May 7, 2013

The Lamperti Method of Singing: A Resumé by Giulia Valda

Giulia Valda (1850-1925) 
In concluding my articles on the Lamperti Method of Singing, four of which have already in the Musical Courier, I wish to make a résumé of what has gone before, this article to be a finish of the whole subject—if one can ever call the subject of singing finished. 

It has been my endeavor to explain clearly the different points in the art of singing in their order as they unfold—each point being of such importance as a preparation for the next step that they must come in their regular order so that the pupil has a clear understanding and is not confused by rules and explanations out of place. 

That these points have been understood and appreciated has been brought home to me most forcibly from the many letters I have received from professional singers and singing teachers all of them thanking me for the benefit my articles have been to them and for the clearness with which the different steps have been explained. 

Singing is an expression of the beautiful by means of inflections of the voice, and for the cultivation of the voice more is required than natural gifts. There is need of a constant and serious study of breathing and correct pronunciation. It was said by the old masters that the art of singing is the art of breathing. Therefore the first article I wrote was about Breath—that is after the article of a general explanation of the Lamperti Method. 

When pupils understand thoroughly the rules of their technic they have acquired a practical and working knowledge of the separation of the breath which they must use in singing. That is: 

The separation of the breath from the tone.
The separation of the breath from the vowel or diction.
The separation of the breath from the instrument. 

Namely: One must attack and carry the tone free from breath; pronouncing the vowel free from breath, articulate the consonants without using breath and keep the instrument away from the breath, thereby, when the voice is "placed," to use the general expression, the student sings on the breath and speaks on the breath without interrupting the flow of the breath. Hence the tone is always pure, floating on the breath and there are no breaks in the voice, as there are sure to be when the training if the voice is based on three separate registers. There is only one register, one place, one way to sing. 

There are three different resonances, which have been misunderstood for registers of the voice. Chest resonance, medium resonance, right in the face, and head resonance. The instrument I have spoken of before must be held in one place, high, by the mind. The breath is supported by the instrument and the vowel is attacked high on the instrument which separates the tone from the breath. This action keeps the tone floating on the breath, but not with it. By continued practice of these rules—with a teacher who understands them—the pupil becomes efficient in executing the most difficult passages written for the voice. 

It is impossible for a pupil to learn to sing from reading an article which, while giving rules, is necessarily like a text book and can only be used as such; for while the fundamental rules of an exact science can be given, it must happen that in the development of these rules, there are constant changes in the mental concept of the rules, although the fundamental points of the rules never change themselves. It is the expression of these rules that brings the apparent change in the concept and produces the finished singer. 

Each of these rules could be expanded and developed in the text books as they must be in the expansion and development of a voice, if time and space permitted. But it must be understood that these expansions and developments can only be successfully carried out with the pupil by a teacher who not only understands the rules, but who can also illustrate them. 

I have attempted only to give the fundamental idea of what Lamperti called the science of the Art of Singing. 

It is only necessary to note the number of pupils that Lamperti turned out as celebrated to realize what a science of teaching he possessed and how skillfully and thoroughly he was able to impart that knowledge to the many and, of course, varied mentalities, bringing out all the force of character that resulted in such finished artists. 

Among those successful pupils were the following: 

Alboni, who at about the age of eighty sang in Paris not long before her death. She was a contralto, and the occasion was a National Charity concert at the Trocadero.

Mme. Stolz, soprano, who created the part of Aida, and Mme. Waldemann, for whom the part of Amneris was written. She had only a short career, as she married a nobleman; she is still living. 

La Grange, Mme. Artot, Jeanne Sophie Lowe, Sofia Cruvelli, who was on the Paris stage during the time of Napoleon III. 

Mme. Mirati, Mme. Gruna, Mme. La Borde, who was the teacher of Calvé, Mesdames Peralta, Timberini, Paganini, Poelau, Goldsberg, Orgeni, who taught singing, Derevis, Duval, Dejani, Vivis, Vander, Miller, Riserelli, Angelica Moro, Isabella Alba, Suardi-Repetto, Castelli, Vicini, Stoika, Demi, Tagliani, Flori, Vanzini, Van Zandt, Albani, Valda, etc., etc. 

Among the men who have world wide reputations are Aldighieri, Derevis, Didot, Italo Campanini, brother of Celeofante Campanini, director of the Chicago Opera Association; Vialetti, Collini who, although he had been on the stage for thirty years, always took a daily lesson of Lamperti when he was in Milan; Everardi, Guidotti, Bertollini, Mariani, Palmeri, Shakespeare, Osgood, Nieman, etc., etc.

No teacher in the last century ever brought out so many artists who were acknowledged celebrities as Lamperti. The above is only a small list of the well known singers from the studio of this great master. 

Why was this? Because he had a perfect method of teaching—he knew everything there was to know about the breath, that great fundamental breath principle upon which singing is built. He knew the instrument which produces the voice its possibilities, its characteristics, its weaknesses and where they needed either to be made stronger, or to be eliminated altogether. He clung to these principles all through his years of teaching up the to very last, wherever and whenever he found a pupil who would religiously follow him. He had the true genius of imparting what he knew—the genius so often denied to teachers and the lack of which makes them unfit to teach. 

Lamperti was a great musician with a perfectly trained ear, and in the cadenzas which he wrote for each individual voice, he never diverged from the musical theme at the same time bringing out the best natural gifts of each pupil. In this he was specially gifted. 

As an instance of what he wrote in the way of cadenzas, I may state that I have at least 150 cadenzas, for the flute for the Mad Scene in "Lucia"— written for different artist-pupils according to their special talent. 

In our school today we are carrying out these principles and the possession of the mass of manuscripts that belonged to Francesco Lamperti has been of untold value and aid to our pupils, proving to them the fact that as Lamperti taught me, so I am teaching them, carrying on the traditions of this incomparable system. 

I will conclude with this advice to all students. 

Study conscientiously and constantly technic as laid down by these rules. Technic! technic! technic! until it is not longer technic, but arrives at the goal of perfection. 

Musical Courier,  May 24th, 1917

Note: This article is the fifth in a series of five written for the Musical Courier. You can find the other four here.

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