voice type

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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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 concert hall.

This classification system is a tool for singers, composers, venues, and listeners to categorize vocal properties, and to associate possible roles with potential voices. There have been times when this system has been used too rigidly, i.e. a house assigning a singer to a specific type, and only casting him or her in roles they consider belonging to this category.

A singer will ultimately choose a repertoire that suits their instrument. Some singers such as Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas or Plácido Domingo have voices which allow them to sing roles from a wide variety of types; some singers such as Shirley Verrett or Grace Bumbry change type, and even voice part over their careers; and some singers such as Leonie Rysanek have voices which lower with age, causing them to cycle through types over their careers. Some roles as well are hard to classify, having very unusual vocal requirements; Mozart wrote many of his roles for specific singers who often had remarkable voices, and some of Verdi’s early works make extreme demands on his singers.

A note on vocal range vs. tessitura: Choral singers are classified into voice parts based on range; solo singers are classified into voice types based in part on tessitura – where the voice feels most comfortable for the majority of the time. Following is a list of types, with representative examples of roles and singers:
(For more roles and singers, see the individual voice type pages.)

Female voices

Soprano

Soprano range:
The low extreme for sopranos is roughly B3 or A3 (just below middle C). 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.
  • Coloratura sopranos: Coloratura describes a style of vocal embellishment, as well as the voices able to perform them.
*Lyric coloratura soprano – A very agile 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 frequently have roles for this voice.
:Roles include Gilda in Rigoletto, Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann and Delibes’ Lakmé.
:Singers include Lily Pons, Beverly Sills, Edita Gruberová, Diana Damrau, and Natalie Dessay, Kristin Chenoweth.


*Dramatic coloratura soprano – A coloratura soprano with a large voice which can sustain fast coloratura at full volume and sing over an orchestra, but does not necessarily have the upper extension of a lyric coloratura soprano.
:Roles include Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Bellini’s Norma, and Violetta in La traviata.
:Singers include Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, Nelly Miricioiu and June Anderson.
  • 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.
Roles include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro , "Despina" in Cosi fan tutte, and Musetta in La Bohème.
Singers include Elisabeth Schumann, Kathleen Battle, Dawn Upshaw and Barbara Bonney.
  • 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 - 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.
:Roles include Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Micaëla in Carmen and Massenet's Manon.
:Singers include Lisa della Casa, Teresa Stratas, Ileana Cotrubaş, Ruth Ann Swenson and Anna Netrebko.


*Full lyric - 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.
:Roles include The Contessa in The Marriage of Figaro and Mimì in La Bohème.
:Singers include Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Anna Moffo, Mirella Freni, Kiri Te Kanawa, Angela Gheorghiu and Renee Fleming.
  • 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" though 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 fächer, and more than a few lyric sopranos have damaged their voices singing spinto roles.
Roles include Verdi’s Aïda, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.
Singers include Zinka Milanov, Leontyne Price, Deborah Voigt, and Aprile Millo.
  • Dramatic soprano - A powerful, rich voice that can sing over a full orchestra. Usually (but not always) this voice has a lower tessitura than other sopranos, and a darker timbre. Used for heroic, tragic women of opera.
Roles include Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, Sieglinde in Die Walküre and Puccini’s Turandot.
Singers include Jessye Norman, Karita Mattila, Sharon Sweet.
  • 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.
:Roles include Brünnhilde in Der Ring des Nibelungen and Kundry in Parsifal.
:Singers include Kirsten Flagstad, Astrid Varnay, Dame Gwyneth Jones, and Birgit Nilsson.

Mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano range: range is a stricter requirement for choral voices than for opera singers. In fact, a mezzo-soprano's range can be the same as a soprano’s; some mezzo roles call for the "soprano C" (C6), but the tessitura is lower.

