García's Perfect Stage

What I am giving you in this post was given to me by Margaret Harshaw. She related to me that her teacher Anna E. Schoen-René - a student of Manuel García and Pauline Viardot-García - taught her to think of the opening of the mouth as that of a 'perfect stage.'

What does a perfect stage have?

  1. a proscenium arch, the upper part of which is curved. Ok, the example I am including above has a flat arch, but I like it, it's the Metropolitan Opera for crying out loud, and shows one of my points. But before I get to that, one should consider that...
  2. the lights hang from the top of the curved proscenium, which comprises the upper lip that is drawn to its full length. To put the matter simply: lights light the vowel and must be hung firmly. A perfect stage also has.. 
  3. fly space, so that scenery can be flown in and out from above and behind the proscenium. (In a Baroque theatre, this fly space would house the last of several arches, while in the image above the scene being flown in is of a backdrop for Parsifal.) What else does a perfect stage have? That would be...
  4. sides. Without the sides of the stage - the cloth hangings - the audience would be robbed of the 'suspension of disbelief' and see all the things one is not supposed to see which may be why my teacher also said that technique was like underwear - better to feel it than see it. A vowel without 'sides' is a 'white' vowel, robbed of color. And lastly, a perfect stage has...
  5. a flat floor. Try singing on a raked floor and you will understand why a flat one is perfect. Your back will be killing you in no time. 

Now think about it. What is a perfect stage really? Ah. You guessed it! 

Image of the Metropolitan Opera stage c. 1904 is from the New York Public Library Digital Collection