Foreman’s Historical Perspectives – 20th Century Pedagogy, Part II: Getting On With It

The picture of vocal pedagogy which presents itself at the beginning of the 20th century is one of contentious and apparently willful argumentation. The Garcia-Marchesi school, while viewing the Lampertis with respectful suspicion, was at odds with the French school represented first by Mandl, then by Curtis and De Reszke.

Each of these factions could point with justifiable pride to exemplars of their methods among front rank singers.1 Individualists like Lilli Lehmann,2 who belonged to none of these schools, but formed her own strong opinions—which worked for her and two illustrious students, Olive Fremstad3 and Geraldine Farrar4—could quietly ignore all the others because she had been taught singing by her mother, and worked out a personal system which she could teach to others.

Jenny Lind’s brilliant career remained the high point of Garcia’s reputation, but many singers came to him for lessons, and through his pupil Mathilde Marchesi, he was godfather, as it were, to Melba, Eames,5 Sanderson,6 Gerster7 and a host of other excellent sopranos.

From Lamperti senior’s studio came Albani,8 Italo Campanini, Roberto Stagno,9 and two of Verdi’s favorite singers, Stolz10 and Waldmann.11 From his son Giovanni came Marcella Sembrich among others of high quality.

Teachers owing allegiance to no “school,” like Sbriglia in Paris, taught singers such as Jean De Reszke and Pol Plançon. In Rome Antonio Cotogni established a reputation for teaching in the older style, and his star pupil was Beniamino Gigli, among a host of others of slightly lesser luminescence. Persichini and Vannucini were important teachers in Italy unallied with any faction, who produced several fine baritones, including Giuseppe De Luca.12

It was still true that Americans, wanting “finishing” as singers, went to Europe, either to Paris for Mathilde Marchesi or Pauline Viardot-Garcia, or to any of several teachers in Italy. The instrumentalists and composers went to Germany, and American music began its long trip down the road of German dominance of the musical establishments and schools of music. The influence of Leipzig and Berlin in particular was strong until the 1930s, when young composers began to flock to France to the studio of Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau.

The Germanic influence in American colleges and universities began to show up as they developed departments of music and eventually got around to teaching practical music as well as theory. The university context tried—with more or less success—to present musical training as part of the fine arts curriculum, based on the assumption that reducing the amount of time spent in actual musical training could be compensated by exposure to a regular college course in liberal arts. In most cases, this has led aspiring singers to seek advanced degrees in music as a way to get the training that is not possible within the normal four-year system.

Various conservatories were established to offset the university approach and offer intensive education in music, with parallel courses in the liberal arts taking up a smaller percentage of the student’s time. Languages and music history were taught, and in later years, courses in other disciplines have crept in.

The private studio teacher continues to exist, but in far fewer numbers than at the beginning of the 20th century, before there was practical musical instruction in colleges and universities. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find as many private teachers in New York, unaffiliated with some institution, for instance, as were advertised in the back of the Mackenzie book mentioned in Section II Chapter V.

Two organizations have been established, the New York Singing Teachers Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing, to attempt to regulate and improve the standards of teaching in the United States, and to promulgate information of use to teachers through various publications.



