Manuel Patricio Garcia

Manuel Patricio Garcia

b. Madrid, 7 March 1805; d. London, 1 July 1906

Manuel Patricio Garcia, son of the tenor Manuel del Pópulo Vicente García, is renowned as one of history's great teachers of singing. His scientific study of the larynx through the use of a laryngoscope led to his formerly being considered the inventor of the instrument, but that claim is now disputed.

He began musical studies with his father in Naples in 1814. He had a few lessons with his father's teacher there, Giovanni Ansani (1744-1826), and also studied theory with the composer Niccolò Zingarelli (1752-1837). In 1820 he studied harmony with François-Joseph Fétis in Paris.

In 1825 he traveled with his family to New York and sang Figaro in the opening-night performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia on 29 November 1825. After briefly travelling to Mexico with his father he returned to Paris in 1828 where he made his debut as Figaro at the Opéra Italien (with his sister, Maria Malibran, in the role of Rosina). The poor critical reception of his performance (Fétis, in the Revue Musicale, commented that "he didn't know which foot to stand on") led him to abandon a professional career on stage.

When his father returned to Paris from Mexico in 1829, Manuel Patricio assisted in his studio and began teaching students of his own. He also continued to sing in performances with his father's students. A brief stint in the military in 1830, with subsequent work in a military hospital, led to his scientific interest in vocal anatomy. After his father died in 1832, Garcia came into his own as maestro di canto and developed, through experience and scientific observation, a groundbreaking method of vocal pedagogy which was presented in his Traité complet de l'Art du Chant, published in Paris in 1840.

In September of 1854 he made his first experiments with the laryngoscope:

I purchased a dentist's mirror. Having heated [it], I placed [it] against the uvula, then flashing upon it with a hand mirror a ray of light from the sun, I saw to my intense delight the larynx exposed... [address to the Royal Society, May 12, 1859]

Probably the most important contribution to vocal pedagogy by Manuel Patricio Garcia was his emphasis on the critical importance of the workings of the glottis (coup de la glotte)—a point of his teaching that has often been misinterpreted and unjustly maligned.

Among his many pupils, most noteworthy were his sister, Pauline Viardot-Garcia, the Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind, Johanna Wagner (niece of Richard Wagner), Mathilde Marchesi, Julius Stockhausen, Henriette Nissen, Charles Bataille, Catherine Hayes, and Antoinette Sterling. His son by his first wife (soprano Eugénie Mayer), Gustavo, had a successful career as a baritone, as did the latter's son, Alberto.

—James Radomski


Traité complet de l'art du chant, Paris, 1840; English translation, enlarged, London, 1894

"Memoire sur la voix humaine," in: Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des sciences, 12 April 1841

"Observations on the Human Voice," in: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 7, 1855, 399-410

Observations physiologiques sur la voix humaine, Paris, 1861

Malcolm Sterling Mackinlay, "Manuel Garcia and His Friends. The Reminiscences of a Centenarian,"  in: The Strand Magazine 29, no. 171, March 1905, 257-67. Mackinlay was the son of Antoinette Sterling and also a student of Garcia.

Malcolm Sterling Mackinlay, Garcia the Centenarian and His Times, Edinburgh and London, 1908. Largely anecdotal, this remains the only book on Manuel Patricio Garcia published to date.

James Radomski, "Letters from Manuel Patricio García to Pauline Viardot-García," in: Inter-American Music Review, 17 (Summer 2007), nos. 1-2, 237-255. Contains thirty-one letters from the 1840s to 1905 in the original French, Spanish and English that Garcia used in communicating with his sister. These provide tremendous insight into Garcia's character and also into the relationship between these two remarkable musicians.

James Radomski, "Manuel Garcia's Pedagogic Advice to Pauline Viardot," in: VoicePrints, November-December 2007, 4-7. Four letters from the above
, offering interesting insights into Garcia's teaching, are presented in English translation; available online at: http:

Teresa Radomski, "Manuel García (1805-1906) – A Bicentenary Reflection,"
in: Australian Voice 11 (December 2005), 25-41. An excellent introduction to the principles of Garcia's pedagogy.

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