The Way to Study Singing with Profit. A Few Words of Advice.
Emilio Belari a.k.a. Yela de la Torre of Spain who taught New York City’s wealthiest and privileged to sing
Rare, 1880s pamphlet guide to operatic or musical concert singing for Americans prepared by Yela de la Torre a.k.a. Emilio Belari (?–1907), “Professor of Singing and Perfecting the Voice.”
Yela de la Torre is an interesting figure who entered into the world of New York City’s wealthiest and privileged for his golden throat. At his zenith, he was a teacher of voice culture to the likes of the Huntington, Carnegie and Hillhouse families.
Born in Spain, Belari is described as being “ex-first tenor of the Theatre Italien of Paris and the Theatre Royal of Madrid.” A brief career in journalism yielded a friendship with Spanish Statesman Praxedes Mateo Sagasta. This led to medical school and then to a career in Italian opera. For reasons unknown (or perhaps not verified) de la Torre was decorated with the prestigious Cross of Malta and also with the Order of Isabella and Ferdinand.
The stage name of Emilio Belari was assumed and de la Torre brought the name with him when he emigrated to America. New York City must have seemed as the likely place to advertise as a master of voice culture. Judging by the above-mentioned clients Belari was likely successful in his teachings.
In 12 concise chapters, de la Torre explains the reason for publishing The Way to Study Singing with Profit. A Few Words of Advice and outlines key principles for voice training:
The prevailing opinion among artists visiting the United States is, that America is a country where singing is universal, but where the execution is most faulty and inartistic. Without offending it can be said that to the present time, America has not been favored by art, but the ambition to shine in a lyrical sphere has developed itself, and progress in the vocal art will advance rapidly when patriotism sides with the fine arts, and States, Municipalities or individuals open the way to establish free schools or conservatoires of singing, in charge of professors capable of forming good Singers. A lack of these schools, and the distance between America and foreign musical countries, explains the backwardness in this art, and compels Americans who do not possess a fortune, to forego serious study of an art for which nature has given them all the necessary qualities. ... Beautiful voices abound in America, and I have found some of the best order among people in the highest society, but the emission was frightfully guttural, thus marring the beauty conferred by nature. I am told that this is the fault of the English language, but I can affirm that it is the fault of bad teaching, for among the one hundred and eight American pupils that I taught in Paris, not one sings throaty. (pp5–7)
Belari advocates for daily voice practice and lessons, the French system of musical pitch, selecting the vocal repertoire most suited to the individual singer, and the idea of learning and perfecting one musical piece at a time. He also proposes selecting a musical professor who knows “...how to sing, as well as to possess the knowledge of acoustics and physiology, as they pertain to the vocal art,” (p30) not simply one who sings well or is a good musician.
In his preface, Belari makes reference to “other works [by him] now being prepared, and which I hope will contribute towards improving the system of vocal teaching.” This pamphlet precedes Belari’s 1883 publication, The Secrets of the Voice in Singing Explained According to the Laws of Acoustics and Physiology.
A section of the pamphlet toward the rear is dedicated to testimonials of Belari’s skills and character, this one being typical:
Paris Continental Gazette. Signor Belari, the Spanish tenor and professor of singing, has accepted an engagement for a concert tour in the United States during the coming season. As the gentleman is the possessor of a singularly fine and well-cultivated tenor voice, and sings Spanish songs with remarkable dash and brio, he will doubtless prove a strong card for his impresario. Unlike many of the professional singers who visit the United States, he is a gentleman both by birth and breeding, being accomplished, refined, and courteous. He is a nephew of the Duke of Rianzares, the second husband of the late Queen Christina of Spain, and by long noble descent he is entitled to decorate his button-hole with the black ribbon of the Order of Malta, which no one is entitled to wear who cannot show a long and unbroken aristocratic pedigree. His real name is Yela de la Torre, that of Belari being solely his nom de theatre. His gentleness and courtesy, united to his talent as a teacher, have made him a great favorite with his American pupils, and he will find hosts of friends awaiting him in the United States. Indeed we question much if he will ever return.(p41).
Unfortunately, Belari committed suicide on New York City, jumping out of his window. The New York Times describes the aftermath: “Resting in a cloth-covered coffin in an undertaking shop in Broadway, near Seventy-ninth Street, the body of Emilio Belari was viewed last night by scores of persons who had known him in life as a teacher of vocal music.”
Description: The Way to Study Singing with Profit. A Few Words of Advice.
[United States, c. 1881]. 52pp. Pamphlet. 6½ x 4¾ inches. Printed pink wrappers; stitched. Vertical center crease; very good.
Not in OCLC. Only three unique copies of two other titles by Belari surface in OCLC at Newberry, Trinity, Mcgill. This title predates those. Ref. New York Times May 19, 1907.