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Subject: my experience studying voice way back in 1961 in Florence
From: Robert Thomson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Robert Thomson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 3 May 2017 22:10:33 -0700
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There must be other listers who have studied voice with the intention of 
becoming an

opera singer. This is what I did many years ago (1960-1) when I was in 
Florence on an

Italian government scholarship.  The voice lessons did not lead to a 
career in opera and

I took them for only six months yet the experience was so intense and 
exciting that I

count it a big highlight in my life.  Recently I published a book about 
that wonderful year

in my life:  "Florence, Dante and Me." It consists of 45 letters that I 
wrote to a girl friend

back in Vancouver.  Below  is one of the passages in which I describe a 
voice lesson.

If you like what you read below, visit my website and you will find a 
free read of several pages.

(See the bottom of this posting for details.)



March 22, 1961

Hello, my Love,

The singing lessons are so much fun. The Maestra was telling me that she 
had a student once (a bass)

who had only one good note, but it was a wonderful note and she could 
see what it might become. So

they worked on exercises for a few years and at the end of that time he 
had the voice of a real opera

singer, a good one, and his range was a couple of octaves. Yesterday I 
arrived a bit early for a lesson

and she was just finishing a lesson with her nephew who is in his 
mid-twenties, tall and slim, with a

goatee. He’s a real basso and they were going through the part of 
Ramfis, the high priest in Aida.

So powerful is his voice that with certain phrases the whole apartment 
shook and glasses rattled in

the cupboard (my hair just about stood on end, and my eyes bulged out of 
their sockets!).


Sì, corre voce che l’Etiope ardisca sfidarci ancora,

Yes, the rumor is circulating that the Ethiopian is daring to challenge 
us again,


E del Nilo la valle, e Tebe minacciar.

And threaten the valley of the Nile and Thebes.


Talk about attentive and exacting! I am allowed to get away with niente, 
nothing. Not one incorrect

note. She also has a great imagination (with humor) and will say (We 
always speak in Italian) things

like. “Roberto, sing it again and this time look out the window and 
pretend that your voice must carry

across the Arno to Piazzale Michelangelo!” Or she’ll say, “Roberto, 
fetch that silver plate and we’ll use

it as a mirror.” Then she proceeds to point out something amiss in my 
breathing or pronunciation. We

get along famously. She is such a classic Florentine: articulate, 
quick-witted, and a bit blunt and satirical.

Her language is spiced up with imagery and colorful slang. These lessons 
are not cheap, (1000 Lire) but I

am really fortunate to have found a teacher of her caliber. (Note from 
2017: the scholarship paid 60,000

lire a month, about $100).


On Saturday I took the train to Siena as part of my “Get to know 
Tuscany” series. As we headed south

to Siena I could see far to the east the fourteen towers of San 
Gimignano. They look mysterious and beckoning.

I haven’t visited San Gimignano yet but I will. From the train window I 
saw three peasants dressed in black

walking along, one with flowers, looking like phantoms from another 
century, characters out of I Promessi Sposi.

How I’d like to stay and work with a peasant family for a few weeks 
before coming home! They look so industrious

and contented in their work. The Tuscan countryside is incredibly 
beautiful. I could see a few trees already in

blossom and it’s getting warm. On Saturday night I went to a recital of 
a German soprano at the Chigiana Music

Academy, which is apparently famous. Segovia teaches guitar there in the 
summer. The Siena cathedral is imposing

and unusual: gothic with contrasting black and white blocks of marble. I 
read somewhere that it inspired Wagner’s

Parsifal. There is a library attached to the cathedral and its walls are 
frescoed by Pinturicchio. What a beautiful way

to decorate a library!  (end of extract)


  1. Google godwinbooks.com

2. Click on the cover ("Florence, Dante and Me")

3. At the bottom of the home page click on "Click here to see samples"

4 . There are three samples. The passage I quote above is from the third.


Note to the directors of opera-l. I am aware that self-promotion is not 
appreciated on this list-

serve and if you don't circulate this message I will understand totally.

Robert Thomson ("il Canadese")

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