mezzo

Mezzo-soprano

[met-soh-suh-pran-oh, -prah-noh, med-zoh-, mez-oh-]
This article is related to a series of articles under the main article Voice type.

A mezzo-soprano (meaning "medium" or "middle" "soprano" in Italian) is a classical 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. A3-A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the G below middle C (G3) and as high as "high C" (C6). While mezzo-sopranos generally have a heavier, darker tone than sopranos, the mezzo-soprano voice resonates in a higher range than that of a contralto. The terms Dugazon and Galli-Marié are sometimes used to refer to light mezzo-sopranos, after the names of famous singers. A castrato with a mezzo-soprano range was also called a mezzo-soprano castrato or mezzista. Today, however, only women should be referred to as mezzo-sopranos, and men singing within the female range should be called countertenors. For information regarding non-classical mezzo-sopranos see Voice classification in non-classical music.

Mezzo-sopranos typically sing secondary roles in operas, with the protagonist in Bizet's Carmen and Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville as the most notable exceptions. Typical roles for mezzo-sopranos include witches, nurses, and wise women such as Azucena in Verdi's Il trovatore; trouser role (male characters played by female singers) such as Cherubino in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro; and villains and seductresses such as Amneris in Verdi's Aida. Mezzo-sopranos are also well represented in baroque music, early music and baroque opera.

Some roles designated for lighter soubrette sopranos are sung by mezzo sopranos, who often provide a fuller, more dramatic quality. Such roles include Despina in Mozart's Così fan tutte and Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Mezzos also sometimes play dramatic soprano roles such as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth, and Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal.

In general mezzos are broken down into three categories: Coloratura mezzo-sopranos, Lyric mezzo-soprano, and Dramatic mezzo-sopranos.

Coloratura mezzo-soprano

A coloratura mezzo-soprano has a warm lower register and an agile high register. The roles they sing often demand not only the use of the lower register but also leaps into the upper tessitura with highly ornamented, rapid passages. They have a range from approximately the G (G3) below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C (B5). Some coloratura mezzo-sopranos can sing up to high C (C6) or high D (D6), but this is very rare. What distinguishes these voice from being called sopranos is their extension into the lower register and warmer vocal quality. Although coloratura mezzo-sopranos have impressive and at times thrilling high notes, they are most comfortable singing in the middle of their range, rather than the top.

Many of the hero roles in the operas of Handel and Monteverdi, originally sung by male castrati, can be successfully sung today by coloratura mezzo-sopranos. Rossini demanded similar qualities for his comic heroines, and Vivaldi wrote roles frequently for this voice as well. Coloratura mezzo-sopranos also often sing lyric-mezzo soprano roles or soubrette roles.

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Coloratura mezzo-soprano roles in opera and operettas

* Angelina- Cenerentola, La Cenerentola (Rossini)@
* Ariodante, Ariodante (Handel) -- trouser role)@
* Griselda, Griselda (Vivaldi)
* Isabella, The Italian Girl in Algiers (Rossini)
* Orsini, Lucrezia Borgia (Gaetano Donizetti)
* Romeo, I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Vincenzo Bellini) -- trouser role
* Rosina, The Barber of Seville (Rossini)@
* Julius Caesar, Giulio Cesare (Handel) -- trouser role

@-denotes a lead role

Coloratura mezzo-soprano singers

* Cecilia Bartoli
* Teresa Berganza
* Joyce DiDonato
* Gail Dubinbaum
* Vivica Genaux
* Marilyn Horne
* Vesselina Kasarova
* Conchita Supervía

Lyric mezzo-soprano

The Lyric mezzo-soprano has a range from approximately the G below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C. This voice has a very smooth, sensitive and at times lachrymose quality. Lyric mezzo-sopranos do not have the vocal agility of the coloratura mezzo-soprano or the size of the dramatic mezzo-soprano. The lyric mezzo-soprano is ideal for most trouser roles.

