The purpose of this page is to explain The Lilli Lehmann Project.
Learning and teaching to hear is the first task of both pupil and teacher. One is impossible without the other. It is the most difficult as well as the most grateful task, and it is the only way to reach perfection.Lilli Lehmann, How to Sing.
There is only one fundamental technique of singing: what we now call the old Italian technique.Robert Donington, The Interpretation of Early Music, page 516.
June 2021 – Midway point in my project …
This website is a public record of my three year project to refresh my voice (and knowledge) in order to teach singing. I am now at the midway point.
I have now reached the exciting point where, unbeknownst to me when I began this project, I am making a paradigm shift from having no interest in science to realizing its importance in teaching. This is best summarized by the following quote from Vennard in the preface to his 1967 book called Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic.
If you are one who has always preferred the empirical approach, perhaps you should read my last chapter first. You may then agree that the knowledge of literal fact is the only justifiable basis for the use of imagery and other indirect methods.Vennard, William. Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic. Carl Fischer. 1967.
Before and After videos…the first video was filmed at the beginning of 2021. The second video was filmed at the beginning of 2020.
The Lilli Lehmann Project is a three year project to refresh my voice and prepare myself to teach responsibly.
From 2020 until 2023, I am studying Lilli Lehmann’s writings, recordings and reviews, as a point of reference for my research of Historical Vocal Pedagogy. Lilli Lehmann captured my imagination because her book, ‘How to Sing’, was written with the passion of a great singer who loved to share what she knew with others. In addition to her singing book, freely available on the Internet, we are also fortunate to listen to her recordings. Lehmann’s recordings, made when she was in her late 50s, are available on Spotify. These recordings prove what the critic, Herman Klein, and the opera historian, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, said about her; Lilli Lehmann was one of the greatest singers the operatic stage has ever seen.
Unquestionably, Lilli Lehmann, in her prime, was one of the greatest sopranos, not only of her own time, but of all time, and her talent covered the entire gamut of song. I have always felt that the main reason for her notable success throughout her long career was that she proceeded so intelligently – never at any period of her life attempting roles which would have overtaxed her musical resources at that time, and always progressing to heavier roles as her powers grew. She began singing light, lyric parts in Mozart, then proceeded to coloratura parts, and finally – but not until she was forty-two years of age – developed the great dramatic soprano which made her the superb Wagnerian interpreter that the world will long remember, having been a member of the Metropolitan in its Golden Age!Schoen-Renè, Anna Eugénie, America’s Musical Inheritance: Memories and Remininscences (1941). (Student of Francesco Lamperti, Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Manuel Garcia.) Page 192.
Using Lilli Lehmann as a point of reference is already proving to be an adventure. For example, Lilli Lehmann recommends Oskar Guttmann’s book ‘Gymnastics for the Voice’ for breathing. ‘Gymnastics for the Voice’ is available for free on the Internet. I have included breathing exercises from this book on the Technique page of this website and on blog posts. I now begin every day’s singing practice with 6 minutes of posture and breathing exercises.
Chasing Lilli Lehmann has led me to reading Herman Klein’s writings. Herman Klein’s book ‘Herman Klein and the Gramophone’ is a wonderful resource to have next to me as I listen to early recordings because he was a pupil of Manuel Garcia. Herman Klein also wrote the ‘Phono-Vocal Method’. The ‘Phono-Vocal Method’ is a wonderful resource for those who wish to learn the Old Italian School of Singing because Herman Klein recorded examples of a fine singer singing his exercises. Please check out the Resources Page of this website for more information about how to access this information on Daniel Shigo’s website.
The purpose of the Lilli Lehmann project is to make certain that I understand the Old Italian School method of singing, also known as Bel Canto, in order to teach responsibly. My definition of teaching ‘responsibly’ is that I am transparent about what I am doing, seek peer review and, ultimately, am able to demonstrate good singing with my own voice. Accordingly, I am using this website to publicly discuss what I am learning, demonstrate flaws in my singing and then, hopefully, fix those flaws.