  1. And every teacher knows that there are some students who will succeed in spite of the teacher, and if they then advertise the teacher, his reputation is made on the basis of a natural coordination over which he had little or no influence.
  2. Lehmann, Lilli (1848-1929), German soprano. She studied with her mother, and made her debut in 1865. In 1868 she was in Danzig, and 1869 in Berlin, where she was permanently engaged. She was in the first Ring cycle at Bayreuth (1876), and made her London debut in 1880. In 1885 she broke her contract with the Berlin Hofoper to go to the Metropolitan, where she remained until 1899, singing both lyric-coloratura and Wagnerian roles. From 1901-10 she sang at Salzburg and was the festival’s director. She was still singing Traviata at 72.
  3. Fremstad, Olive [Rundquist, Olivia] (1871-1951), Swedish soprano and mezzo-soprano. Adopted and brought up in Minnesota, she studied in New York, and then in Berlin with Lilli Lehmann (1893-5). She made her debut (as a mezzo) in 1895. She then studied further in Italy, and joined the Munich opera 1900-03. She was at Covent Garden 1902-3. In 1903 she made her Metropolitan debut and remained there 11 seasons. She left the Metropolitan after disagreements with the manager, Gatti-Casazza (1914). Her last concert was 1920 in New York. The heroine of Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark (1915) is a fictional portrait of Fremstad.
  4. Farrar, Geraldine (1882-1967), American soprano. Soon after her debut in Berlin (1901) she became a pupil of Lilli Lehmann. In 1906 she came to the Metropolitan, remaining there until her retirement in 1922.
  5. Eames, Emma (1865-1952), American soprano. After study in Boston, she became a pupil of Marchesi in Paris, and made her debut there in 1889 (Roméo e Juliette, with Jean De Reszke). She was at Covent Garden in 1891-01, but rivalry with Melba drove her out. She was at the Metropolitan 1891-1909. Thereafter she sang only in concerts, often with her second husband, the baritone Emilio De Gorgoza. (Her first husband was the eminent painter Julian Story, who left a stunning portrait of Eames.)
  6. Sanderson, Sibyl (1865-1903), American soprano. Educated in San Francisco, she entered the Paris Conservatoire at 19, where she studied with Sbriglia and Marchesi. She made her debut in 1888. Massenet, much taken with her, and her range—over three octaves—composed Esclarmonde (1889), and Thaïs (1894) for her. She was at Covent Garden in 1891, and at the Metropolitan in 1895. Sanderson had been sent to Paris to get her away from Randolph Hearst, who wanted to marry her. In 1900 she took the young Mary Garden under her wing, the result of which was Garden’s unexpected debut in Louise. Garden returned the favor with Grace Moore, who in turn mentored Dorothy Kirsten.
  7. Gerster, Etelka (1855-1920), Hungarian soprano. She studied with Marchesi in Vienna, and made her debut in 1876 (La Fenice, Venice). She was in London in 1877, and in 1878 was in New York at Mapleson’s Academy of Music. She was a rival of Patti’s, and they were often required to sing together by Mapleson. Good box office. She retired in 1890, and taught.
  8. Albani [Lajeunesse], Dame Emma (Marie Louise Cécile) (1847-1930), Canadian soprano. After concerts in Canada, she went to Paris and studied with Duprez, then Milan to Lamperti. She made her debut in 1870 under the adopted name Albani. (NGDM says this was in honor of a local Italian family, but it is much more likely from Albany, NY, where her family moved in 1864.) She was at Covent Garden in 1872-96, and married Ernest Gye, lessee of the theater. She was at the Metropolitan in 1891.
  9. Stagno, Roberto [Andrioli, Vincenzo] (1840-97), Italian tenor. He studied with Lamperti in Milan, and made his debut in 1862. He sang all over Italy before coming to the Metropolitan in 1883. He created Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana (Rome, 1890), with his wife, Gemma Bellincioni (1864-1950), one of the first great verismo actress-singers.
  10. Stolz [Stolzová], Theresa [Teresina, Terezie] (1834-1902), Bohemian soprano. She studied at the Prague Conservatory and with Ricci and Lamperti, and made her debut in 1857. Her earliest known Italian performances were 1863. In 1867 she was in the Italian premiere of Don Carlo, and in 1869 the revised La forza del destino. In 1872 she was the first Aida in Italy, and in 1874 created the soprano part in Verdi’s Requiem. She retired from opera after an engagement in St Petersburg, 1876-7, and her final public performance was in 1879.
  11. Waldmann, Maria (1842-1920), Austrian mezzo-soprano. She studied in Vienna, then with Lamperti in Milan, and made her debut in 1865. She was the first Italian Amneris (La Scala, 1872), and created the mezzo part in Verdi’s Requiem (1874).
  12. De Luca, Giuseppe (1876-1950), Italian baritone. He studied with Persichini and made his debut in 1897. In 1902 he created Michonnet in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (Milan, Teatro Lirico) and in 1904 was in the premieres of Giordano’s Siberia and Puccini’s Madama butterfly (La Scala). From 1915-35 he was a regular member of the Metropolitan roster. He made his Metropolitan farewell in 1940.

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