When I went to Paris

Mary Garden (1874-1967)

When I went to Paris, Mrs. Duff took me to many of the leading vocal teachers of the city, and said, “Now, Mary, I want you to use your own judgment in picking out a teacher, because if you don’t like the teacher you will not succeed.”

Thus we went around from studio to studio. One asked me to do this—to hum—to make funny, unnatural noises, anything but sing. Finally, Trabadello, now retired to his country home, really asked me to sing in a normal, natural way, not as a freak. I said to myself, “This is the teacher for me.” I could not have had a better one.

Look out for teachers with freak methods—ten to one they are making you one of their experiments. There is nothing that any voice teacher has ever found superior to giving simple scales and exercises sung upon the syllables Lah (ah, as in harbor), Leh (eh, as in they), Lee (ee, as in me). With a good teacher to keep watch over the breathing and the quality, “what more can one have?”

I have always believed in a great many scales and in a great deal of singing florid roles in Italian. Italian is inimitable for the singer. The dulcet, velvet-like character of the language gives something which nothing else can impart. It does not make any difference whether you purpose singing in French, German, English, Russian or Soudanese, you will gain much from exercising in Italian. 

Mary Garden in Great Singers on the Art of Singing (1920) by Harriet Brower and James Francis Cooke. 

Note: Garden's teacher, Mrs. Sarah Robinson-Duff, was a student of Mathilde Marchesi, and wrote an interesting book, Simple Truths Used by Great Singers (1919), which will be the subject of a future post. 


  1. 1967! I had no idea she'd lived that long.

    1. Amazing, isn't it? If I'd only have known about her when I was a kid!


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