February 26, 2018

Madam Marchesi's Requirements

Blanche Marchesi (1863-1940)
A new addition to VOICETALK's download page can be found in the Singer's Pilgrimage (1923) by Blanche Marchesi—daughter of Mathilde Marchesi who was herself a student of the legendary Manuel García. I really don't know why I haven't included it earlier, though may have decided against  doing so since it is not a vocal pedagogy work per se. However, having read through it on a rainy Sunday, I am struck as much by Madam Marchesi's stories, advice, and gossip as her prescient thoughts about singing—which appear towards the end of the book. Two such passages appear below, and includes her fourteen essential requirements for the voice teacher. This is followed by timely words about character. As in her other book featured in earlier posts—The Singer's Catechism and Creed (1934)—Madam Marchesi is bracing, somewhat astringent, and as authoritative as you might expect a musical daughter of the Garcías to be.

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  1. To have sung—not necessarily to have been a famous singer. 
  2. To have studied with a great master of the true school.
  3. To have heard great artists. 
  4. To have genius for imparting knowledge. 
  5. To love one's profession. 
  6. To be a musician. 
  7. To possess knowledge of the world's ancient and modern vocal music. 
  8. To be able to impart all branches of the art of singing—opera, oratorio, church music, songs, part sing, etc. 
  9. To possess knowledge of the world's most important literature. 
  10. To know at least the four principle languages. 
  11. To have, if not understanding, at least interest, in all the other branches of art. 
  12. To possess pathological, physiological and psychological instinct—and, if possible, knowledge—because soul and body must be in perfect accord if the voice is to be trained to perfection. 
  13. To have energy necessary to guide mortals. 
  14. Patience. 

This last is one of the most necessary virtues of a teacher and a rare one. First of all, patience is the outcome and result of real knowledge. Only the person who knows exactly the difficulties to be overcome, and who can judge the intelligence before her, can have the patience to point out the faults day by day and to help the student to master them. For serious study is long and the path is strewn with difficulties of all sorts. I do not wish to insist upon the terrific ignorance that reigns nearly all over the world considering the study of singing. People admit and know that the study of instruments demands endless years of patience, but expect that singing be taught in a few weeks. In singing the human body and brain have to work simultaneously; there appears many a Rubicon on the journey which has to be bridged over, or swum over. Only time and patience can accomplish perfection is physical training, for the training of the voice is a physical training, and athletes know how long muscles and nerves take to acquire certain qualities of ability and endurance.

Blanche Marchesi, Singer's Pilgrimage (1923): 282-284

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Character is required by the teacher as by the pupil. When Rossini was asked: "Maestro, what is wanted to make a singer?" he would answer invariably: "Primo voce, second voce, terse voce." When García was asked: "Sir what is required to make a singer" he would answer: "Primo character, secondo character, terzo character," and I add that, endowed in a less measure with other required qualities, but with a character and will to succeed, many a pupil has gone ahead and surpassed those endowed by nature with all possible gifts except character. 

Blanche Marchesi, Singer's Pilgrimage (1923): 286

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