Lamperti and Garcia on the “Appoggio”

Francesco Lamperti was a highly influential pedagogue who influenced generations of singers.  He had a very long career as a teacher at the Milan Conservatory.

According to James Stark in his book, “Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy” the approach between the Lamperti School and the ideas of Manuel Garcia school were the topic of many heated discussions throughout Europe. The Lampertis differed from Garcia in that they were content to leave the physiological approach to someone else. The Lampertis used terms that lacked the specific physiological and acoustical reference points of Garcia and his school. But those weren’t their only differences.  One of the major contrasts in their pedagogies were their ideas on breath and breath management.

According to Stark, Francesco Lamperti was also the first to enter the term appoggio into the vocal literature. He defined it as,

By singing appoggiata, is meant that all notes, from the lowest to the highest, are produced by a column of air over which the singer has perfect command, by holding back the breath, and not permitting more air than is absolutely necessary for the formation of the note to escape from the lungs.

For Lamperti, breath control was the most important aspect of singing, and the appoggio was the means whereby a singer would gain this control. For Garcia, breath management merited only 3 pages (out of a several hundred page treatise!) in his Traité de l’art du chant of 1841. Clearly we have two gentlemen with completely different approaches to the management of breath.  For Garcia, all breath control and management was contingent upon the correct ‘attack’ or coup de glotte and “all control of the tone was LOST the moments the cords became vibratile’. Had Garcia felt that breath management and control were central to his teaching, he would most assuredly have made mention of it throughout his writings.  For Garcia, attack was paramount.

Franklyn Kelsey, writing in 1954, explained the appoggio in terms that more closely resembled Garcia’s ‘attack-central’ ideas:

“There is only one place where the voice can be felt to be leaning against the column of air below it. That place is at the top of the windpipe, where the breath ceases to be “breath” and becomes “voice””

Kelsey’s assertion is somewhat different from the appoggio as explained by Richard Miller in his book “National Schools of Singing”. In it, he sees the appoggio as a TOTAL system of breath management. Miller was intensely influenced by Francesco Lamperti and his ideas on breathing. In fact, much of Miller’s pedagogy can be traced to the influence of both Francesco and Giovanni Battista Lamperti.

From my vantage point as a teacher, the appoggio is a more advanced technical maneuver that can embrace both the concept of a torso-postural endeavor, as well as one of glottal resistance to airflow. My preference is to leave off the appoggio for a time in beginners until the voice has been well-exercised in the registers (chest, falsetto/head).  This will allow the intrinsic muscles of the larynx to be well-conditioned so that they will be able to withstand the pressure of breath necessary for the appoggio to be operative as AN EFFECT of balanced registration of the voice.

Attempts to coordinate the appoggio in a beginner could engender more physical and vocal tensions and cause vocal damage if the system has not been conditioned in even the simplest of vocal tasks.

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