[to Franz Buber] Leipzig 17 June 1840

Highly esteemed Sir,

In our recent conversation, I didn’t mean to deny you all qualifications to be a dramatic singer; if my words seemed to say this, it happened against my will, and I believe on the contrary that each and any thing which is taken up seriously and with true zeal can and must be brought to some degree of perfection, unless mechanical or other insurmountable encumbrances are in the way, which, however, I did not notice in your case.

My intention was, however, to contradict those, as you have told me, who counseled you to undertake this career, who claim to have discovered in your voice and your singing a definite talent precisely for an artist’s career, and for the theatrical career, at that. I cannot share this view. I can in no way advise you to become a dramatic singer, and after the auditions which I heard, I believe that you will have to struggle with even more difficulties than others, that your calling will hardly lead to such a goal, and, in sum, that talent for singing, and particularly for dramatic singing, is not sufficiently predominant to advise you to pursue such a career, against which, without such a predominant irresistible calling, only too much can be brought to bear. –Here, too, hard work and zeal can, as I said, always lead to an honorable result, but it always seems better to me to apply these to something in which precisely innate talent is not so extremely decisive. It might also be that I am wrong and that this talent will develop in later years; that is possible, but—after what I have experienced again and again—improbable and I am convinced that on the course you have set for yourself you would experience more difficulties than you now surmise, that you would indeed perhaps form the opinion yourself that I bluntly pronounced to you; I wanted to spare you experiencing this after it is too late, which is one of the saddest things, as much as was in my power, and thus I asked you to consider the step you intended to take carefully, since you still have time. You lack practical experience, which at your age will be difficult to make up, without which you couldn’t assess your talents yourself; at the same time, you now sing in your throat, which would have to vanish completely before you can think about further training, and it often costs years to get rid of this bad habit completely—finally, dramatic singing is and must remain a domain in which only great excellence enjoys the amenities and desirable results, whereas mediocrity, even with the hardest work, must continually struggle with vexations, and when it cannot master them is often vanquished by them and dragged down to their level. Since I am firmly convinced that it is improbably that you would according to your nature arrive at such a degree of excellence, since you still are free to choose and have not yet taken a decisive step, I had not choice to express my frank opinion on your aptitudes, even if it does contradict the earlier more favorable ones. May I have acted in your best interests, may you in no case find anything injurious in it, but only my sincere good will.

With high esteem, your most devoted,

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy