Bel Canto Bookshelf: The Blog

The Garcia Family, Part 4: Manuel Garcia II

Previously I have surveyed the books available about the other members of the Garcia family: the father Manuel (I), and his daughters Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot. Unlike his sisters, Manuel Garcia II gained fame not for singing but as a voice teacher and especially for being the first to detail the mechanism of the singing voice. Unfortunately, the biographical sources for Garcia are sparse. The New Grove article is surprisingly short, and the two book-length biographies, one in English and one in Spanish, are well over one hundred years old. 

Manuel Garcia II was born in Madrid in 1805. He studied singing with his father and harmony with Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli in Naples in 1814 and later with François Joseph Fétis in Paris. He traveled with his family to North America where they presented Italian opera in New York in 1825. He abandoned pursuing an operatic career after an unsuccessful debut in Paris as Figaro (7 October 1828). He did however continue singing in amateur and student performances after that. 

After a few months of military service in 1830, he worked in military hospitals in France where he began studying the physiological aspects of the voice. He published Mémoire sur la voix humaine in 1841 which was the foundations of his subsequent work in the field of vocal pedagogy. In 1855 he invested the laryngoscope. He published his Traité complet de l’art du chant (1840-47) which BCBC is currently reading. He was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire from 1847-1850 and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1848 to 1895. His students included Jenny Lind, Hermann Nissen, Erminia Frezzolini, Julius Stockhausen, Mathilde Marchesi, Charles Bataille and Charles Santley. He died in 1906. 

Of the two biographies, only the English one can be found online:

M. Sterling Mackinlay. Garcia the Centenarian and his Times (Edinburgh, 1908)

The Spanish language biography is available in several libraries:

A.G. Tapia. Manuel Garcia, su influencia en la laringologia y en el arte del canto (Madrid, 1905)

I hope everyone will join us as we discuss Garcia’s main treatise. We are focusing on Part 2 which is an excellent guide to bel canto performance practice. If you sing any repertoire from the 18th or 19th centuries, you will find much practical information in this book. Please join us on Zoom on Sunday!