soprano

Voice Type (ranges)
Female voices
Soprano
Mezzo-soprano
Alto or Contralto
Male voices
Sopranist
Countertenor (Alto or Mezzo)
Tenor
Baritone
Bass-baritone
Bass
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This article is about the singing voice part. For other uses, see Soprano (disambiguation).

A soprano is a singer with a voice range from approximately middle C (C4) to "high A" (A5) in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) or higher in operatic music. In four part chorale style harmony the soprano takes the highest part which usually encompasses the melody.

Male singers whose voices have not yet changed are known either as "boy sopranos" or in church traditions as trebles, whilst adult male sopranos are known as countertenors or sopranists.

Historically women were not allowed to sing in the Church so the soprano roles were given to young boys and later to castrati - men whose larynxes had been fixed in a pre-adolescent state through the process of castration.

More generally a soprano is a relatively high pitched member of a group of similar instruments.

Types of soprano and soprano roles in opera

In opera, the tessitura, vocal weight, and timbre of soprano voices, and the roles they sing, are commonly categorized into voice types, often called fächer (sg. fach, from German Fach or Stimmfach, "vocal category").

A note on vocal range vs. tessitura: Choral and pop singers are classified into voice parts based on range; solo classical singers are classified into voice types based in part on tessitura – where the voice has the best timbre and easy volume. For instance a soprano and a mezzo-soprano may have the same range, but their tessituras will lie in different parts of that range.

The low extreme for sopranos is roughly B3 or A3 (just below middle C). Often low notes in higher voices project less, lack timbre, and tend to "count less" in roles (although some Verdi, Strauss and Wagner roles call for stronger singing below the staff). Rarely is a soprano simply unable to hit a low note.

The high extreme: at a minimum, non-coloratura sopranos have to reach "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C), and many roles in the standard repertoire call for D6 or D-flat6. A couple of roles have optional E-flat6’s, as well. In the coloratura repertoire several roles call for E-flat6, and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute has several staccato F6’s, though few singers will have this role in their repertoire. While not necessarily within the tessitura, a good soprano will be able to sing her top notes full-throated, with timbre and dynamic control.

Following are the operatic soprano classifications, with their standard repertory roles:

Coloratura soprano

  • Lyric coloratura soprano - A very agile light voice with a high upper extension, capable of fast vocal coloratura. Bel canto roles were typically written for this voice, and a wide variety of other composers have also written coloratura parts. Baroque music, early music and baroque opera also have many roles for this voice.
Singers include Natalie Dessay, Ruth Ann Swenson, Kristin Chenoweth, and Beverly Sills.
  • Dramatic coloratura soprano - A coloratura soprano with great flexibility in high-lying velocity passages, yet with great sustaining power. Various dramatic coloratura roles have different vocal demands for the singer - for instance, the voice that can sing Abigail (Nabucco, Verdi) is unlikely to also sing Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti), but a factor in common is that the voice must be able to convey dramatic intensity as well as flexibility. Roles written specifically for this kind of voice include the more dramatic Mozart and bel canto female roles and early Verdi.
Examples of dramatic coloraturas include Edita Gruberova, Luba Orgonasova, Diana Damrau, Joan Sutherland and June Anderson. Some will also include the phenomenal Maria Callas in this category, but Callas was more a spinto with an unusual facility for coloratura and bel canto, and her voice should be considered as anomalous in its own right.
* Abigaille, Nabucco (Verdi)
* Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Mozart)
* Elettra, Idomeneo (Mozart)
* Fiordiligi, Così fan tutte (Mozart)
* Konstanze, The Abduction from the Seraglio (Mozart)
* Leonora, Il trovatore (Verdi)
* Norma, Norma (Bellini)
* The Queen of the Night, The Magic Flute (Mozart)
* Violetta, La traviata (Verdi)
It should also be noted that several of the above roles are also the province of lyric coloraturas, and that some dramatic coloraturas move easily between the lyric coloratura, the pure lyric soprano, the soubrette and the dramatic coloratura, although rarely into lirico spinto territory.

Soubrette

A light voice with a bright, sweet timbre and a tessitura in the mid-range. In opera, this voice often plays comedic, saucy, but likable characters, and some soubrettes can also sing lyric coloratura roles such as Gilda or Norina. In addition, baroque music, early music and baroque opera, as well as many art songs, all call for this kind of beautiful, light voice. Soubrette roles in turn may be performed by light lyric and lyric coloratura voices, and sometimes by mezzo-sopranos as well.
Singers include Elisabeth Schumann, Kathleen Battle, and Dawn Upshaw.

