Updated: Nov 16
Dear Reader: The following is meant to provide my students, prospective students, et al, with an understanding and appreciation of the respected and distinguished singing and pedagogical lineage professed in my studio. It was some years following my tenure as a student of Margaret Harshaw that I came to know the legacy I'd been fortunate to have been gifted. It is now my privilege to pass the torch to the next generation of singers dedicated to the study and practice of the vocal arts in their highest and most refined form. -MR
The biographical outline below is the copyrighted work of Daniel James Shigo, Daniel James Shigo Voice Studio, New York, NY. Thank you, Daniel.
Margaret Harshaw (1909-1997) was born in Narbeth, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, attended the Curtis Institute of Music in 1932, and made her professional debut in the dramatic mezzo-soprano role of Azucena in Guiseppe in Verdi’s Il trovatore with The Philadelphia Operatic Society in 1934. She entered the graduate program at The Juilliard School in 1936, where she studied with Anna E. Schoen-René, who had been a student of Pauline Viardot-García and her brother Manuel García. It was at Juilliard that Harshaw, after singing the role of Dido in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeaneas, met Walter Damroasch who prophesied: “My child, one day you will be Brünhilde!” She won the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions on the Air’ in 1942, and made her debut as the second Norn in Richard Wagner’sGötterdämmerung. Gifted with an extended range,
Harshaw sang many mezzo-soprano roles for the next nine seasons before she entered soprano territory in 1951 when she sang the role of Senta in The Flying Dutchman. By 1954 she had inherited the mantel of Kirsten Flagstad and Helen Traubel, and sang all the leading Wagnerian soprano roles, including Isolda, Brünhilde, Elisabeth, Kundry and Sieglinde. Harshaw retired in 1964 from the Metropolitan Opera after singing 375 performances of 38 roles in 25 works over 22 consecutive seasons. She then became a professor of voice at Indiana University in 1962, where she taught until 1993. She also taught at the Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College. Among her many students are Benita Valente, Vinson Cole, Matthew Polenzani, John Reardon, Michael Sylvester, Shirley Love, Nadine Secunde, Kevin Langan, Sally Wolf, Nancy Maultsby, Franz Grundheber and Michael Rocchio.
Anna E. Schoen-René
Known as the ‘Prussian General’ to her students, Anna Schoen-René (1864-1942) was slated to make her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1893 when she contracted tuberculosis onboard ship to New York. Having been trained by Pauline Viardot-García in Paris, she spent three years recovering at her sister’s house in Minneapolis. Now a successful voice-teacher, Schoen-René was sent by Viardot-García to London for a special course in teaching men with Manuel García, her brother. With the García imprimatur, Schoen-René was told by Viardot-García that her students should consider themselves “our musical grandchildren.” Schoen-René became an American citizen in 1906, taught in Berlin until the First World War, and then returned to New York, joining the Juilliard School faculty in 1925.
Her memoir, America’s Musical Inheritance: Memories and Reminiscences, was published in 1941. Among her students were Lucie Manén, Florenzio Constantino, Risé Stevens, Mack Harrell, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Judith Doniger, Lanny Ross, Ludwig Wüllner, Marshall Bartholomew, George Meader, Sonia Essen, Paul Robeson, Thelma Votipka, Lillian Blauvelt, Florence Easton, Karin Branzell, Florence Austral, Charles Kullman, Marie Tiffany, Maria von Maximovitch, Julius Huehn, Eva Gauthier, George Britton and Margaret Harshaw.
Pauline Viardot-García (1821-1910) was the youngest child of the Romantic tenor and vocal pedagogue Manuel García I (1875-1832) who died when she was eleven. Her sister was the legendary mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran, and her brother Manuel García II, the 19th century’s most famous vocal pedagogue. Viardot-García originally wanted to become a concert pianist, and studied with Franz Liszt before turning her attention towards the voice at the insistence of her mother Maria-Joaquína García-Sitchez (1780-1854) who became her teacher. A mezzo- soprano with an extended range like her sister Maria, Viardot-García was renowned for her prodigious vocal technique and dramatic interpretation. She created the role of Fidés in Meyerbeer’s Le prophéte and revived the role of Orpheus in Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice in which she appeared 150 times.
A consummate artist, her wise counsel to other musicians resulted in her being referred to as The Oracle of Paris. Her students included Désire Artot, Jeanne Gerville- Réache, Félia Litvinne, Aglaja Orgéni, Anna E. Schoen-René, Antoinette Sterling, Annie Louise Cary, Ada Adini, Lydia Iretskya, Natalia Iretskaya and Marianne Brandt.
The son of the Manuel García I (1775-1832), Manuel García II (1805-1906) recorded his father’s method in his groundbreaking book A complete treatise on the art of singing (1847), and became world-renowned after being the first person to observe the action of the vocal folds during singing with a primitive laryngoscope. Because his father had studied with Giovanni Ansani (a student of the great 18th century voice teacher Nicola Porpora), García is credited with preserving the precepts of the Old Italian School. He taught at the Paris Conservatoire in Paris, and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His teaching was later condensed in How to Sing (1894). Considered the greatest voice teacher of the 19h century and the father of voice science, García taught his students to sing without making them aware of anatomy and physiology. He lived to be 101. His many students included Mathilde Marchesi, Julius Stockhausen, Henry Wood, Jenny Lind, Marie Tempest, Camille Everardi, Charles Bataille, Christina Nilsson and Charles Santley, Henrietta Nissen, Antoinette Sterling and Catherine Hayes.