“The Bel Canto Technique” by GB Lamperti (1905)

“The true method of chanting is in harmony with nature and the laws of health.”

Giovanni Battista Lamperti, The Techniques of Bel Canto, p. 1

Giovanni Lamperti and his father Francesco carried on the illustrious banner of “old Italian school” voice training throughout the 19th century. While the method was perhaps uncomfortably short on scientific analysis for a modern industrial world (unlike the emerging and competitive method of the Garcias), it was long on success stories ranging from the great castrati of the 17th century to the many successful students and teachers emerged from the Lamperti studies. Consequently, the teachings of the two Lampertis have acquired a status of “holy scripture” among many vocalists today: either appreciated or ignored because of their ancient origins.

The Lamperti method could perhaps best be described as the accumulated wisdom and artistry of an accomplished yet diverse and evolved métier, distilled and adapted for modern use. While both father and son expressed their share of reactionary disgust at modern contempt for the techniques and taste of the operatic legacy, they were clearly realistic in preparing their students for present conditions. Unlike his father, Giovanni even went so far as to say that there was nothing harmful to a singer’s voice in singing the grueling demands of Wagnerian and Verdian opera. Rather, the deficiency of preparation and training was responsible for the large number of damaged voices who fell victim to the craze for a bigger, louder, louder and longer opera.

Giovanni Battista Lamperti was born in 1839 in Milan. There, he was a chorister at the great cathedral and studied voice and piano at the conservatory. A student and later companion of his father at the conservatory, Giovanni knew better than anyone the method taught by his father (who claimed descent from the great castrato-master Bernacchi). Appropriating it to teach his own students, Giovanni also began teaching singing at the Milan conservatory and then for 20 years in Dresden, followed by Berlin. His preferred teaching arrangement was to have three or four students present for each lesson: each would take a turn while the others watched and learned in this way. He was said to be a strict and exacting instructor who was not given to flattery, but enthusiastically praised his students for his exceptional achievements. Many of GiovanniâEURY’s students became international opera stars, including Irene Abendroth, Marcella Sembrich, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Paul Bulss, Roberto Stagno, David Bispham, and Franz Nachbaur.

Several father-son students became voice teachers and published singing methods which they claimed were Lampertis’s. One of the father’s students explained the differences between the students’ methods thus:

“I have found very few of the great master’s former students who really knew how to impart the golden rules of their teachers without disfiguring them to the maximum and mixing them with what they called “their own artistic experience”, which of course was not and could not be very “. (Interview with Martin Roeder, the music messengerOctober 4, 1893.)

The Technics of Bel Canto is the only book (apart from the maxims remembered and published posthumously by the student WE Brown) that Giovanni wrote on his method.

As a final note, there was some famous bad blood between the old and the young Lamperti, eventually resulting in a bitter schism between the studios and followers of Francesco and Giovanni. A student of both Lampertis described the hostile situation thus:

“Oddly enough, father and son never understood each other and were never on good terms. They were both very high-strung, very temperamental, and perhaps annoyed each other. Still, there was jealousy between them that was never to be overcome. The father said that his son was not a musician, and the son responded by saying: ‘At the death of my father, he had great fame and no money; at my death I will have a reasonable fame and a large income.’ When the misunderstanding between the two became unbearable, the young man dedicated himself to the profession of music for himself.” (Interview with Lena Doria Devine, New York Post. Quoted from the music messengerOctober 25, 1893.)

GB Lamperti Bel Canto Techniques is available to order here: Book: $16.96 or Download: $5.95

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