Among all voices one must always choose... the chest voices, and particularly those which have the above-mentioned delightful biting quality which pierces a little but does not offend; and one must leave aside the dull voices and those which are simply head voices, because the dull ones cannot be heard among the others, and the head ones are overbearing.
Un diligente Istruttore sapendo, che un soprano senza falsetto bisogna che canti fra l’angustia di poche corde non solamente procura di acquistarglilo, ma non lascia modo intentato acciò lo unisca alla voce di petto in forma che non si distingua l’uno dall’altra, che se l’unione non è perfetta, la voce sarà di più registri e conseguentemente perderà la sua bellezza [...] Se tutti quegli che insegnano i princìpi sapessero prevalersi di questa regola, e far unire il falsetto alla voce di petto de’ loro Allievi, non vi sarebbe in oggi tanta scarsezza di soprani. [...] quanto più le note son’ alte, tanto più bisogna toccarle con dolcezza, per evitare gli strilli [...] Nelle femmine che cantano il soprano sentesi qualche volta una voce tutta di petto, ne’ maschi sarebbe però una rarità, se la conservassero, passata che abbiano l’età puerile.
(A diligent instructor, being aware that a soprano without a falsetto voice has to sing within the narrow range of a few notes, not only seeks to provide him (soprano is masculin in Italian. Can be translated as her--JRL/Kashu-do) with one but tries by every means possible to unite it with the chest voice in such a way that there is no contrast between the one and the other, since if the union is not perfect the voice will have more than one register and will consequently lose its beauty21 [...] If every teacher of the basic elements took up this precept, and united the pupil‘s falsetto with the chest voice, there would not be such a scarcity of sopranos today. [...] the higher the notes are, the greater the need to sound them gently, so as to avoid shrieking22 [...] ... Among females who sing soprano one sometimes hears a chest voice over the entire range, but among males it would be unusual if they were to keep it once the boyhood years were past23).
What I gather from these articles and many others I have read lately about the bel canto period support Signore Finelli's principle that the chest voice is the foundation that must be used in balance as the range is ascended. The sensation of substance associated with the chest/speaking voice is the sensation that should be built upon. The participation of the head/falsetto register should not take a way that substance. The sensation of a "lean" voice is derived from adequate chest voice component combined with the brilliant, biting closure mechanism that prevents one from going too far into the chest. These are balancing components of each other that yield both a sensation of dark substance and of bright leanness simultaneously. It goes without saying that in such an efficient system, the movement of the breath, continually compressed is the "oil for the machine". Yet, proper breathing technique is impossible to sense without applying it to the functioning glottis. Support and phonation go hand in hand.
Many make the error of letting go of the chest voice to access an unopposed cricothyroid activity. Although this leads to easy high notes, these notes lack the substance necessary for a viable operatic sound. It is true that the cricothyroid dominates from the middle of the voice around C4 for men and C5 for women, but it does not suddenly become unopposed. It is a proper balance of these muscles that lead to a complimentary closure mechanism that yields balance.
A one-sided approach to the voice is much easier to accomplish. Sing in chest voice at the bottom and head on top is different than singing in a chest-dominant sound in the bottom and a head-dominant sound in the top. Adding the word dominant signifies that the dominant voice is opposed by another part. In a world in which vocal terminology is tossed about often without understanding, it is crucial that we attempt to use language that at least reflects the actual anatomical process.
When we approach singing first as a physical discipline and later as an art form, the singer becomes conscious that s/he is able to do things that were not possible before, rather than focus on what is currently undoable. Confidence is developed in this way even before the singer ever sees the stage. Still, the Lulus of the world exist, and unfortunately I do not know whether she exorcised her ghosts and became the great singer she could have become. In the end it depends on the singer's character and dedication to excellence. We all have self-esteem issues. The question is whether such issues dominate us or we them, and athough I believe profoundly in each person's capacity to overcome obstacles, I would lying if I said I knew that everyone will overcome them.
"Se voce fosse l'unica cosa che ci vuole, tutta Italia canterebbe alla Scala di Milano. Voce ne abbiamo tutti. Bisogna solo svilupparla e per questo ci vuole pazienza. Tutto il resto ce l'hai già!" (If voice was the only thing necessary, all of Italy would sing at La Scala. We all have voice. It is only necessary to develop it and for that one needs patience. The rest you already have!"
I wanted to be a teacher like her, with a great voice that can do what she teaches. I am getting close, I can feel it. And since I "will be singing into my nineties" I have some time to make good on that goal. I always weigh my new scientific finds against what I learned from her. Science and tradition complement each other. I am eternally grateful for the time, albeit short, that I spent with her. So much wisdom in so little time. If I understand her well, I bet she has set up shop in some corner of Heaven teaching the Angelic Choirs a thing or two. So I will not say only Requiescat In Pacem but rather what she always said when she wanted more intensity and focus in the sound: "Chiagne, chiagne!" (Cry, cry!)