Coloratura soprano

Coloratura soprano

A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs and leaps. The term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Some roles may be sung by either voice. For example, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was famously done at the Metropolitan Opera for many years by Lyric Coloratura Lily Pons, whose voice was quite small and light, but more recently the same role was sung by Ruth Ann Swenson whose voice is larger. Likewise, dramatic coloraturas have been extremely successful in singing the lighter roles. Categories within a certain voice range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.

Lyric Coloratura Soprano

A very agile light voice with a high upper extension, capable of fast vocal coloratura. Lyric coloraturas have a range of approximately middle C (C4) to "high F" (F6). Such a soprano is sometimes referred to as a soprano leggiero if her vocal timbre has a slightly warmer quality. The soprano leggiero also typically does not go as high as other coloraturas, peaking at a "high E" (E6). 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.

Lyric Coloratura Singers
* Arleen Auger
* Kathleen Battle (soprano leggiero)
* Erna Berger (soprano leggiero)
* Patrizia Ciofi
* Laura Claycomb
* Natalie Dessay
* Amelita Galli-Curci (soprano leggiero)
* Sumi Jo
* Anna Moffo
* Toti Dal Monte (soprano leggiero)
* Lily Pons (soprano leggiero)
* Lucia Popp
* Mado Robin
* Erna Sack
* Beverly Sills
* Erna Spoorenberg (soprano leggiero)
* Ruth Ann Swenson
Lyric Coloratura Soprano Roles
* Adele, Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss)
* Adina, L'elisir d'amore (Donizetti)
* Agrippina, Agrippina (Handel)
* Alcina, Alcina (Handel)
* Almirena, Rinaldo (Handel)
* Alzira, Alzira (Handel)
* Amenaide, Tancredi (Rossini)
* Amina, La sonnambula (Bellini)
* Angelica, Orlando (Handel)
* Aspasia, Mitridate, rè di Ponto (Mozart)
* Blondchen, The Abduction from the Seraglio (Mozart)
* Carolina, Il Matrimonio Segreto (Cimarosa)
* Celia, Lucio Silla (Mozart)
* Cunegonde, Candide (Bernstein)
* Dalinda, Ariodante (Handel)
* Dorinda, Orlando (Handel)
* Elisa, Il rè pastore (Mozart)
* Elizabeth Doe, The Ballad of Baby Doe (Douglas Moore)
* Elvira, I puritani (Bellini)
* Elvira, L'Italiana in Algeri (Rossini)
* Gilda, Rigoletto (Verdi)
* Giulietta, I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini)
* Ilia, Idomeneo (Mozart)
* Ismene, Mitridate, rè di Ponto (Mozart)
* Juliet, Roméo et Juliette (Gounod)
* Lakmé, Lakmé (Delibes)
* Léïla, Les pêcheurs de perles (Bizet)
* Linda di Chamounix, Linda di Chamounix Donizetti
* Lisa, La Sonnambula (Bellini)
* Madame Silberklang, Der Schauspieldirektor (Mozart)
* Marguerite, Faust (Gounod)
* Marie, La fille du régiment (Donizetti)
* The Nightingale, The Nightingale (Stravinsky)
* Norina, Don Pasquale (Donizetti)
* Olympia, The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)
* Ophélie, Hamlet (Ambroise Thomas)
* Oscar, Un ballo in maschera (Verdi) -- trouser role
* Philine, Mignon (Ambroise Thomas)
* The Queen of Chemakha, Le Coq d'Or (Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov)
* Sesto, Giulio Cesare (Handel)
* Sylvia, Ascanio in Alba (Mozart)
* Tamyris, Il re pastore (Mozart)
* Tytania, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Britten)
* Venus, Ascanio in Alba (Mozart)
* Zerbinetta, Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss)

Dramatic coloratura soprano

A coloratura soprano with great flexibility in high-lying velocity passages, yet with great sustaining power comparable to that of a full spinto or dramatic soprano. Dramatic coloraturas have a range of approximately middle C (C4) to "high F" (F6). 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.

