Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Garcia, Manuel

1522857Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 2 — Garcia, Manuel1912Frederick Corder

GARCIA, MANUEL [PATRICIO RODRIGUEZ] (1805–1906), singer and teacher of singing, born at Zafra in Catalonia on 17 March 1805, belonged to a family of Spanish musicians. His father, Manuel del Popolo Vicente Garcia (1775–1832), made a reputation as singer, impresario, composer and teacher of singing. His mother, Joaquina Sitchès, was an accomplished actress. Manuel was the only son. Both his sisters, Maria Felicita (Madame Mahbran) (1808–36) and Michelle Ferdinande Pauline (Madame Viardot-Garcia) (1821–1910), achieved the highest eminence as operatic singers. All three children were educated by their parents. At fifteen Manuel was studying harmony with Fetis in Paris and singing in opera with his father at Madrid. In 1825 the family migrated to America, and at New York the father founded an opera house. After eighteen months of brilliant success the company toured to Mexico, where they were robbed of their earnings—some 6000l., it is said, in gold. They then returned to Paris, where the father pursued his career, but young Manuel, having no taste for the stage, became a teacher. In 1830 he temporarily interrupted his musical work to accept an 'appointment in the commissariat of the French army at Algiers, and on his return studied medicine in the military hospitals of Paris (art. in Musical Times, April 1905). In 1840 he presented to the French Institut his 'Mémoire sur la voix humaine,' which was accepted as the best authority on the subject. Appointed to a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire, he attracted many distinguished pupils, including Jenny Lind, whom he instructed in Paris from 26 Aug. 1841 to July 1842 (cf. Holland and Rockstro's Jenny Lind Goldschmidt, 1891, i. 109 seq.). In 1847 he published his world-famous 'Traité complet de l'art du chant,' of which a simplified abstract appeared as 'Hints on Singing' in 1894. In both the literary and artistic society of Paris Garcia filled a prominent place. Early in 1848 he resigned his position at the Conservatoire, and came to London in June. On 10 Nov. he was appointed a professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music. He had long closely studied the physiology of the voice, and in 1854, for the purpose of examining his own larynx and that of some of his pupils, he invented the instrument since known as the laryngoscope. On 24 May 1855 he communicated to the Royal Society, through Dr. William Sharpey [q. v.], a paper called 'Observations on the Human Voice.' There he explained his invention, which proved of enormous value in the diagnosis of disease and in surgery (Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. 7, p. 399). After undergoing some improvement in 1857 by Johann Czermak of Pesth (1828–1873), the laryngoscope came into universal use as a medical and surgical appliance. Garcia held his professorship at the Royal Academy of Music for forty-seven years, only retiring in September 1895, at the age of ninety. But his bodily and mental activity seemed even then unimpaired, and he continued to teach privately and to maintain an interest in musical affairs until his death at Mon Abri, his house at Cricklewood, on 1 July 1906, at the age of 101 years and four months. He was buried in the private Roman catholic burying-ground of St. Edward's, Sutton Place, near Woking. On 17 March 1905, his hundredth birthday, he was received at Buckingham Palace by King Edward VII, who made him a C.V.O.; the German Emperor William II conferred on him the gold medal for science; the King of Spain admitted him to the order of Alphonso XII; the King of Sweden created him chevalier de l'ordre de mérite; a banquet which was attended by many distinguished persons was held in his honour; and his portrait, painted by John S. Sargent, R.A., was presented to him.

For more than half a century Garcia held, by general consent, the position of premier singing-teacher in the world. In person he was, from youth to old age, extremely handsome, with all his father's fiery and impetuous disposition. His chief recreation was chess. Mr. C. E. Hallé owns a sketch by Richard Doyle of Garcia and his friend, Sir Charles Hallé, at a game, which is reproduced in MacKinlay's 'Life,' p. 222. There is also a crayon sketch of Garcia, made by his sister Pauline soon after the invention of the laryngoscope. A portrait by Rudolf Lehmann was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869. Sargent's portrait Garcia left to the Laryngological Society.

Garcia married at Paris on 22 Nov. 1832 Cécile Eugenie Mayer (b. 8 April 1814; d. 18 Aug. 1880), by whom he had two sons — Manuel (1836–1885) and Gustav, a well-known singing teacher (b. 1837) — and two daughters — Maria (1842–1867) and Eugenie (b. 1844).

[M. Sterling MacKinlay, Garcia the Centenarian and his times, 1908; A. G. Tapia, Manuel García; su influencia en la laringología y en el arte del canto, Madrid, 1905; Grove's Dict. of Music; Mus. Times, April 1905 (with reproduction of Sargent's portrait); personal knowledge; private information.]

F. C.