There was a piano in the middle of the main room. Apparently this is where we shall be having our singing class in future. Tortsov came in with a singing teacher we know well, Anastasia Zarembo.

We’ve been working with her since the begin ning of the academic year. Tortsov said: ‘When they asked the great Italian actor Tommaso Salvini what you

needed to be a tragic actor he replied: “Voice, voice and still more voice!” For the moment I can’t explain and you can’t quite grasp the profound, prac tical sense of that great actor’s response. You can only under stand (that is, feel) the true meaning of these words through prac tice and long personal exper i ence. Once you realize the possib il it ies a well-placed, natur ally function ing voice opens up for you, the full import of Tommaso Salvini’s sentence will be clear. ‘ “To be on voice!” – what a bless ing for a singer and for a straight actor

too! To feel that you can control it, that it obeys you, that it can convey the minutest details, modu la tions, nuances in your acting with reson ance and strength! . . . “Not to be on voice!” – what torture that is for the singer and for the straight actor, when it doesn’t obey you, when it doesn’t reach a house full of people waiting to hear you! When you can’t

reveal what your mind is creat ing clearly, deeply, and invis ibly. Only an actor can know what agony this is. Only he can compare what has come to be deeply inside with what appears outside, and how it is conveyed by his voice, his words. If his voice is out of tune, he feels shame because the exper i ence he created within has been distor ted by the outward form he has given it. ‘There are actors for whom not being on voice is normal. And so they are

hoarse, speak ing in sounds which destroy what they are trying to convey. And yet there is beau ti ful music in their souls. ‘Imagine a mute who wants to convey the tender, poetic feel ings he has

for the woman he loves. But he has a hideous squeak instead of a voice. This warps the beau ti ful, the exquis ite things he feels and that drives him to despair. The same thing happens to the actor who can really feel but whose voice is poor. ‘Often actors have good natural voices, with a fine timbre and flex ib il ity

of expres sion but no strength. They don’t get beyond the fifth row. The first row can just about enjoy the attract ive timbre of the sounds they make, their express ive diction and beau ti fully trained speech. But what about the people sitting further back? There are a thou sand people in the audi ence who will inev it ably be bored. They cough so that other people can’t listen and the actors can’t speak. ‘And they have to push their beau ti ful voices and this pushing not

only ruins their voice produc tion and diction but their inner exper i ences as well. ‘There are also voices which are quite audible in the top or bottom

register but which have no middle. Some force their voices up so that they become strained and tight and squeak. Others drone and creak in the bass. Pushing ruins the timbre and you can’t be express ive with a range of five notes. ‘It is equally distress ing to see an actor who is good in all respects –

strong, flex ible, express ive voice produc tion, with a good range – a voice like that can convey all the subtleties and nuances of your inner picture – but here’s the rub: the timbre of the voice is unpleas ing and lacking all charm. What’s the use of strength, flex ib il ity and express ive ness if the heart and ear reject them? ‘Sometimes these vocal defi cien cies can’t be correc ted because of some

innate pecu li ar ity or damage due to illness. But mostly they can be removed by cent ring the voice correctly and elim in at ing tight ness and tension,

pushing, faulty breath ing and artic u la tion of the lips or, finally – in the case of illness – by treat ment. ‘And so it is essen tial to keep a careful check on our breath ing and our

vocal appar atus. ‘When should we start work? Now, in our student days, or later when we

are already actors and have a perform ance every evening and rehears als during the day? ‘Actors must go onstage fully equipped, but the voice is the most

import ant part of their creat ive ways and means. Besides, when you are profes sion als, a false sense of pride prevents you learn ing your ABC like a student. So make the best use of your youth and student days. If you don’t do the work now, you won’t tackle it later and you’ll suffer through out your whole creat ive career from this fault from your student days. Your voice will be a hindrance and not a help. ‘ “Mein Organ ist mein Kapital!”2 the well-known German actor Ernst

Possart said. He was a guest at lunch, and was dipping a pocket ther mo meter in the soup, the wine and other drinks. In his concern to protect his voice he kept a careful watch on the temper at ure of the things he ate. That was the extent to which he cared for one of the finest gifts of creat ive nature – a beau ti ful, reson ant, express ive, strong voice.’