The most perfect singer that I remember in my Berlin experience was
Theodor Wachtel in this respect, that with his voice of rare splendor,
he united all that vocal art which, as it seems, is destined quite to
disappear from among us. How beautiful were his coloratura, his
trills,--simply flawless! Phrasing, force, fulness of tone, and beauty
were perfect, musically without a blemish. If he did not go outside
f Arnold, G. Brown, Stradella, Vasco, the Postillion and
Lionel, it was probably because he felt that he was not equal to
interpreting the Wagnerian spirit. In this he was very wise. As one of
the first of vocal artists, whose voice was superbly trained and was
preserved to the end of his life, I have had to pay to Wachtel the
tribute of the most complete admiration and recognition, in contrast
to many others who thought themselves greater than he, and yet were
not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes.
Recently the little Italian tenor Bonci has won my hearty admiration
for his splendidly equalized voice, his perfect art, and his knowledge
of his resources; and notwithstanding the almost ludicrous figure that
he cut in serious parts, he elicited hearty applause. Cannot German
tenors, too, learn to sing well, even if they do interpret Wagner?
Will they not learn, for the sake of this very master, that it is
their duty not to use their voices recklessly?
Is it not disrespectful toward our greatest masters that they always
have to play hide and seek with the bel canto, the trill, and
coloratura? Not till one has fully realized the difficulties of the
art of song, does it really become of value and significance. Not till
then are one's eyes opened to the duty owed not only to one's self
but to the public.
The appreciation of a difficulty makes study doubly attractive; the
laborious ascent of a summit which no one can contest, is the
attainment of a goal.
Voices in which the palatal resonance--and so, power--is the
predominating factor, are the hardest to manage and to preserve. They
are generally called chest voices. Uncommon power and fulness of tone
in the middle ranges are extremely seductive. Only rarely are people
found with sense enough to renounce such an excess of fulness in favor
of the head tones,--that is, the least risky range to exploit and
preserve,--even if this has to be done only temporarily.
Copious vocal resources may with impunity be brought before the public
and thereby submitted to strain, only after long and regular study.
The pure head tone, without admixture of palatal resonance, is feeble
close at hand, but penetrating and of a carrying power equalled by no
other. Palatal resonance without admixture of the resonance of the
head cavities (head tones) makes the tone very powerful when heard
near by, but without vibrancy for a large auditorium. This is the
proof of how greatly every tone needs the proper admixture.