Lyric soprano

A warm voice with a bright, full timbre which can be heard over an orchestra. It generally has a higher tessitura than a soubrette and usually plays ingenues and other sympathetic characters in opera. There is a tendency to divide lyric sopranos into two groups:
  • Light Lyric soprano - Light lyrics often have a “full package” of musicianship, appearance and stagecraft. This voice needs to be careful in its repertory choices, because smaller houses may offer them meatier (especially spinto) roles if they have good stage presence. Then as they become successful, if they take these heavier roles into larger houses they will damage their voices. There are a wide variety of roles written for this voice, and they may sing soubrette, baroque and other light roles as well.
Singers include Lucrezia Bori, Anna Netrebko, Barbara Bonney and Ileana Cotrubaş.
* Euridice, Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck)
* Gretel, Hänsel und Gretel (Humperdinck)
* Manon, Manon (Massenet)
* Marzelline, Fidelio (Beethoven)
* Pamina, Die Zauberflote (Mozart)
* Sophie, Der Rosenkavalier (Richard Strauss)
  • Full Lyric soprano - Some full lyrics may have a more mature sound than light lyrics, making them less suitable for some of the lighter roles. Occasionally a full lyric will have a big enough voice that she can take on much heavier roles, using volume in place of vocal weight. This is done when a more lyric timbre is desired in an otherwise heavier role. Otherwise full lyric sopranos need be judicious with spinto and other heavy roles to prevent vocal deterioration.
Singers include Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Ángeles, Lisa della Casa, Anna Moffo, Mirella Freni, Teresa Stratas, Kiri Te Kanawa, Angela Gheorghiu, Eleanor Steber, Montserrat Caballé and Renee Fleming.
* Antonia, The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)
* Juliette, Roméo et Juliette (Gounod)
* La Countessa, The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)
* Liù, Turandot (Puccini)
* Magda, La Rondine (Puccini)
* Marguerite, Faust (Gounod)
* Mimì, La bohème (Puccini)
* Micaëla, Carmen (Bizet)
* Nedda, Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) also Spinto Soprano
* Rusalka, Rusalka (Dvořák)
* Tatyana, Yevgeny Onegin (Tchaikovsky)

Spinto soprano

Also lirico-spinto, Italian for "pushed lyric". It has the brightness and height of a lyric soprano, but can be "pushed" to dramatic climaxes without strain, and may have a somewhat darker timbre. It generally uses squillo to "slice" through a full orchestra (rather than singing over it like a dramatic soprano). It also handles dynamic changes very well. The spinto repertoire includes many Verdi, verismo and Puccini roles, some of which are very popular in opera. The fact that spinto sopranos are uncommon means that these popular roles are often performed by singers from other classifications, and more than a few lyric sopranos have damaged their voices singing spinto roles.
Singers include Zinka Milanov, Leontyne Price and Aprile Millo
* Adriana, Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)
* Aïda, Aïda (Verdi)
* Alice Ford, Falstaff (Verdi)
* Butterfly, Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
* Desdemona, Otello (Verdi)
* Elisabetta, Don Carlos (Verdi)
* Leonora, La forza del destino (Verdi)
* Lisa, The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky)
* Maddalena, Andrea Chénier (Giordano)
* Manon, Manon Lescaut (Puccini)
* Margherita, Mefistofele (Boito)
* Maria/Amelia, Simon Boccanegra (Verdi)
* The Marschallin, Der Rosenkavalier (Richard Strauss)
* Rusalka, Rusalka (Dvořák)
* Tatiana, Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)

Dramatic soprano

A powerful, rich, emotive voice that can sing over a full orchestra. Thicker vocal folds in dramatic voices usually mean less agility than lighter voices but a sustained fuller sound. Usually (but not always) this voice has a lower tessitura than other sopranos, and a darker timbre. Used for heroic, tragic women of opera.
Singers include,Ghena Dimitrova, Jessye Norman, Karita Mattila and Deborah Voigt.
* Cassandre, Les Troyens (Berlioz)
* Chrysothemis, Elektra (Richard Strauss)
* Elisabeth, Tannhäuser (Wagner)
* Elsa, Lohengrin (Wagner)
* Eva, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner)
* Gioconda, La Gioconda (Ponchielli)
* Leonore/Fidelio, Fidelio (Beethoven)
* Sieglinde, Die Walküre (Wagner)
* Floria Tosca, Tosca (Puccini)
* Turandot, Turandot (Puccini)
  • Wagnerian soprano - A dramatic voice that can assert itself over a large orchestra (over eighty pieces); substantial, very powerful and even throughout the registers. Usually plays a mythic heroine. Successful Wagnerian sopranos are rare, only one or two appear in a generation; most knowledgable people agree that there are no true Wagnerians singing today.
Singers include Kirsten Flagstad, Astrid Varnay and Birgit Nilsson.

