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The following quotations are excerpted from the writings of the great singers and teachers of the Bel Canto era:

 

"To take a full breath properly the chest must be raised at the moment that the abdomen sinks in.  Then with a gradual expulsion of the breath, a contrary movement takes place.  It is this ability to take in an adequate supply of breath and to retain it until required that makes or, by contrary, mars all singing---the art of respiration once acquired, the student has gone a considerable step on the road to Parnassus."
- Enrico Caruso

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"In order to have the throat perfectly open it is necessary to have the jaw absolutely relaxed."
- Luisa Tetrazzini
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"Faulty singing is caused by awkward respiration.  In fact, all bad habits of the throat are merely efforts of protection against clumsy management of the breath.  The foundation of all vocal study lies in the control of the breath.

The precept to breathe low means to control the breathing low in the body.
In passing from low to high tones, the breath must take the opposite direction of the voice.


The stroke of the glottis (violent attack) which many singing teachers advise is absolutely harmful to the voice.


It is the proper training of the middle voice that brings the beautiful head voice."
- Giovanni Battista Lamperti

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"I learned this:  To draw in the abdomen, raise the chest and hold the breath in it by the aid of the ribs; in letting out the breath gradually to relax the abdomen.  A horn player in Berlin with the power of holding a very long breath, once told me, in answer to a question, that he drew in his abdomen very strongly, but immediately relaxed his abdomen again as soon as he began to play.  I tried the same thing with the best results."
- Lilli Lehmann
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"In order to insure proper breathing capacity it is understood that the clothing must be absolutely loose around the chest and also across the lower part of the back, for one should breathe with the back of the lungs as well as with the front.                                                
In learning to breathe it is well to think of the lungs as empty sacks, into which the air is dropping like a weight, so that you think first of filling the bottom of your lungs, then the middle part, and so on until no more air can be inhaled."
- Luisa Tetrazzini

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"Never sing into the nasal cavity, it is against all the rules of song.  There are a number of wrong sorts of voices, which should be mentioned to be shunned---the white voice, the throaty voice, the breathy voice, the nasal voice and the bleat."
- Enrico Caruso
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"It is indispensable, for the singer, to properly take and control the inhalation and exhalation of his breath; for breathing is, so to speak, the regulator of singing."  
- Manuel Garcia II

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"The breath pressure, which includes abdomen, diaphragm and chest muscles, is often named Atemstauen (breath stop) or appoggio, the breath lean or breath prop."
- Lilli Lehmann
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"This feeling of singing against the chest with the weight of air pressing up against it is known as breath support, in Italian we have even a better word, appoggio, which is the breath prop or lean.  Never for a moment sing without this appoggio, this breath prop.  Its development and its constant use mean the restoration of sick or fatigued voices and the prolonging of all one's vocal powers." 
- Luisa Tetrazzini 

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"Chi sa respirare, sa cantare."
"Who knows how to  breathe, knows how to  sing!"
- traditional Italian maxim
       attributed to Maria Celloni, 1810

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“It is not everyone that can be taught to sing, even granting an exceptional gift of voice.  To become a singer is impossible if you have no ear, for no mathematical combination will put that into you.  Time and rhythm cannot be taught; if you do not possess them as natural gifts you cannot acquire them. They are things to be developed, not learned….  Good physique is absolutely necessary to the singer; a great singer is, of necessity, strong bodily.  A nervous person should not attempt to become a singer, for here again, is an insurmountable handicap.  Regular digestion is absolutely essential to good voice, and a repeated course of medicine to stimulate it will only add to the intervals of physical inability to sing.”
- Madame Lillian Nordica

 

TEACHING