In addition to singing traditional roles discussed below, mezzo-sopranos are also well represented in baroque music, early music and baroque opera, as well as art songs, they are sometimes cast in soubrette roles if a more dramatic sound is desired, and some of the lower-tessitura soprano roles can be sung by mezzos as well. Mezzo voices tend to be quite versatile and able to take on a variety of roles with success.
  • Lyric mezzo-soprano - A higher, and sometimes lighter mezzo voice. Can have a range up to or above high C (C6). Besides traditional lyric roles, trouser roles are often written for this voice. Lyric mezzos also sing mezzo coloratura roles, such as Rossini's heroines and baroque roles.
Coloratura roles include Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Rosina in The Barber of Seville
Lyric roles include Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier.
Singers include Janet Baker, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Anne-Sofie von Otter and Cecilia Bartoli.
  • Dramatic mezzo-soprano – A fuller, and often lower voice than a lyric mezzo. Can sing over an orchestra and chorus with ease.
Roles include Azucena in Il trovatore, Amneris in Aïda, Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, and Herodias in Salome.
Singers include Giulietta Simionato, Fiorenza Cossotto, Olga Borodina and Dolora Zajick.

Contralto/Alto

Contralto is the lowest female operatic voice, usually with a deep and dark timbre. True operatic contraltos are very rare.

Roles include Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera and Erda in Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Singers include Kathleen Ferrier, Marian Anderson and Ewa Podleś.

Male voices

Voices higher than tenor

Vocal range for such voices (approximate)
Countertenor: from about G3 to E5 or F5
Sopranist: extend the upper range, some as high as E6 or F6
Haute-contre: from about D3 or E3 to about D5


These, and other similar terms, are used for the highest male voices, and singers designated by the first two of these terms often sing roles originally written for castrati in baroque operas. Except for a few very rare voices (such as the American male soprano Michael Maniaci, or singers with a syndrome such as Kallmann's) singers called sopranist, male alto or countertenor generally sing in falsetto, sometimes using their modal, speaking voice for the lowest notes. Historically, there is much evidence that "countertenor", in England at least, also designated a very high tenor voice, the equivalent of the French haute-contre, and something similar to the "leggiero tenor". It should be remembered that until about 1830, all male voices used some falsetto-type voice production in their upper range.
Roles include Handel's Giulio Cesare, Nerone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, and Oberon in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Singers include James Bowman, Alfred Deller, Jochen Kowalski, David Daniels (singing in the alto or mezzo-soprano range), Jörg Waschinski, Michael Maniaci (singing as sopranos), and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (an haute-contre).

Tenor

Tenor range:
The lowest note in the standard tenor repertoire is A2 (Mime, Herod), but few roles fall below C3 (one octave below middle C).
The high extreme: many tenor roles in the standard repertoire call for a "tenor C" (C5, one octave above middle C). In the leggiero repertoire the highest note is an F5 (Arturo in I Puritani), though few singers will have this role in their repertoire.
  • Leggiero tenor - The male equivalent of a lyric coloratura voice, this is an often light, and very agile tenor voice, capable of coloratura and able to sing notes above the tenor C.
Roles include Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville, Arturo in I Puritani, and Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore.
Singers include Tito Schipa, Luigi Alva and Juan Diego Florez.
  • Lyric tenor - A strong yet not heavy voice.
Roles include Rodolfo in La bohème, Massenet's Werther, and The Duke in Rigoletto.
Singers include Alfredo Kraus, Roberto Alagna, Marcelo Álvarez and Luciano Pavarotti.
  • Spinto tenor - Heavier than a lyric and more dramatic.
Roles include Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Canio in Pagliacci, and Don José in Carmen.
Singers include Enrico Caruso, Carlo Bergonzi and José Carreras.
  • Dramatic tenor - A powerful, rich, heroic tenor.
Roles include Radamés in Aïda, Samson in Samson et Dalila and Calaf in Turandot.
Singers include Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli and Plácido Domingo.
  • Heldentenor - A rich, powerful, and dramatic voice. As its name implies, the Heldentenor vocal fach features in the German romantic operatic repertoire. The keystone of any heldentenor's repertoire is arguably Wagner's Siegfried, an extremely demanding role requiring a wide vocal range, great stamina, and extended dramatic suspension.
:Roles include Wagner's Siegfried, Tristan in Tristan und Isolde, Wagner's Parsifal and Floristan in Fidelio
:Singers include Lauritz Melchior, Bernd Aldenhoff, Wolfgang Windgassen, Jon Vickers and James King.