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Lyric mezzo-soprano roles in opera and operettas

* Annio, La clemenza di Tito (Mozart)-- trouser role
* Arianna Arianna (Claudio Monteverdi)@
* Carmen Carmen (Georges Bizet)@ (Also Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano)
* Charlotte, Werther (Massenet)@
* Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)-- trouser role
* The Composer Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss)-- trouser role
* Sorceress, Dido and Aeneas (Henry Purcell)
* Dorabella, Cosi fan tutte (Mozart)@
* Hänsel, Hänsel und Gretel (Humperdinck) -- trouser role @
* Mignon, Mignon (Ambroise Thomas)@
* Mother, Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti)
* Nicklausse, Les contes d'Hoffmann (Offenbach) -- trouser role though he is the (female) Muse in disguise.
* Octavian, Der Rosenkavalier (Richard Strauss) -- trouser role
* Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) (Johann Strauss) -- trouser role
* Sesto, La clemenza di Tito (Mozart) -- trouser role
* Siebel, Faust (Charles Gounod) -- trouser role
* Stephano, ''Romeo et Juliette (Charles Gounod) -- trouser role
* Suzuki, Madama Butterfly

@-Denotes a lead role

Lyric mezzo-soprano Singers

* Janet Baker
* Agnes Baltsa
* Sarah Connolly
* Malena Ernman
* Brigitte Fassbaender
* Susan Graham
* Magdalena Kožená
* Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
* Christa Ludwig
* Nan Merriman
* Frederica von Stade
* Risë Stevens
* Tatiana Troyanos
* Anne Sofie von Otter

Dramatic mezzo-soprano

A dramatic mezzo-soprano has a strong medium register, a warm high register and a voice that is broader and more powerful than the lyric and coloratura mezzo-sopranos. This voice has less vocal facility than the coloratura mezzo-soprano. The range of the dramatic mezzo-soprano is from approximately the G below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C. The dramatic mezzo-soprano can sing over an orchestra and chorus with ease and was often used in the 19th century opera, to portray older women, mothers, witches and evil characters. Verdi wrote many roles for this voice in the Italian repertoire and there are also a few good roles in the French Literature. The majority of these roles however are within the German Romantic repertoire of composers like Wagner and Strauss. Like Coloratura mezzos, dramatic mezzos are also often cast in lyric mezzo-soprano roles.

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Dramatic mezzo-soprano roles in opera and operettas

* Azucena, Il trovatore (Verdi)
* Amneris, Aida (Verdi)
* Brangäne, Tristan und Isolde (Wagner)
* Carmen, Carmen (Bizet)@ (Also Lyric Mezzo)
* The Countess, The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky)
* Dalila, Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns)@
* Dido, Les Troyens (Berlioz)@
* Eboli, Don Carlos (Verdi)
* Herodias, Salome (Richard Strauss)
* Hexe, Hänsel und Gretel (opera) (Humperdinck)
* Judith, Bluebeard's Castle (Bartók)@ (Also Dramatic Soprano)
* Kundry, Parsifal (Wagner)@ (also Dramatic soprano)
* Klytemnästra , Elektra (Richard Strauss)
* Laura, La Gioconda (Ponchielli)
* Marina, Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky)
* Mother, Hänsel und Gretel (opera) (Humperdinck)
* Ortrud, Lohengrin (Wagner)
* Princess de Bouillon, Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)

@-denotes a lead role

Dramatic mezzo-soprano Singers

* Irina Arkhipova
* Fedora Barbieri
* Olga Borodina
* Grace Bumbry
* Fiorenza Cossotto
* Maria Gay
* Rita Gorr
* Denyce Graves
* Waltraud Meier
* Elena Obraztsova
* Regina Resnik
* Giulietta Simionato
* Ebe Stignani
* Shirley Verrett
* Dolora Zajick

See also

External links

References

Further reading

Peckham, Anne (2005). Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singer. Berklee Press Publications. Smith, Brenda (2005). Choral Pedagogy. Plural Publishing, Inc.

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