Jean Baptiste Faure carrying the bel canto torch

Last year I purchased the English translation of Jean Baptiste Faure’s (pronounced “Four”) treatise on singing entitled “The Voice and Singing” (La voix et le chant) originally published in 1886.  This little treasure of a book should be in every voice teacher’s library as an extant example of the training ideas of the late nineteenth century.

Faure was himself a celebrated and famous French baritone. Today, he is most remembered for several of his songs, which still appear in the church liturgy, including “The Palms”. During his career in Paris, he created leading roles in L’Africaine, Don Carlos, and Hamlet. So, this eminent baritone knew his métier!

His book parallels MUCH of Manuel Garcia’s text. In fact, his first exercises are all coup de glotte exercises for each voice type!  He counsels singers not to move on to other exercises until mastery of the earliest skills have been accomplished. Another feature of this book are the little pauses of rest that the author suggests after each exercise, so as not to tire the voice of the student.

These little exercises ARE NOT easy! The author requires a firm grasp of the coup de glotte on many pitches before moving into other areas of technique.  This gives further proof to me that the original coup de glotte was NOT the destructive maneuver it was rumored to be.  A singer of Faure’s stature would not have been able to sustain the length of career that he did if he was performing vocal tasks that were detrimental to his voice.  The sheer AMOUNT of coup de glotte in this book would place its development at the primacy of vocal training (much in agreement with Garcia). This kind of exercise will deeply strengthen the “closers” of the vocal cords which as a result will maintain a stronger resistance to the airflow, and give the sound more strength and brilliance.

The real allure of the book is the collection of exercises that Faure has designated as “My Morning Exercises”.  These are exercises (beginning with the coup de glotte) that move from the simple to the rather complex.  I would suggest that most singers work themselves through the book in order FIRST, and implement the ‘daily studies’ once the voice has incorporated some of the benefit of the method.

The full text (in French) can be found on IMSLP here.

Of the attack of the sound, Faure had this to say:

As the Pizzicato of the violin and the cello which must be obtained (or otherwise scratch the string) not with the fingernail, but with the flesh of the finger, the coup de glotte must be given outright, without however an apparent brusqueness that might offend the vocal cords, nor brutalize them. The exaggeration in the attack can lead to the dryness and crushing of the sound.

One will begin therefore, to execute this important work, with a number of limitless brief and always equal attacks, before applying oneself to sustaining the sound definitively.

Faure, Jean-Baptiste. La voix et le chant: traité pratique. H. Heugel, 1886.

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