Kashu-do (歌手道): Revisiting the Fach System: Sopranos Part 2–High-Tessitura Sopranos

High Tessitura Sopranos

Like low-tessitura sopranos, high tessitura (coloratura) sopranos come in different sizes!

Light Coloratura Soprano:  This is the lightest and highest category.  Comparable in size to the soubrette, the “leggiero” is more comfortable singing higher.  This voice type exhibits an obvious facility in the very high range and singers with this kind of voice can easily warm up above the Queen of the Nights F6.  Because of the lighter nature of this voice type, the listener sometimes cannot distinguish between when the singer is singing in “Flute-voice” and when a coordinated “modal voice”.  Soubrette roles are often inappropriate because the coloratura soprano sounds as if she lacks in intensity when singing in the relatively lower tessitura of the typical soubrette role.  While the soubrette may exhibit great intensity in the range between D5 and G5, the Coloratura sounds more at home in the tessitura between F5 and Bb5.  Roles such as Olympia, Oscar, Lakmé and a number of less known French coloratura parts were written with a light, high voice in mind.  Although Oscar does not have many extremely high notes, the role lies higher than the standard soubrette part.  In the ensembles it is clear that a coloratura would have an easier part with this role than a soubrette.

Nathalie Dessay

Bevery Hoch

Lyric Coloratura: Most of the coloratura parts lie in this category.  They include Lucia di Lamermoor, Sonnambula, Norina, Gilda, Marie in Fille du Régiment, Philline in Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon and Zerbinetta.  Ideally the lyric coloratura has a voice the size of a lyric but a higher tessitura.  The middle of the voice must be more ample than that of a lighter coloratura.

Diana Damrau

Edita Gruberova

Spinto Coloratura:  This is a category I invented because in my experience, there is a voice that has a similar tessitura to the various coloratura categories and is fuller than the average lyric coloratura and not as large as the true dramatic coloratura.  Roles such as Konstanze, Traviata, Elvira in Ernani, Norma, Fiordiligi, Leonora in Trovatore, Donn’Anna in Don Giovanni, the Donizetti Queens and Elena in Vespri Siciliani require spinto sized voices that are able to remain very high for long periods of time.

 June Anderson

Angela Meade

Dramatic Coloratura: This is a very particular voice type and it occurs more frequently than we think (as does the Spinto Coloratura).  Roles such as Abigaile in Nabucco, Lodabella in Attila, Lady Macbeth,  Strauss’ Daphnée, Danae, Salomé, Kaiserin, Elektra, Turandot, Norma and Mozart’s Elettra have in common that they lie higher than the average dramatic role and are accompanied by relatively heavy orchestral forces.

Cristina Deutekom

Hildegard Behrens

Eda Moser

Die Königin der Nacht: The Queen of the Night is a specialty role that requires a high F and the ability to menacing.  It has been sung by all types of coloraturas and even low-tessitura sopranos who can access the high F in flute voice.  Discussion follows in Part 3…

© 05/01/2014

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