My Title To Write On The Art Of Song
Rarely are so many desirable and necessary antecedents united as in my
The child of two singers, my mother being gifted musically quite out
of the common, and active for many years not only as a dramatic
singer, but also as a harp virtuoso, I, with my sister Marie, received
a very careful musical education; and later a notable course of
instruction in singing from her. From my fifth year on I listen
daily to singing lessons; from my ninth year I played accompaniments
on the pianoforte, sang all the missing parts, in French, Italian,
German, and Bohemian; got thoroughly familiar with all the operas, and
very soon knew how to tell good singing from bad. Our mother took
care, too, that we should hear all the visiting notabilities of that
time in opera as well as in concert; and there were many of them every
year at the Deutsches Landestheater in Prague.
She herself had found a remarkable singing teacher in the Frankfort
basso, Foeppel; and kept her voice noble, beautiful, young, and strong
to the end of her life,--that is, till her seventy-seventh
year,--notwithstanding enormous demands upon it and many a blow of
fate. She could diagnose a voice infallibly; but required a probation
of three to four months to test talent and power of making progress.
I have been on the stage since my eighteenth year; that is, for
thirty-four years. In Prague I took part every day in operas,
operettas, plays, and farces. Thereafter in Danzig I sang from
eighteen to twenty times a month in coloratura and soubrette parts;
also in Leipzig, and later, fifteen years in Berlin. In addition I
sang in very many oratorios and concerts, and gave lessons now and
As long as my mother lived she was my severest critic, never
satisfied. Finally I became such for myself. Now fifteen years more
have passed, of which I spent eight very exacting ones as a dramatic
singer in America, afterward fulfilling engagements as a star, in all
languages, in Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, England, and Sweden.
My study of singing, nevertheless, was not relaxed. I kept it up more
and more zealously by myself, learned something from everybody,
learned to hear myself and others.
For many years I have been devoting myself to the important questions
relating to singing, and believe that I have finally found what I have
been seeking. It has been my endeavor to set down as clearly as
possible all that I have learned through zealous, conscientious study
by myself and with others, and thereby to offer to my colleagues
something that will bring order into the chaos of their methods of
singing; something based on science as well as on sensations in
singing; something that will bring expressions often misunderstood
into clear relation with the exact functions of the vocal organs.
In what I have just said I wish to give a sketch of my career only to
show what my voice has endured, and why, notwithstanding the enormous
demands I have made upon it, it has lasted so well. One who has sung
for a short time, and then has lost his voice, and for this reason
becomes a singing teacher, has never sung consciously; it has simply
been an accident, and this accident will be repeated, for good or for
ill, in his pupils.
The talent in which all the requirements of an artist are united is
very rare. Real talent will get along, even with an inferior teacher,
in some way or another; while the best teacher cannot produce talent
where there is none. Such a teacher, however, will not beguile people
with promises that cannot be kept.
My chief attention I devote to artists, whom I can, perhaps, assist in
their difficult, but glorious, profession. One is never done with
learning; and that is especially true of singers. I earnestly hope
that I may leave them something, in my researches, experiences, and
studies, that will be of use. I regard it as my duty; and I confide it
to all who are striving earnestly for improvement.
GRUeNEWALD, Oct. 31, 1900.