Hipólito Lázaro: first advice
Hipólito Lázaro (1887 – 1974) was an acclaimed Spanish tenor born in Barcelona, one of the prime verismo interpreters of his time. He began his international career in 1911 with La Bohème in Milan and replacing Alessandro Bonci in Rigoletto at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. He began his long collaboration with Pietro Mascagni in 1913 when he was directed by the composer in Isabeau at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa and participated in the world premiere of Parisina with Tina Poli-Randaccio at La Scala in Milan.
With great success, he made his debut in the Metropolitan Opera House of New York in 1918 in Rigoletto with Maria Barrientos, Giuseppe de Luca and José Mardones. Mascagni created for him the main role of his opera Il Piccolo Marat, which premiered in Rome in 1921 with Lázaro and Gilda dalla Rizza. In 1924, Umberto Giordano asked him to create the tenor role in his new opera La Cena delle Beffe, which premiered that same year in Milan conducted by Toscanini, with Lázaro and Carmen Melis.
After his retirement from the stage, he published The book of my life in 1968 and My method of singing in 1947.
I urge you to keep well in your memory the advice I am going to offer, so that you assimilate it with great interest, because, as I said in the subtitle, it comes from “experiences I lived”, day after day, hour after hour, in the long course of my great artistic career. It will be as necessary to you as the very lessons, and it will secure completely your future life as a singer that has to be endowed with a powerful personality to be perfect. This is, no less, the secret of triumph.
Every morning you must exercise, deep inhalation especially –as I indicated in the first lesson. You will also do physical exercise –not a lot and without equipment. You do not have to be an athlete to sing, but you must be strong enough to be in a perfect state of health. The best exercise for singers is to take long walks. Do not forget that your voice always depends on your health.
There are three exercises that you must undertake in the mornings, imposing them on yourself as a strict obligation, because to them you will owe the resistance to strengthen the vocal cords; pay attention. Stand in front of the mirror, and take a good breath through the nose, lower your head forward, then backwards. You will do these flexion five times. As the days pass, you will increase the amount until you reach fifty or sixty; as you wish. You will also execute the following exercise: turn your head to the right and then to the left, with your hands on your waist. Then you will do this resting respiration: take a deep breath through your nose; you will gradually exhale while you keep your arms relaxed, resting your breath. Keep in mind that these exercises need to be done with energy, but slowly. Towards the year 1910 I read a book dedicated to physical health and beauty, whose author —of German nationality— I seem to remember it was Luis Kunher, gave such wise advice and explained simply the kind of exercises I have just described; I learned them then and I continue to practice them to date, because they have given me excellent results.
I have recommended walking to keep your voice in good condition. I warn you: you will notice your voice a little husky after you walk; you mustn’t worry about this, it will pass after you rest for half an hour or a full hour. It is advisable that you gargle with warm water and sodium bicarbonate, and do not listen to those who tell you not to walk because “it makes the voice hoarse”; on the contrary, this healthy exercise will make it clear and nice, and to support what I’m telling you, I will tell you a fact related to the great tenor Gayarre. They told me in Palermo (Sicily), that this artist went hunting every day to Monte Pellegrino and at night he sang La Favorita and other works of his repertoire. You must take the example of that champion of the art of singing.
Text excerpted and translated from Mi método de canto, Hipólito Lázaro, Barcelona, 1947.