the time of 
his artistes, either before or after their 
services are required, and also to avoid 
interruptions from those who would be 
waiting about. In a theatre like Covent 
Garden, where so many operas are pro- 
duced during the season, unless punctual 
attendance and strict attention at re- 
hearsals were insisted on, well -organ- 
ised performances would be impossible. 
Costa and Mellon were both rigorous, 
they never allowed frivolity to interfere 
with business ; and, punctual them- 
selves, they would not excuse the lack 
of it in others. They were called 
" martinets " by the heedless, unsystem- 
atic members of the company, but some 
of us preferred the martinet who did not 
detain us three or four hours where one 
would suffice to go through our work. 



xvi REHEARSAL & PERFORMANCE 131 

When I was rehearsing The Trovatore 
for my debut in Italian opera at Covent 
Garden in 1862, the first morning 
Tamberlik did not put in an appearance 
until half an hour after the appointed 
time. He had a fair excuse, as he had 
been singing in William Tell the night 
before, which did not finish until close 
on midnight. When he came into the 
room Costa took out his watch and 
called the great tenor's attention to his 
tardy arrival. Tamberlik made some 
excuse about the late hour he arrived 
at home the preceding night. Costa 
merely remarked, " I let you off this 
time, but pray do not let it occur again." 
It did not matter artiste, chorus singer, 
orchestral player, all were treated alike. 
The result was manifest in the fine 
performances we were accustomed to. 

Throughout the rehearsals concentrate 
your thoughts upon your work. You 
need not use your full voice, but sing 
so that the director may know what you 



132 THE ART OF SINGING xvi 

intend to do with the music allotted to 
you, and if he offers you advice accept 
it graciously his greater experience will 
most probably prove of great value. 
During your unoccupied intervals you 
can pay attention to your comrades to 
your advantage ; you may learn some- 
thing worth adopting, or note something 
to be avoided. Take every opportunity 
which offers of singing your solo pieces 
that the director may have no trouble in 
accompanying you when you arrive at 
the orchestral rehearsals, and that you 
may feel at home when you appear 
before the public. At every rehearsal 
on the stage go through your part as 
you intend to play it, leave nothing to 
the spur of the moment. I have often 
heard procrastinators say, when imperfect 
at rehearsal, "It will be all right at 
night" a bad system. What is not 
right at a rehearsal does not turn out 
right at the performance. 

When you are before the public keep 



xvi REHEARSAL & PERFORMANCE 133 

your attention fixed on your work ; sink 
your identity in the character you are 
portraying, and though nervous at the 
start you will soon " warm up," forget- 
ting audience and everything else, except 
your work. 

These remarks apply in a modified 
degree to the concert platform. Gesture 
is not permissible here ; passion and 
sentiment must be expressed by the face 
alone. Beware, however, of exaggera- 
tion. Expression would drop into 
grimace, and destroy all effect you might 
make with your singing. 

Do not rest satisfied with or elated 
by your first success ; be content with 
having done your best, and continue to 
study in order to improve what you 
have already done successfully. Abso- 
lute perfection you can never hope to 
attain. As long as you exercise your 
art you will find room for improvement, 
and when you retire, on looking back 
and meditating on your successes, you 



134 THE ART OF SINGING xvi 

will of a surety discover many points in 
which the speaking, singing, or acting 
could have been improved. It is then 
too late for you to profit by your more 
mature study, but you can and ought, 
when opportunity occurs, to impart to 
your young successors the knowledge 
which you can no longer make use of 
yourself. 

The anticipation of the pleasure of a 
life of repose after one of active labour 
is but natural, especially after the wear- 
ing and often wearying career of a true 
artiste ; but if the repose is to consist 
of a total cessation of employment for 
mind and body, the realisation will be 
attended with anything but pleasure. 
You will be free from contracts with 
managers, from the caprice of public 
taste, the petty jealousies of the "green- 
room," and other annoyances, but you 
will find their place will be filled up by 
others as disagreeable, whether you seek 
your pleasure in the attractions of society 



xvi REHEARSAL & PERFORMANCE 135 

or of retirement. There is only one 
method of extracting pleasure from life 
in this world by preserving the mind 
and body active as long as they retain 
any vigour. That vigour can only be 
maintained by employment, and what 
employment could be more generous 
and interesting than helping the young 
struggler with the benefit of your 
experience ? Work ! work ! work ! as 
long as you have breath. That is your 
contract with the Author of all you are, 
all you have, and all you can do. Be 
careful to fulfil it or . . . 



POST SCRIPTUM 

THERE are few people who do not look 
on a well-arranged, well-stocked garden 
of flowers and inhale their delicious per- 
fume with delight ; the few must be 
those few who have " no music in their 
souls," though it is to be hoped they are 
not therefore "fit for treasons, stratagems, 
and spoils." All delights are attended 
with danger when indulged in beyond 
reasonable bounds ; it is incumbent on 
us at all times to moderate our trans- 
ports, or we are bound to suffer more 
or less from our indiscretion. Flowers 
growing in the open air are innocuous 
as far as I know, but, growing or cut, 
confined in the space of an ordinary 
room, they are the cause of suffering, 
136 



POST SCRIPTUM 137 

especially to those afflicted with highly 
strung nervous systems. I can speak 
advisedly, from the result of personal 
experience. It is a fashion in England, 
where flower-gardens are for the most 
part bare during a great portion of the 
year, to garnish our living and even 
bed-rooms with flowers imported from 
foreign countries or from English green- 
houses ; in the spring we deck them 
with those flowers which bloom early 
in the woods ; our windows are orna- 
mented with hyacinths. The exhala- 
tions from most of these are highly 
pernicious to the health. I have often 
been ridiculed for saying so. I have 
known ladies who suffered martyrdom 
from headache caused by the flowers, 
without which, they declared, " they 
could not exist." It is useless to try 
the effect of reasoning with such. Finding 
that no argument I could offer, though 
backed by the opinion of one of our 
most eminent medical men, had any 



138 THE ART OF SINGING 

effect, I had to leave them to enjoy the 
sight of the flowers and suffer the pains of 
the headache caused by their exhalations. 
I felt grieved that it was not in my power 
to offer any sympathy, and probably was 
counted a barbarian, and a hater of one 
of Nature's choicest products. 

