B1771. Pier Francesco Tosi. Observations on the Florid Song; or, Sentiments on the Ancient and Modern Singers [Trans. Mr. Galliard]. London, William Reeves, 1967 [Reprint of the 1723 Bolopgna Edition]. 197pp. Illus.; DJ.
"As the first full-length treatise ever to be published on singing, Tosi revealed to the world the secret method that accounted for the unworldly vocal abilities of the famous castrati. Living in a Europe alight with the virtuosic Baroque operas of Handel, Scarlatti and Porpora, Tosi revealed that it was extensive training in the 'old Italian school' of singing that cultivated the beautiful tone and expression of their voices, as well as the infamous mezza di voce, trills and runs. What's more, Tosi revealed that the method worked equally well for any voice type, male or female, provided that its principles and techniques were adhered to with exactness and consistency. Written by one of the most famous singers and voice teachers of the early 18th century, Tosi's 'Opinioni' has remained an indispensable text on the bel canto singing method, as well as Baroque stylistic techniques.
Pier Francesco Tosi (c.1646-1732) was born in Bologna. His father, a musician, recognized some musical talent in the boy and had him castrated hoping he would have a successful career as a singer. Fortunately for Tosi, his father's wishes were not in vain and Tosi was eventually in great demand throughout Europe. According to Berton Coffin in his Historical Vocal Pedagogy Classics, ‘Tosi's book is primarily concerned with the castrato voice and has little to do with the training of the male voice’. Nevertheless there are still many interesting and useful ideas to be gained from studying it.
Tosi recommends that ‘divisions’ or rapid melismatic passages be sung on the first of the five Italian vowels (a, e, i, o, u). He further states that ‘on the third and fifth Vowel, the Divisions are the worst....[and] in the best Schools the second and fourth were not permitted, when these two Vowels are pronounced close or united’."(p. 56.)
Tosi's description of the use of rubato is most interesting since rubato is often thought to be an invention of the Romantic period. He states, ‘The stealing of Time, in the Pathetick, is an honourable Theft in one that sings better than others, provided he makes a Restitution with Ingenuity’. (p. 156)
Some other insightful observations by Tosi include:
‘The best Singer in the World continues to study, and persists in it as much to maintain his Reputation, as he did to acquire it’. (p. 158) ‘He that sings little and well, sings very well’."
- SINGING VOICE