Dramatic Coloratura Singers
* June Anderson
* Maria Callas
* Diana Damrau
* Cristina Deutekom
* Edita Gruberova
* Nelly Miricioiu
* Edda Moser
* Rosa Ponselle
* Rita Shane
* Cheryl Studer
* Joan Sutherland
Dramatic Coloratura Soprano Roles
* Abigaille, Nabucco (Verdi)
* Amalia, I masnadieri (Verdi)
* Anne, The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky)
* Armida , Armida (Handel)
* Ascanio, Ascanio in Alba (Mozart) -- trouser role
* Chief of the Secret Police Gepopo, Le Grand Macabre (Ligeti)
* Cleopatra, Giulio Cesare (Handel)
* Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Mozart)
* Electra, Idomeneo (Mozart)
* Elisabetta, Maria Stuarda (Donizetti)
* Elvira, Ernani (Verdi)
* Esclarmonde, Esclarmonde (Massenet)
* Fiordiligi, Così fan tutte (Mozart)
* Giovanna, Giovanna d'Arco (Verdi)
* Giulietta di Kelbar, Un Giorno di Regno (Verdi)
* Hélène, Jérusalem (Verdi)
* Junia, Lucio Silla (Mozart)
* Lady Macbeth, Macbeth (Verdi)
* Hélène, Jérusalem (Verdi)
* Leonora, Il trovatore (Verdi)
* Lida, La battaglia di Legnano (Verdi)
* Lina, Stiffelio (Verdi)
* Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)
* Luisa Miller, Luisa Miller (Verdi)
* Madame Herz, Der Schauspieldirektor (Mozart)
* Maria Stuarda, Maria Stuarda (Donizetti)
* Mathilde, Guillaume Tell (Rossini)
* Medora, Il Corsaro (Verdi)
* Norma, Norma (Bellini)
* Odabella, Attila (Verdi)
* The Queen of the Night, The Magic Flute (Mozart)
* Semiramide, Semiramide (Rossini)
* Violetta, La traviata (Verdi)
* Vitellia, La Clemenza di Tito (Mozart)

Sfogato soprano

In rare instances, some coloratura sopranos are able to sing above high F (F6) with great ease. These coloraturas are sometimes referred to as sfogato sopranos. Although both lyric and dramatic coloraturas can be sfogato sopranos, one of the defining characteristics of the Sfogato sound is a light and easy upper extension above F6 making it more unusual for a singer with a darker or heavier sound to be considered a sfogato soprano. Classic examples of a sfogato soprano include Mado Robin, Lily Pons, Toti Dal Monte, and Amelita Galli-Curci. Some scholars have speculated that Maria Callas was a sfogato soprano. However, this view is not widely held as Callas had a darker quality to the voice than what is normally considered typical of a sfogato soprano.

Listen and Compare

It should also be noted that several of the dramatic soprano roles are also the province of lyric coloraturas, and that some dramatic coloraturas move easily between the lyric coloratura. Both voices can also sometimes sing roles into the lyric soprano, the soubrette and rarely the lirico spinto reperetoire.

Listen to lyric coloratura Beverly Sills sing the following:

Listen to dramatic coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland sing the following:


Further reading

  • Boldrey, Richard (1994). Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias. Caldwell Publishing Company.
  • Boldrey, Richard; Robert Caldwell, Werner Singer, Joan Wall and Roger Pines (1992). Singer's Edition (Light Lyric Soprano): Operatic Arias - Light Lyric Soprano. Caldwell Publishing Company.
  • Boldrey, Richard; Robert Caldwell, Werner Singer, Joan Wall and Roger Pines (1992). Singer's Edition (Soubrette): Operatic Arias - Soubrette. Caldwell Publishing Company.
  • Coffin, Berton (1960). Coloratura, Lyric and Dramatic Soprano, Vol. 1. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc..

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