June 30, 2010

Luigi Vannuccini

Another important Old Italian School vocal pedagogue which many Americans traveled to Florence to study with is Luigi Vannuccini (1828-1911). Something of a renaissance man, Vannuccini received his diploma in violin at the Conservatory in Florence before turning his attention to the piano. He then set his sights on opera, becoming a leading operatic conductor as well as a highly respected singing master. David Bispham, one of the first Americans to appear at Bayreuth and have an international career, was one of his students. Another was Myron W. Witney. Whitney's son William also studied with Vannuccini and taught at The New England Conservatory of Music. One of his students was Eleanor Steber


Luigi Vannuccini c. 1864


Frederick W. Root, an influential pedagogue who interviewed leading European voice teachers of the period, and the subject of a recent article in The Journal of Singing, also studied with Vannuccini, and had this to say about his master's teaching:   

"Vannuccini's method was very simple and consisted mainly in keeping the pupils attention directed to the region of the eyes and nose in forming tones." 

This empirical concept (modern science considers the vocal tract the only resonator) was a key feature in Margaret Harshaw's vocal studio. Considered the doyenne of singing teachers, Harshaw insisted that singing in the 'mask' was part and parcel of correct 'voice placement' and an expression of historic Bel Canto teaching.

Vannuccini's wife, Lizzie Chapman Vannuccini, a native of Boston, is buried in the Swiss Protestant Cemetery of Florence.

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