100 untimed books: breathing

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32. breathing

This is perhaps my favourite library discard of all time. In my teens I didn’t quite read it cover to cover (the last section is a catalogue of pretty much every opera ever written, and even I wasn’t quite that obsessed) but I spent many hours with it. It’s irreverent, gossipy, informative, and very funny.

Without a good supply of breath there can, of course, be no singing at all. As an example of the sort of supply that can be developed, there is the famous story by an eyewitness of the bass Lablache (1794-1858). At dinner one day he “sang a long note from piano to forte and back to piano; then drank a glass of wine without having breathed; then sang a chromatic scale up the octave in trills, still in the same breath; and finally blew out a candle with his mouth open.” Needless to say, few singers today can emulate the feat.

100 untimed books

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