To you, young friends, who have to 
use your throats, I must be more insist- 
ing ; it is not a matter of a headache, 
which you may suffer from your own 
indiscretion if you choose ; you have a 
public duty to perform, and the public 
will not stop to inquire about your 
adoration of flowers, or excuse you on 
that ground if you are unable from loss 
of voice to do your duty. 

I will give you now the result of my 
experience, and you can judge for your- 
selves and take the advice I give you 
founded on that experience, or not, as 
you like. In the early part of my 
career I found that occasionally, leaving 
home for a concert in excellent voice, 



POST SCRIPTUM 139 

after being in the artistes' room for a 
little time I was attacked with an un- 
accountable hoarseness, the cause of 
which I vainly endeavoured to discover. 
I found that when I left the artistes' 
room, during the few minutes' wait in 
the corridor leading to the platform (I 
am speaking of the recently demolished 
St. James's Hall), my voice entirely re- 
gained its clearness. On close observa- 
tion I found the hoarseness attacked me 
when there were flowers in the room, 
particularly the (to me) deadly gardenia, 
stephanotis, hyacinth, lily, etc. I men- 
tioned the fact, and was, as I said before, 
laughed at for my " fad," as it was 
called a mere piece of imagination ; 
if I had not seen the flowers I should 
never have accused them. That is 
probable ; but I had opportunities of 
proving the contrary, of which one will 
suffice. I was singing at a private party 
one evening, at a very nice house some- 
where in the neighbourhood of Belgrave 



140 THE ART OF SINGING 

Square, in which Gardoni, the tenor, a 
charming little soprano, a daughter of 
Varesi, the baritone, and others whose 
names I do not remember, were engaged. 
I left home happy, feeling I was in 
splendid form. I arrived at the house, 
and was in the drawing-room for about 
half an hour before the concert com- 
menced. I began to feel rather husky, 
and tried the remedy of a simple lozenge, 
as I fancied the heat had dried my throat. 
When it came to my turn to sing I 
almost collapsed, for I could scarcely 
produce a sound. Mdlle. Varesi was 
in the same plight, Gardoni was husky, 
and all the others were more or less 
incapacitated. There was not a flower 
in the room that I could discover, and 
I began to doubt my theory. The con- 
cert concluded, the host came to thank 
me for the pleasure I had given him and 
his guests (I thought they were very 
kind, or more anxious about the supper 
served after the concert than the music), 



POST SCRIPTUM 141 

and asked me if I had seen his splendid 
show of lilies. I had not ; so he con- 
ducted me into a room adjoining, which 
was literally packed with " harem lilies," 
the deadly exhalations from which had 
penetrated into the drawing-room and 
paralysed the efforts of those who ought 
to have been the chief attraction of the 
party. I could not forbear telling him 
that his show of lilies had upset the 
musical proceedings. He seemed per- 
fectly contented, however ; so I got 
away as soon as I could, and had not 
been out of the house ten minutes 
before my voice was as clear and fresh 
as when I entered it. I have since had 
many proofs that my theory, certainly 
as far as my own throat was concerned, 
was correct. My opinion was confirmed 
by Morell Mackenzie, on an occasion 
on which I met him at a party where I 
was singing. He told me that the ex- 
halations from flowers, especially such 
as those I have before enumerated, have 



142 THE ART OF SINGING 

the effect of paralysing to a greater or less 
extent the nerves of the throat, and so 
render the voice husky even to hoarseness. 
Whenever I find a room where I have 
to sing decorated with strong-smelling 
flowers, I insist on having them re- 
moved, and have several times been 
voted a nuisance in consequence. Some 
years ago at the Crystal Palace I was 
singing at a Saturday afternoon concert, 
when dear old August Manns was 
director ; during the interval between 
the rehearsal and the concert the plat- 
form had been lined with hyacinths in 
full bloom. When I went on to the 
orchestra the odour from the flowers 
was overpowering, and I insisted on the 
whole of them being cleared away before 
I sang, which made George Grove 
furious, and declare in a loud voice it 
was ridiculous to keep the audience 
waiting for such nonsensical " fads." I 
had to sing, he had not ; so I waited 
until my enemies were removed. 



POST SCRIPTUM 143 

I deemed it better to try the patience 
of the audience for a few minutes than 
to annoy them by croaking through 
my song. Fad or no fad, on future 
occasions I never had to engage in a 
battle of flowers at the same place. 

Jonquils, wood violets, and other 
strong-scented spring flowers, which are 
frequently used to ornament the dining- 
room, generally have a very bad effect 
on most people's digestive organs ; they 
will not admit it, and blame the salmon 
or the sauce, anything rather than their 
beloved flowers. I have never experi- 
enced any ill effect from the odour of 
the rose, though in some species it is 
strong and penetrating. 

All singers may not be subject to the 
same ill effects produced by the exhala- 
tions of scented flowers as I am, but I 
would advise them to be on their guard, 
and not allow their affection to overcome 
their reason. 



EPITAPH 

Be true to your Art, and you shall 
earn this. 

Though your mortal body lies here 
awaiting the call of the Last Trumpet, 
your immortal soul shall ascend to join the 
celestial choir in singing the eternal praise 
of its Creator. 



Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh. 



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820 The art of singing 
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