November 13, 2015

Mme. Schoen-René Sails on the Orbita

Madam Schoen-René c. 1921
Among the musicians sailing on the Orbita on Saturday, May 21, from New York was Mme. A. E Schoen-René, widely known as a vocal instructor. Mme. Schoen-René is on her way to Berlin, where from June 1 to Sept 15 she will hold master classes in voice, including both concert and opera répertoire. It is her plan to teach there during these months and return to New York in October, teaching here from then until May, 1, 1922.

For many years she has had prominent pupils in the opera houses of Europe, where she has long be recognized as an authoritative teacher. In New York this season she had among her professional pupils Florence Easton, soprano of the Metropolitan Opera, Mary Kent, contralto, known both in the concert field and as a member Scotti Opera Company at Ravinia Park, Ill. George Meader, who studied with Mme. Schoen-René abroad, has worked here with her also and has now been engaged by Mr. Gatti-Casazza as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company beginning next fall. Francis Maclennan, the operatic tenor, who has appeared with the Chicago Opera Company in Chicago and with the Society of American Singers in New York, has been studying with her and recently won a brilliant success as Radames in "Aida" at the Hamburg Opera.

Musical America, June 11, 1921.  (Note: Francis Maclennan was the husband of Florence Easton,  while Marie von Essen took the stage name of Mary Kent.) 


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Two years before being invited to join the Juilliard School faculty, Madam Schoen-René was spending her summers teaching in Berlin, where she worked with Lucie Manén, who has appeared on these pages and recorded something of Schoen-René's teaching in Bel Canto: The Teaching of the Classical Italian Song Schools; It's Decline and Restoration (1987). Her word for this teaching was "imposto," which is a invented term for impostazione della voce—the placing of the voice.

Manén supposed that the singer could influence the action of the vocal folds by compressing the anterior nares of the nose together, which initiated a "ventricular mechanism" in the larynx. Of course, this had voice scientists running to disprove the idea, which is understandable, since no direct connection between the nose and the larynx is known to exist, nor is there some kind of switch behind the nose even if it feels that like to some (the nose is in the middle of the face and its muscles, don't you know). However, the savvy reader of this blog will know that there is a direct neural connection between the face and the ear, and that the ear plays a role in the action of the muscles of the body, which includes those of the larynx. This is the work of Alfred A. Tomatis.

If you really want to know what Manén was trying to describe, I encourage you to inhale slowly and gently through your nose (lips together teeth apart) for 12 to 18 seconds, suspend your breath and feel what is happening in the muscles of your head and face.

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