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.