A History of Vocal Pedagogy: Intuition and Science

Joseph Talia, OAM

Beginning in 1564, with the first physiological treatise of Giovanni Camillo Maffei and ending with the remarkable development of solo singing, the Italian dictum 'chi sa respirare e pronunciare sa cantare' (He who knows how to breathe and pronounce knows how to sing) has been transformed by science into the most sophisticated and complete vocal paradigm in vocal history.

In this ground-breaking work, noted tenor, teacher, researcher, and operatic director, Joseph Talia, takes us on an inspiring journey through 450 years of history tracing such important topics as the development of voice production and vocal science, the transition from the sostegno system of breath management to the appoggio system, the debate on vocal registers as a purely a glottal phenomenon, and the importance of vocal elements such as posture, messa di voce, portamento, trills, and many other coloratura techniques and ornaments. All of these are analyzed through the overarching framework of human emotions and impeccable aesthetic appeal, remembering always Tosi's dictum that 'the heart is the greatest of teachers'.

Within these pages you will find a wealth of knowledge accumulated by the great singing masters of the past such as Bernacchi, Porpora, Tosi, Mancini, the Garcías, the Lampertis, and the Marchesis, as well as the tremendous and assiduous work performed by vocal scientists throughout history by such scientists as Janwillem van den Berg, Vennard, Hirano, Fant, Ingo Titze, and Sundberg to name just a few.

"A History of Vocal Pedagogy" is a vital resource for voice teachers, vocal researchers, serious vocal students, and vocal connoisseurs.

About the Author

While studying singing, piano and music theory, Dr. Joseph Talia gained valuable experience and early success competing in vocal Eisteddfods, as well as making appearances on television. He was also awarded a scholarship to the Australian National Opera School in Melbourne. He later studied in Milan with Fernando Bandera, Vladimiro Badiali and Aldo Azzali, was engaged to sing Rodolfo in La Boheme and Alfredo in La Traviata at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome, and performed as a concert artist in Milan, Vercelli, and other Italian cities.

His repertoire consists of over 50 major tenor roles in operas as diverse as Don Giovanni, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Il Tabarro, Cavalleri Rusticana, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Il Corsaro, Faust, Carmen, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Consul, Albert Herring, The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, Student Prince and many others.

Dr. Talia maintains a successful studio in Melbourne where apart from his regular students, he teaches visiting students from New Zealand, Europe, Japan, China and Korea. He is also in demand as an adjudicator of international competitions, such as the Paolo Tosti, in Ortona, the Mattia Battistini International in Rieti, and The Izmir International in Turkey. He has conducted International master classes, in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Belgium and other European centres. He has also collaborated with such luminaries as Rolando Panerai, Gabriella Tucci, Afro Poli, Francisco Ortiz, Carmen Bustamanti, Gabriela Fontana, Salvatore Fisichella, Vincenzo La Scola, Roman Vlad, Gianni Tangucci, Alberto Triola.

Dr. Talia has pursued tertiary studies in business administration with an emphasis on the Arts. His doctoral thesis addressed the issue of cultural hegemony and the economics of the performing arts. Throughout this time he devoted himself to the study of vocal pedagogy via the works of the old masters and whatever vocal science was then available. His special interest has resulted in his current work.

Dr. Talia was artistic director of Melbourne City Opera from 1996 to 2014, and the Globe Opera Company for ten years before that. He has been involved in over 140 opera productions and has directed such masterpieces as La Boheme, Carmen, Andrea Chenier, Tosca and La Rondine.
Dr. Talia has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his dedicated services to opera over a period of four decades.


Combines expertly researched and supported insight into historical vocal pedagogy with an endearing, almost bibliographic tone relating the work of the many well known, and some less well known but equally influential, pedagogues through the last 400 years. A valuable tool in the singers and singing teachers toolkit. — NEWZATS