GREAT SINGER ON GREAT SINGING
Hines Challenges Voice Scientists and
Interview by Joseph Shore for
NATS Journal Jan./Feb.1995
Hines needs no introduction to singers or voice teachers. For over fifty years
his name has been synonymous with great operatic singing. Clearly, singers like
Mr. Hines, would offer voice science a wealth of material for study. He also
provides a wonderful role model for singers.
On November 3, 1993, five days before his 72nd birthday, I talked with
Mr. Hines about singing and vocal training.
Jerry, first of all, I want
to wish you an early happy birthday and thank you for taking the time to talk
Thanks, it's my pleasure.
Jerry, I believe that great singers show how the vocal organs work at
their peak efficiency. Therefore, I believe that studying great singers is very
important to voice students. They need to learn by observing the peak efficiency
of the great singer's art. When you were a young singer, did you learn by
listening to other great singers?
To a certain extent. My first
record I bought was Jussi Bjoerling and I was thrilled to death. Then I began to
listen to Pinza. The singer who influenced me a lot for a while was Titta Ruffo.
I remember one day, I asked Maestro Curci, "Which sounds better?" and
I sang the way I thought Titta Ruffo would sing, and then the way I thought
Pinza would sing. And Maestro Curci said, "Look young man, your voice is so
beautiful, if you do something wrong it still sounds right. Its very hard to
teach you." Of course I was at the stage of trying to imitate this, imitate
that and I admired both Ruffo and Pinza. One is a baritone, one a bass and they
sang completely differently. And I would think I emulated more in the direction
of Pinza. I was imitating that rounder sound that he would make.
If I may add, you certainly have surpassed him in vocal technique and
beauty of tone.
I'll tell you who influenced me a lot on recordings. It was Mardones. His
was the most impressive of all the bass voices I've ever heard. Pinza's was the
most beautiful in color.
Jerry, in just a few days you are going to be 72. You are still singing
wonderfully. Many people are surprised at that. I am not. I'm grateful for it
but I'm not surprised. Great singers keep their voices if
their bodily health permits. Nevertheless, a lot of people want me to ask you
the big question. How have you kept your voice all these years?
It's a question that
everybody does ask me and it's not a simple
answer. First of all many of the things I do are things that other singers do
and they don't last as long. So its not exactly the answer. No matter what
techniques and what disciplines you go through, I think there is one factor more
intangible and that is the motivation to pick yourself off the ground when
you've been totally bloodied and smashed and say, "Let's fight some
more." At a certain point people would
just say, "Oh, come on, I've just had it. I can't take anymore." I
recall saying that to myself in 1971 or '72. Why did I continue after that when
everything seemed at an end? I was down to one performance a season at the Met.
My big competitors were out of the picture. London was out. Siepi was going out.
Tozzi was going out. I said, "Here's the handwriting on the wall. Its time
for me to go out. I'm not doing that well."
What made me pick myself up? For
me, the spiritual background, my Christian faith, helped.
So the motivation part is all essential in keeping my voice, but then
there are the human factors of discipline. One of which is vocal technique. When
I made my 30th year at the MET--eventually you know I made 41 years--the New
York Times called me and said, "We're doing a story on you, Dorothy
Kirsten, and Robert Merrill. You all debuted in 1946."
We three were being interviewed and I said, "I don't think it's a
coincidence that two of the three study with the same teacher, Samuel Margolis."
Bob Merrill is still going and singing quite beautifully. I just did FAUST on
Sunday night and it went awfully well.
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