The Two Schools: Garcia v. Lamperti

The Players

Bianca Rosavella- an American from Chicago who's real name was Blanche Roosevelt Tucker (Roosevelt was her mother's maiden name). She sang in several Gilbert and Sullivan productions and ended up marrying a Signor Marochetti. 

C Harry MeltzerBianca Rosavella's defender, who's ad for the translation of Alphonse Daudet's "The Evangelist" appeared in an astonishing number of books. 

Charles Lunn- A highly regarded voice teacher from Manchester who taught at the Royal Academy of Music, was the author of The Philosophy of Voice (1874), and a friend of Manuel Garcia. Lunn posited that the false vocal folds have as much a role in phonation as the true folds, which was proven to be false. 

Manuel Garcia and Francesco Lamperti - The two giants of vocal pedagogy in the 19th century. 

Pauline Viardot-Garcia - Manuel Garcia's sister and legendary singer and voice teacher. 

Antonio Sangiovanni - A Milanese voice teacher.

Signor Trivulsi- A Milanese voice teacher who instructed the young Francesco Lamperti.  

THE MUSICAL STANDARD: A Newspaper for Musicians, Professionals and Amateurs, January 1876


TO THE EDITOR OF THE " MU8ICAL 8TANDARD." Sir,—In commenting upon an incident affecting Mdlle. Bianca Rosavella and Signor Lamperti, the well-known Italian teacher, your Milan correspondent was recently betrayed into certain inaccuracies which I would ask you, with your usual courtesy, to give me the opportunity of correcting. Mdlle. Rosavella was sent to Italy by Mr. Gye in order to perfect herself in the Italian language and in singing, prior to making her debut at Covent Garden as prima donna. 

Acting on the advice of the London impresario, immediately on arriving in Milan she applied for instruction to Signor Lamperti, who bears, rightly or wrongly, the reputation of being the first singing teacher in the city; and, after some little delay arising from the master's absence at the Lakes, was admitted to the privileges of the faithful who sit at the feet of the Signor. The first lesson Mdlle. Rosavella took so weakened her physically that she had a severe internal attack. The second did still more mischief, and when the time for the third arrived, she was so unwell as to be obliged temporarily to cease working. 

Finding that the method she was called upon to adopt threatened to nullify all the hard labours and study of two years; moreover, perceiving it to be at direct variance with the system of the great French teacher, Madame Viardot Garcia (who had given her the rare advantage of her tuition in Paris) Mdlle. Rosavella ventured to express a fear lest she should be unable to continue her studies on the same principles as certain other singers—Albani, Waldmann, Stolz, Campanini, &c., &c.—mentioned by the Signor as instances of great artists who had come to him utterly innocent of voice or talent, and who by blindly following his method had grown famous. This unprecedented act of rebellion against routine so astonished the maestro that he in a moment of (let us hope) thoughtlessness, so far forgot the rules of ordinary courtesy as to grossly insult his pupil, a young and refined Iady. It is hardly surprising if under these circumstance; Mdlle. Rosavella felt little enthusiasm for master or method. As a matter of fact she took a couple of lessons more before severing her connection with Signor Lamperti, and then finding that to succeed she would be compelled to rejoice in the possession of either no voice or a ruined one (to quote the master's own words) neither of which seemed either desirable or indeed possible objects of ambition to her, she discontinued learning of Signor Lamperti, and returned to Signor Trivulsi, of whom she had already taken several lessons. 

It is neither my wish nor intention to enter upon any discussion regarding the different methods followed by different teachers. Far from my thought be it also to insinuate that Signor Lamperti does not unite to the wisdom of Solomon the patience of Job and the versatility of Paul, who, it will be remembered, was "all things to all men;" but still would I respectfully submit that the doubtless honest censure passed upon Mdlle. Rosavella by your Milan correspondent, is decidedly out of place, and might with fitness have been spared. The reason of his mistake is found in the very letter of your correspondent itself, for therein it is distinctly evident that the information communicated to you was obtained from third parties, who had possibly some interest in misleading your correspondent. Be this as it may, as a friend of Mdlle. Rosavella, well competent to speak with certitude as to the facts of this affair, I should be indebted to you did you grant me a corner of your valuable journal for inserting this correction of your Milan correspondent's letter, which was, unintentionally I am sure, couched in terms of a nature to damage the prospects of a young artist most favourably known to Paris, and I doubt not soon to be better known in London.

I am, Sir, faithfully yours,

C. HARRY MELTZER. Paris, Dec. 22nd, 1875

The Music Standard, January 1876



Sir,—It is at times instructive to observe rebellion. Millie. Rosavella's stern rejection of Signor Lamperti's school, and Mr. Meltzer's manly defence of such action, have deeper meaning than may at first appear. For it is only a student of the Garcia school who could so rebel. And the difference between the schools is this—The Garcia school appeals direct. It strengthens local weakness by concentrated nerve-force directed to enfeebled muscles in the larynx. The other school appeals to the chest, not to the larynx. It distributes nerve-force through all the muscular action of the chest—it strengthens chest power, it does not strengthen laryngeal power.

Now we may divide singing masters into two classes, (1) those who do not attempt to change the voice (as Signor Sangiovanni), and (2) those who do attempt to change it. And of these latter we find (1) those who do something absolutely mischievous; (2) those who do something absolutely beneficent. And amongst the students of those who do something, we find, as though to increase confusion, wise and foolish, and these latter, if they do anything, are bound to get injury from whichever school they learn, either by the intrinsic wrong of the one, or by corrupted or perverted understanding of the other. So that it becomes a serious consideration whether the fault is with the school or with the scholar. But in this case we find a tested student, whose discernment could not well err, promptly rejecting as vicious a method which she felt and knew by experience to be "at direct variance” with her past culture. 

It is scarcely just for me to draw upon raw experience of boyhood years, but from what I heard of Signor Lamperti's pupils, I certainly thought his method based upon entirely false, and in great degree vicious, notions of voice. It was a deep repugnance felt at the modern Italian school that made me throw my uttermost energy into the scientific corroboration of Garcia's truths. It may be asked, if there be men who have unmerited repute as voice trainers, how has such repute been gained? The solution is easy. In Italy voices uncorrupted by spoken words abound, and in lesser degree in France and Spain, and in ever decreasing number in northern countries. "There is nothing so successful as success!" Men of musical ability, who have had the training of such voices in the art of song, are naturally tempted to undertake the training also of those not so unconsciously obedient to eternal physical law— they invent a method. The healthy ones flock to the reputable man, and succeed in spite of his method (this is on a par with persons in perfect health rushing to a physician because of his repute, and according to him the strength which nature gave), the disturbed ones fail, of course, but by failure are lost to observation. The number of singers that succeed under the men of greatest renown compared with the number these men have to train, is simply absurd in its smallness, and sufficiently proves that whatever musical power there may be the physiological processes for a right adjustment of the parts creating musical tone are calmly ignored. The test of a man's theory is found in his written words, not in the accidental support of the favored public, frequently blindly led by fashion. If any believer in the modern system of voice training can disprove my scientific support of the Garcia method, I shall be pleased to be converted, but till then I, as an onlooker of the conflicting schools, must feel delight at the present published rebellion, and express sympathy with the rebel.