Miguel Barrosa: on the importance of cultivating the vocal means

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Third excerpt from Bel canto in theory and practice, a compendium on the mastery of the art of singing by tenor Miguel Barrosa published in 1951.


There are singers who, because of the beauty of their voice or their innate art, reach fame even without technique. A regrettable mistake! The only thing that can be achieved without singing technique is to sing while the physical faculties are favorable to us; but, what about when they start failing? As soon as this happens, “troubles” begin, and they are not able to solve them because they have sung without a real basis, a note-by-note study, which is the only real school. Singing has its mathematics, its structure, and nothing can be done without having solid roots; that is, technique.

There are teachers who boast of being such because certain students achieve great success at the beginning of their careers. This success is often due to the particular conditions of each student, and the teacher’s work is limited to teaching them the scores. For this reason, even though the singers have their voice placed by nature, it is necessary to reinforce this natural placing with technique, so that, when the first one fails, they know how to overcome all kinds of difficulties with the second; that is to say, with the deep knowledge of the emission of the voice according to the study, and not thanks to Providence.

I heard many artists over sixty years old singing, all of them technicians! Only months ago, Carlo Galeffi was reaping a new triumph to add to his enviable list. And the baritone is more than seventy years old! On the other hand, I have seen wonderful singers with splendid voices, in full success, fall as soon as fatigue took over a poorly defended larynx due to lack of study.

For this reason, and to conclude, it should be said definitively that, having the voice already placed or not, vocalizations and exercises are totally indispensable, as the main basis for placing the voice, which is done with full knowledge of the facts and not out of the gifts of Nature.

The talent of the artist can make up for deficiencies in the glottis, as we have seen so many times. It is quite true that one sings with the voice, but it is also true that a vocal organ, however wonderful it may be, will be of little use if it is not directed by a good degree of intelligence, musicality and art. This is why the famous phrase of the unforgettable Mascagni is so graphic: “To sing, you also need some voice…”.

Text excerpted and translated from El Bel canto en la teoría y la práctica, Miguel Barrosa, Madrid, 1951.