Work in Progress
Fixing my own flaws is an important component of The Lilli Lehmann Project. In order to put the pressure on myself I have created a category called ‘Work in Progress’ on my Sound Cloud. The ‘Work in Progress’ arias are posted and, after analysis, deleted, and then replaced with an improved version.
Lilli Lehmann did not always ‘get it right’. In Anna Schoen-Rene’s book America’s Musical Inheritance: Memories and Reminiscences, written in 1941, Madame Schoen-Rene writes how she taught Lilli Lehmann how to breathe. William Vennard, in his book, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic, revised in 1967, refers to Lehmann’s poor habits of breathing:
At one time it was thought that the action of the diaphragm pulled the ribs up. It was supposed that the abdomen should draw in tightly, holding its contents high against the central tendon so that it could not descend. The central tendon would then become a “fulcrum” for the lifting of the ribs. Lilli Lehmann used this technic for twenty-five years before learning to relax the abdomen for inhalation.Vennard, William. Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic. Carl Fischer. 1967. Paragraph 101.
Lilli Lehmann believes we should continually seek help from others. Accordingly, I am adopting this way of thinking for myself. This way of thinking was encouraged by the late Beatrice Webster. I have fond memories of meeting with other singers at her voice studio in order to help each other. One was this manifests itself is that I am preparing to begin a doctorate and also I have also become a member of NEWZATS. This will facilitate peer review and transparency in my work.
This website is a great place to blog about the things I learn from studying Lilli Lehmann and other great singers and authors of Bel Canto. Accordingly, another key component of the Lilli Lehmann project is the ‘Voice Studio Blog’ page and the ‘Technique’ page. The ‘Voice Studio Blog’ is dedicated to technique. It includes links to Spotify and You Tube. You can see the latest posts at the bottom of this page.
The ‘Technique’ page is dedicated to daily exercises. Lilli Lehmann loved technique. In fact, she alludes to enjoying technique more than singing! Accordingly, to attempt to attract a variety of people to the joy of technique, I have created a variety of social media. The social media includes music streaming, blogging and visual. The buttons are on the home page to SoundCloud, You Tube, Spotify, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.
DESIRED Outcomes OF THE PROJECT
From 2020 until 2023, Lilli Lehmann’s writings, recordings and reviews will be my point of reference for research into the Old Italian School – Bel Canto technique. My aim is to teach bel canto technique correctly.
Reaching new ears
This website and social media offers me the opportunity to share the teachings of the Old Italian School of singing. I hope the wide variety of Social Media I use will reach new eyes, ears and hearts. The Old Italian School has centuries of stories, heroes and villains, recordings, literature and videos. There are many lifetimes of learning.
From 2020 until 2023, I will be blogging about singing technique, including my own demonstrations and links to social media. I hope this transparency will give the prospective student a good idea of whether or not I am any good.
Refreshing my voice
My voice must be refreshed and up-skilled in order to teach. Accordingly, it is hoped the continual pressure of posting ‘Work in Progress’ on SoundCloud as well as demonstrating on this website will improve my singing for the benefit of future students.
My own Progress
There will be three stages to the three year project. Stage One will be to sing repertoire with Coloratura. Coloratura will highlight my technical shortcomings. I am not a Coloratura Soprano. Therefore, this stage will be exceptionally challenging for me but essential to focus on technique before moving to Stage Two. Stage Two will include Mozart. Stage Two will be extremely difficult because Mozart is the ultimate test of Bel Canto. The Mozart stage will be followed by the final stage of the project – the performance of monologues and a thirty minute performance of non-bel canto vocal music. Monologues may include La Voix Humaine and a concert version of Erwartung. I am not sure if I have the patience for the latter piece yet!
Sounds I love…
I love this video of Victoria de los Angeles. One of my favourite sopranos. I adore her musicality and gentleness in the sound. She also played the guitar!