Leone Giraldoni: on the lack of seriousness in vocal studies

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Leone Giraldoni (1824 – 1897) was a famous baritone and singing pedagogue whose artistic career was fundamentally linked to the work of Giuseppe Verdi. He was chosen by the composer to create the role of Simon Boccanegra in the premiere of the first version of the opera in La Fenice in Venice in 1857 and of Renato in Un ballo in maschera in Rome in 1859. After his retirement from the stage he devoted himself to singing eduction and was one of the teachers who revolutionized the Italian Romantic School, opening the way to the technical evolution that made possible the fulfillment of the aesthetic requirements of romantic singing. In 1889 he published his Compendium: analytical, philosophical and physiological method for the education of the voice, in which he gathers the learning of a whole life.

I know of teachers who let themselves indicate that some sounds should be attacked at the top of the head, others at the nape of the neck. I know of some who have the naivety of censoring some of their colleagues, saying that this one makes his students sing from their stomach, that one places the voice too low, etc., etc .; all bland opinions that don’t even bear the discussion of serious people who know what they say. It is for this reason that one cannot recommend enough the pupil of singing to thoroughly discriminate when choosing the teacher who must initiate them in the mysteries of the art to which they wish to devote themselves, since I believe that no profession allows so much nonsense as the teaching of singing.

It can be said that most of the teachers of singing, even admitting the honesty of their purpose, do not really know about the principles they set to teach. […] Hence the lack of singers conscious of the indispensable laws for the formation of a serious artist; hence the loss of voices in the hands of incompetent teachers; hence the great discredit that reigns over lyrical artists. […] Stars and modern divos and divas were in abundance in the time in which an artist consecrated six or seven years to be instructed under the protection of teachers who, in their majority, had been singers that left a luminous mark in art. But today, with the invention of the railways and the telegraph, we want to do everything fast at the cost of doing it wrong.

Today we see the consequence.

Text excerpted and translated from Compendium, Leone Giraldoni, Milan, 1889.