July 15, 2010

Enrico Delle Sedie

One of the leading Old School pedagogues in Paris during the late 19th Century, Enrico Delle Sedie (1822-1907) taught at the Paris Conservatoire and wrote two highly influential books on singing, Arte e fisologia del canto (1876) and  L'estetica del canto e dell'arte melodrammatica (1886). This second book was published in English in three parts, the first of which, titled Vocal Art, can be read here. Delle Sedie then fused and condensed both treatises together which was published as A Complete Method of Singing (1894).

The Library of Congress contains three of the four titles above, however, Delle Sedie's last work is not among them, so it's not possible to have them copy it for you. However, there are 16 copies in libraries around the country. Search OCLC for one near you. Hopefully, more of Delle Sedie's work will find its way onto google books. However, this site has the book available for download for a fee.





America was hungry for vocal treatises during the late 19th and early 20th century, and publishers in Boston and New York translated many Continental works into English. Delle Sedie's work was attractive because its forthright manner clearly explained vocal methods that were often veiled in secrecy, or, in Manuel Garcia's case, placed in scientific terms. A Verdi baritone, Delle Sedie furthered Garcia's observations on the use of vowels in ascending the scale, that is, vowel modification, which had a lasting influence on American voice teaching, principally in the work of Berton Coffin.

Why, I have done it. I made a reduction of the whole treatise especially for Americans (A Complete Method of Singing), according to the needs of those who came to me as pupils.  But I religiously guarded the two distinct departments of Technic and Aesthetic in art production as two halves of an entire subject. 

You see, pupils must first get a conception of that upon which they are to enter.  Understanding must go in by the brain, as it is from the brain that all ideas proceed. It is useless to begin things until the ideals are formed. The other way is as if a disorderly housekeeper should begin cooking before she had planned her menu or gathered her materials about her.  

Why have I written so much? Because I talked little. Joy I always shared; trouble never. A quoi bon? Your best friend cannot remove trouble. All may be shadowed by it. Why share it?

In boyhood I used to write it out on paper and then destroy it. 'We know only half of you.' my parents used to say. But when I came to art I sang these things. Ah, voilá, a friend! Ah, what a delight to express in music, what a relief to tell in song! What a friend music is to the musician! I could not keep the source of this pleasure to myself. I must impart it to other artists, to my pupils.  
Interview with Delle Sedie for the Musical Courier, 1895.


Delle Sedie was the first pedagogue to give the student an idea of the attack using notation. Essentially, the singer thinks of the upper octave and the 'head' register when singing a tone. The preparatory exercise for this in Vocal Art is mastering the decrescendo.



Once the singer has mastered this exercise, the tone is then started with the head voice 'leading' the lower tone.  




An elegant method that the autodidact will want to experiment with!

Allesandro Bonci was one of his students.

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