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Training For the Stage

Mme. Materna, the great prima donna, says: “One of the most salient features of learning any art is routine; and where can a dramatic singer learn routine except on the operatic stage? Most singers learn after six years of study that the most necessary elements of operatic singing on the stage have first to be begun on the stage. To be sure they can trill and turn off roulade after roulade; they have their tones all placed.” They know the chief arias of a dozen or more operas, but where do they find themselves when first launched before a critical public on the stage with old and practical operatic singers, an infallible orchestra, and nothing but the knowledge of well-placed tones, trills, passages and a few well-learned arias to support them?

What, then, becomes of the ensemble singing? Where does their voice even disappear and all they thought they knew so well when the orchestra marches steadily onward with unfailing tempo, leaving them halting, stammering, frightened, confused and in a panic, forgetting their parts, feeling stiff, immovable and embarrassed in the simplest outward gestures of acting or the most ordinary, best recognized “unities of the drama”? Many singers have proven themselves apt students and talented who completely lose themselves in the first “ensemble” of the whole. Madame Materna considers this training as necessary as all other preliminaries, and encourages her pupils to all possible concentration of their forces for two years’ study at the most in preparation. After two or three roles are well studied she interests herself and encourages her pupils in seeking engagements for the development of “routine” study, not necessarily at first on any prominent stage in a great capital, but rather in smaller towns for one year, where the public do not pay so much and are more lenient with young débutantes.—E. Potter-Frisell, in “The Musical Courier.”

Life of a Voice.—Speaking of the life of a voice, a well-known writer says: The average life of a good voice is fifteen years. Patti’s is an exception. So also is Sims Reeves’. Smoking and drinking have ruined countless male voices. Singers live fast, and their voices suddenly become frogs in their throat. Women suffer all the ailments of the vocal cords, owing to low neck and short sleeves, consequent exposure and late champagne suppers. Jealousy kills a great many voices of the gentler sex. A voice well cared for should last forty years, in which time it should earn no less than half a million dollars. Possibly one singer in 500 has a nest egg and saves something for a rainy day. The rest live from hand to mouth—ride to-day, walk to-morrow; feast this week, famine next. They convert a safe investment into a precarious existence.—”Music Trade Review.”

A number of questions have been received for the “Questions and Answers” column which will receive full attention in next issue. Mr. Root’s series of articles will also be continued in the August number.—H. W. G.


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You are reading Training For the Stage from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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