Other soprano types

Two types of soprano especially dear to the French are the Dugazon and the Falcon, which are intermediate voice types between the soprano and the mezzo soprano: a Dugazon is a darker-colored soubrette, a Falcon a darker-colored soprano drammatico.

Soprano roles in operettas



The Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas also have prominent soprano roles.

Soprano roles in musicals

Contemporary and crossover sopranos

See also

External links

Voice type (equivalent to the German Fach and similar Italian and French categorizations) is a system for categorizing classical and operatic solo singers, and the roles they sing, by the tessitura, weight and timbre of their unamplified voices in an opera house or
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Human voices may be classified according to their vocal range — the highest and lowest pitches that they can produce.

Vocal range defined

The broadest definition of vocal range, given above, is simply the span from the highest to the lowest note a particular voice
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A mezzo-soprano (meaning "medium" or "middle" "soprano" in Italian) is a female singer whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e.
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alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor.
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alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor.
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A sopranist (or sopranista) is a male classical singer with a voice-type and register equivalent to that of a female soprano.

The Sopranist Voice

A sopranist
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A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular artists have
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alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor.
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Mezzo is:
  • mezzo , the Italian word for "half", "middle" or "medium".
  • The beginning of various Italian musical terms, e.g. Mezzo-soprano.
  • The Mezzo TV cable channel in France.

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tenor is a singer with a voice range from approximately C3 (one octave below middle C) to A4 (above middle C) in choral music, or up to "tenor C" (C5, one octave above middle C) or higher in operatic music (see voice type).
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Baritone (French: baryton; German: Bariton; Italian: baritono) is most commonly the type of male voice that lies between bass and tenor.
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A bass-baritone is a singing voice that shares certain qualities of both the baritone and the bass. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: Dutchman (in Der fliegende Holländer), Wotan (in the Ring
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A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the deepest vocal range of the human voice. According to Grove Music Online, a bass has a range extending from around the F below low C to the E above middle C (i.e., F2–E4).
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Soprano may refer to:
  • Soprano, the voice part
  • High pitched musical instruments:
*Soprano clarinet
*Soprano saxophone
  • The Sopranos, the TV show

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A singer is a musician who uses their voice to produce music. Often the singer is accompanied by musicians and instruments. While many people sing for pleasure, vocal skill is usually a combination of innate talent and professional training.
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Do or C is the first note of the fixed-Do solfege.

In Western music, the expression "middle C" refers to the note "C" (or "Do" in fixed-Do solfege) located exactly between the two staves of the grand staff, quoted as C4 in scientific pitch
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A choir, chorale, or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers.

A body of singers who perform together is called a choir or chorus. The former term is very often applied to groups affiliated with a church (whether or not they actually occupy the quire) and the
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Perfect octave
Inverse unison
Name
Other names -
Abbreviation P8
Size
Semitones 12
Interval class 0
Just interval 2:1
Cents
Equal temperament 1200
Just intonation 1200 In music, an octave
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Opera is a form of musical and dramatic work in which singers convey the drama.[1] Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition.[2] An opera performance incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and
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chorale was originally a hymn of the Lutheran church sung by the entire congregation. In casual modern usage, the term also includes classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character.
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melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a series of linear events or a succession, not a simultaneity as in a chord (see harmony). However, this succession must contain change of some kind and be perceived as a single entity (possibly Gestalt) to be called a
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Treble (or Boy Soprano in colloquial English) is a term applied in music to a young male singer with an unchanged voice in the soprano range. Occasionally boys whose voices have changed can continue to sing in the soprano range for a period of time.
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Treble (or Boy Soprano in colloquial English) is a term applied in music to a young male singer with an unchanged voice in the soprano range. Occasionally boys whose voices have changed can continue to sing in the soprano range for a period of time.
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A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular artists have
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A sopranist (or sopranista) is a male classical singer with a voice-type and register equivalent to that of a female soprano.

The Sopranist Voice

A sopranist
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Common vocal ranges represented
on a musical keyboard


A castrato is a male soprano, mezzo-soprano, or alto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.
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Castration (also referred as: gelding, neutering, orchiectomy, orchidectomy, and oophorectomy) is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testes or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.
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Opera is a form of musical and dramatic work in which singers convey the drama.[1] Opera is part of the Western classical music tradition.[2] An opera performance incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery and costumes and
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In music, the term tessitura (Italian: texture) generally describes the most musically acceptable and comfortable timbre for a given voice or, less frequently, musical instrument.
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Vocal weight refers to the perceived "lightness" or "heaviness" of a singing voice. Voices can either be lyric (light) or dramatic (heavy). Vocal weight can also effect overall vocal agility; heavier voices often have more difficulty maneuvering through florid coloratura passages
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