Baritone

  • Lyric baritone - High tessitura and lighter voice, quite often a comic character.
Roles include Papageno in The Magic Flute, The Count in The Marriage of Figaro, Figaro in The Barber of Seville.
Singers include Sherrill Milnes, Thomas Allen, Thomas Hampson, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Josh Groban.
  • Dramatic baritone - Lower tessitura than a lyric, rich and full voice.
Roles include Verdi's Rigoletto and Nabucco, Iago in Otello and Scarpia in Tosca.
Singers include Renato Bruson, Piero Cappuccilli, Tito Gobbi.

Bass-baritone

  • Bass-baritone - Also called "Heldenbariton", a bass-baritone has the tessitura of a baritone but the lower range that is customary of a bass. Bass-baritones play a variety of roles, and frequently play either villainous characters, or regal older men.
Roles include Duke Bluebeard in Bluebeard's Castle, Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Escamillo in Carmen and Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro.
Singers include Friedrich Schorr, Hans Hotter, Willard White, Jose van Dam, and Bryn Terfel.

Bass

Base range: from D2 (Osmin's aria) to E4 (Osmin also has to sing an E4)
  • Basso cantante - Has agility but also a deep tone.
Roles include Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Philip II in Don Carlos.
Singers include Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Robert Lloyd, Samuel Ramey and René Pape.
  • Basso profondo - A rich and deep, extremely dark dramatic male bass voice. Operatic bassi profondi are rare, and these roles are sung by most operatic basses, with the possible exception of The Grand Inquisitor which should be vocally distinct from Phillip II in the Don Carlos bass duet
Roles include Sarastro in The Magic Flute, Osmin in The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos.
Singers include Gottlob Frick, Matti Salminen, Jerome Hines.

See also

External links

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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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.
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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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Fach (pl. Fächer, literally "compartment") (IPA pronunciations: [fɑ:x], ['fɛ.
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Classical music is a broad term that usually refers to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, Western art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 9th century to the 21st century.
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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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Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, which is often contrasted with speech. Contrary to common thought, air is not expelled with the diaphragm, but is inhaled using the diaphragm and exhaled or expelled, using the abdominal and lower pelvic muscles, as
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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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In music, timbre, or sometimes timber, (from Fr. timbre; IPA /'tæmbəɹ/ as in the first two syllables of tambourine, or /'tɪmbəɹ/, like timber)[1]
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Enrico Caruso (born Errico Caruso February 25 1873, Naples – August 2 1921, Naples) was an Italian opera singer and one of the most famous tenors in history.
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Rosa Ponselle (January 22, 1897 – May 25, 1981), was an American soprano.

She was born Rose Melba Ponzillo on January 22, 1897, in Meriden, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. Her parents were Italian immigrants.
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Dame Joan Sutherland OM, AC, DBE (born November 7, 1926) is an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the bel canto revival of the 1950s and 1960s. She was hailed La Stupenda after an Alcina performance in La Fenice in 1960.
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Maria Callas (Greek: Μαρία Κάλλας (December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek dramatic coloratura soprano and perhaps the best-known opera singer of the post-World War II period.
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Shirley Verrett (born May 31 1931) is a mezzo-soprano and a soprano who has enjoyed great fame since the late 1960s, much admired for her radiant voice, beauty, and great versatility.
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Grace Bumbry (born 4 January 1937), an American opera singer, was considered one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation, as well as a leading soprano for many years.
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Leopoldine "Leonie" Rysanek (November 14, 1926–March 7, 1998) was an Austrian soprano.

Rysanek was born in Vienna and made her operatic debut in 1949 in Innsbruck.
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (IPA: [ˈvɔlfgaŋ amaˈdeus ˈmoːtsart], baptized Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart
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Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi /dʒuˈzɛppe ˈverdi/ (either October 9 or 10, 1813 – January 27, 1901) was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera.
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