The Bel Canto Connection to the Heart

The interrelationship of psyche and soma in the act of singing was explored by Cornelius Reid in 1975 in his book, “Voice: Psyche and Soma.” Reid had an absolutely VALID point: the relationship between the body (in this case the voice), and the mind are an interrelated organism.

A free, easy voice opens a singer’s heart and touches the audience deeply through its authenticity. The tone spins of its own accord, and seems to come from some location outside the singer. Singing voices that are ‘postured’ or overly darkened and pompous prohibit the vocalist from using their instrument in a way that is reflective of their truest self. They tend to make the singer equally as pompous as their voice.

It is a singularly interesting phenomenon that the singers who exemplified the traditions of bel canto were also (generally) happy people. It didn’t matter the vocal classification; freedom of movement in the voice assured a happy personality. I’ve seen the same thing in voice students, whose personalities ‘brighten’ and ‘unlock’ alongside their vocal mechanisms! The easier the singing, the happier the singer. The soma is reflected back to the psyche!

My friend Daniela Bloem-Hubatka recently shared with me the biography of one of my favorite early recorded sopranos, Amelita Galli-Curci. Galli-Curci’s lack of pretentiousness and kindness is seen in the quotation below.

But first, I wanted to share this lovely picture of our soprano. Note the look of joy and uplift on her face while singing – a hallmark of that Old Italian school which talked so much about the proper ‘smile’ when singing. The face is ‘open,’ no aggression or darkening of her expression – no! This is the JOY of singing!


In May 1924, while en route from California to Phoenix, Arizona, for a concert, the party was halted at Yuma, a quarantine station. While being subjected to the disinfection and inspection process imposed on all passengers, Galli-Curci hummed a gay tune and complimented the authorities upon their diligence against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, then prevalent in that section. The dénouement came, however, when the artists’ trunks were held and she had to proceed without them, necessitating appearing at the concert in a borrowed gown loaned by a local dress establishment. Did she exhibit temper or dissatisfaction? Not unless a smile and a nonchalant mien be indicative of that ill-humored discomposure, and her words mean other than they say: “Temperament is necessary to art, but unless it is controlled, the artist is a walking potato. Temperament is another word for selfishness nine times out of ten. Temperament merely means that one is inconsiderate around one. Those artists who are really on top are those who are least temperamental. It is the same with business or anything else. One receives the best treatment, the most consideration, from the persons who have arrived, and the worst treatment, the least consideration, from those who are merely bluffing their way along. Just because one is famous and talented is no reason why one can’t be a real human being.”

Le Massena, Clarence Edward. Galli-Curci’s life of song. Paebar, 1945.


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