by Olga Averino

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The book review from OPERA, December 1991, page 1447 is shown below by courtesy of OPERA magazine.
By Johanna Peters

A distinguished colleague said to me recently, ´It´s not often one can recommend a book wholeheartedly.´ He was talking about Olga Averino´s Principles and Art of Singing.

It is not concerned with the pedagogy of singing, but rather with the principles behind the functional aspects and the means by which these functions are transformed into sang sound - and from that, into art, beauty and the ultimate performance.

Olga Averino was Russian, born in 1895. She studied piano from the age of five and finally graduated in piano and singing from the Imperial Conservatoire of Saratov. She joined one of the leading Russian opera companies and toured with them until the revolution, which precipitated her departure along with husband and baby daughter via Siberia to China and finally to the USA.

Miss Averino lived, worked and taught in the States until her death at the age of 93. Among her many distinguished pupils was Phyllis Curtin, now Dean of the School of Arts at Boston University, who contributes a generous tribute to her old teacher.

Miss Averino discusses how singing is unlike the process of making music on other instruments. It represents a co-ordinated functioning of several componenents, but is different from other instruments in that there is no visible external instrument. It is impossible to demonstrate what is essential or extraneous to the functioning of the vocal instrument, and there are no keys to press in order to achieve pitch. There are several obvious components: breath, sound and speech, and most crucially the energy input involved in taking breath. Then what? It´s a very long way from that to Joan Sutherland and Placido Domingo. This is where the author becomes interesting and stimulating.

The problem for any singer is that all his or her life, he or she will have used all the elements involved in singing, but in an unconscious way. The issue is the conscious mastery of all these elements. We call that technique. And technique is here in order to liberate the imagination. When that happens the singer has lift-off, and at that point and not before, performance and communication are achievable.

Miss Averino´s is a fresh, interesting way of looking at singing and life, and her book has an inspirational quality which makes it a thought-provoking and very enjoyable.

The last words of the book are the summation: ´Singing is an expression of life, and if you have no time for your life, how can you sing? Quality always needs time, not only in music but also in life itself.´

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