The complicated history of F. Lamperti’s “appoggio” – Part 2

Francesco Lamperti

In the previous post, I discussed the translation of  Articolo XII (of 13 total) from Francesco Lamperti’s Guida Teorico-Pratica-Elementare which was translated in 1877 and 1890 into English as The Art of Singing. The 1890 edition by J. C. Griffith is the one most widely read today. Here we will look at Articles VII and IV. I will show how the 1890 edition contains significant changes to the original, reflecting the evolving, ever more complex concept of appoggio (translated as “support”) in the late 19th century.



Original Italian published in 1864:
Qual’è l’appoggio che devesi dare alla voce onde poter studiare senza stancare la gola?

What is the support which should be given to the voice to be able to study without tiring the throat?

Published in English in 1890 (translated by J. C. Griffith):
What is the appoggio or support which should be given to the voice to enable one to study without fatigue to the throat?

[The published Italian and English versions of the questions are very similar.]


È l’appoggio dei muscoli del petto e dell’aria concentrata nei polmoni.

It is the support of the chest muscles and the concentrated air in the lungs.

1890 Version:
The support afforded to the voice by the muscles of the chest, especially
the diaphragm, acting upon the air contained in the lungs.

[The answers are very different, adding “especially the diaphragm”, and leaving out “concentrated air”.]


Come si ottiene tale appoggio del petto e del fiato?

How is this support of the chest and breath obtained?

1890 Version:
How is this support to be obtained?

[The words “breath” and “chest” are omitted. “Support” is the only noun left in the sentence.]


Tenendosi nella posizione ed alle norme indicate all’articolo 3 ed aprendo bene il fondo della gola colla vocala A la voce sortirà limpida, sonora e bene appoggiata tanto nel piano che nel forte, cosa importantissima da ottenersi, dipendendo da ciò in buona parte l’esito della carriera. Dato il caso che l’allievo non potesse emetere la vocala A, bene appoggiata al petto e gli riescisse troppo aperta, o, como dicesi, nella maschera, oppure nasale, da principio potrà emetterla colla L, pronunciando La, onde facilitare il modo di renderla ppoggiata e sicura.

Holding onesself in the position and with the provisions contained in Article III and opening well the bottom of the throat with the vowel “A” will produce the clear voice, sonorous and well supported as much in piano as in forte, an important thing to be achieved, as on it will depend, to a large part, the success of the career. Given the case in which the student cannot emit the “A” vowel well supported in the chest, and it risks being too open, or, as it is said, in the mask or nasal, in the beginning he could emit it with “L”, pronouncing “La”, so as to facilitate the way of rendering it supported and secure.

1890 Version:
By observing the rules in Article III., with regard to position, and then opening the lower part of the throat with the vowel A. The sound thus produced will be clear and sympathetic; but if the pupil is not able to pronounce the vowel A with a full tone, let him first begin with LA, which will render its emission more easy and secure. This is a most important point for an artist to observe, as on it will depend, in the majority of cases, the success of his future career.

[ “With a full tone” replaces “well supported in the chest, and it risks being too open, or, as it is said, in the mask or nasal”. Note that “in the mask” was considered undesirable!]

It was in the last half of the 19th century that “abdominal” and “diaphragmatic” breathing became popular. It appears that the translator was influenced by this. His failure to include the role of the chest and its muscles in “supporting” the singing voice represents a bias that continues today, with voice teachers continuing to emphasize that the breath is all about the lower body, and that the movement of the chest is not desired. This flies in the face of the Bel Canto writers, who never mentioned “abdominal breathing” and hardly mentioned breathing at all.

“Abdomen”, “abdominal”, and any form of the word “diaphragm” do not appear in F. Lamperti’s Italian text. His son, Giovanni Battista Lamperti, used the terms extensively, and was adamant that the chest NOT be involved in breathing. Perhaps G. Lamperti’s different interpretation of “appoggio” was part of the great schism between father and son.

Can the typical voice teacher of today imagine “support” that is centered in the chest, and ignore the lower torso as F. Lamperti did – indeed, as all those who came before him did? Why did he include a paragraph on the proper formation of the (Italian) A vowel in a section dealing with “support”? What does the vowel and its origins in the body (“opening well the bottom part of the throat”) have to do with “support”?

It seems likely that “appoggio” was a very different thing from what is taught today. From my point of view, I would be inclined to agree with Cornelius Reid that good singing creates its own feeling of support. That is, the singing has to develop first, and then the biofeedback of the feelings of steadiness and security will come. If there is nothing yet to support, then efforts to create support in isolation, as “preparation”, make no sense.

We see the translator bias in ARTICOLO IV as well:



Italian: Cosa s’intende per respirazione?
Translation and Published English version: What is meant by respiration?


S’intende la doppia azione dei polmoni di attrarre l’aria esterna e rimandarla con moto contrario.

It means the dual action of the lungs to draw in the external air and return it with contrary motion.

1890 Version:
It means the double action of the muscles of the thorax in receiving into and expelling air from the lungs.

[Thorax? What happened to the “action of the lungs”? Perhaps the editor could not credit the lungs with any action because the lungs are in the chest; by 1890 the trend was to prioritize “low support” at every opportunity.]

In Article IV Lamperti does not give specific instructions about how a breath is to be taken. His anatomical references are limited to the lungs, which he explains are filled to different degrees depending on the phrase, while the 1890 edition adds that the breath is to be taken “first through the nose”.

It is vexing that the translation of this text has so many inaccuracies. The 1890 English version of The Art of Singing which is now in wide distribution was published two years before F. Lamperti’s death. Perhaps as an elderly man, he was no longer in control of the publication of his work?

Whenever possible, please take the time to look at original sources for yourself. The deeper you go, the more you will learn. The trick is to be open to what is really there, and not revise history.

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