April 4, 2013

The García Lineage: Madam Kenneth

Church of St. Augustin, Paris
Back of the Church St. Augustin in Paris and quite close to it, Rue Miromesnil 93, lives a modest, quiet busy professor of singing, Mme. Elena Kenneth, who has had the great privilege, among many others of being an éleve of Manuel García, son of the celebrated Spanish tenor. 

Madame Kenneth studied first piano in Germany under the best masters and at Brussels under Fetis. As a child she accompanied many great celebrities - Madam Grisi and her cousin Ernesta Grisi, Madam Rossi-Caccia, Rubini, Mario, De Rouski, Ernst, Teresa Minanollo—and she knew both Mendelssohn and Moscheles. She left the study of the instrument to study voice with García, and later completed her dramatic and vocal education with Chevalier Alberto Muzzucato, director of the Conservatory of Milan, a voice teacher of the oldest and best Italian School. She made her début in Varese, near Milan, where many great singers made their first appearance. Rubini, Pasta &c. After singing in the various musical centres of Italy she received the diploma "Academica Filarmonica" of Bologne. At Rome the composer Pacini wrote for her his last opera, "Ill Saltimbanco," and a cantata executed at Florence under the patronage of the Princesse Poniatowka. In Barcelona and at the Royal Theatre in Madrid she sang several times, and in the latter city with Tamerlick, a warm friend and colleague. Among other artists she knew were Noden Pancane, &c. She sang in over thirty-six operas, no small labor as operas were studied and sung in those days. She was on friendly terms with Rossini and his family.

Among her operas were "Don Pasquale," "Robert de Diable," "Othello," Lucia," "Sonnambula," "Traviata," "Martha," "Ballo in Maschera," "Trovatore," "Barber of Seville," "Maria di Rohan," "Attila," "Puritani," "Don Giovanni," "Freischütz," "Oberon," "Ernani," in fact, all the roles of the day in her voice, which was of extended compass. 


Church if St. Augustin, Paris
To Manuel García Madam Kenneth gives the credit of placing her voice. He was absolutely unique, she says, in his power and authority in voice placement. Scientist, analyst, born teacher, erudite in his calling, and with the illumination of family genes such as possessed also by his famous sister, Pauline, the results he attained were extraordinary. She firmly believes that the García school of development is the only one ever known that could develop the voice to its fullest possibilities, conserve it to the longest limit, keep best the natural quality and leave the health clean and sound. The principle of the García school is that the singing voice, properly prepared, should have the facility and spontaneity of emission of the speaking voice, and no less power of color and expression. 

Speaking and knowing roles in five different languages, Madam Kenneth is admirably prepared to teach foreigners. She has many distinguished American amateurs among her pupils.

A Pupil of Manuel García in Paris, Musical Courier, February 16th, 1898



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Madam Kenneth was English and born in 1830. A high soprano, Pacini's "Il Saltimbanco" reveals a voice with an extensive compass (you can find the original score here). Kenneth was sixty-eight when the Musical Courier article above was written, her career and teaching now lost to time. 

Ellen Gulbranson was one of Kenneth's students. Gulbranson also studied with Mathilde Marchesi and Marchesi's daughter Blanche, the latter helping Gulbranson transition from mezzo-soprano to dramatic soprano. Unfortunately, I have not been able to acquire a photo or additional biographical information on Kenneth. History does not remember her as one of the 'first rank' of 'singers, yet, in viewing the  opera written for her by Pacini, this writer posits that Kenneth's voice would have made an immense impression, the aria in Act One alone not being for the faint of heart with it's repeated flights to high D. 

Kenneth's assertion that the García school is one of spontaneity and facility of the speaking voice is worth careful consideration. Does Kenneth mean the "speech level" singing of a certain West Coast vocal pedagogue? Hmmmm. Don't think so. García's principals were based on Italian tonal values, which are altogether different than American speech with its diphthongs, guttural and nasal sounds. The reader should not suppose that all things are equal.

There is also the matter of García "placing" Kenneth's voice. Now that's something to chew on for awhile. 

2 comments:

  1. Great to hear Elena Kenneth given some due. However, The Musical Courier and Regli are not quite right (whoever is?). Ellen Kenneth was born in 1826 .... her sister Susan in 1830. I shall be eternally grateful if you can give me their death dates!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment, Gerolstein. Historical Newspapers might give you an answer.

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