Voice Types

Female voices

Name

Characteristics

Representative roles

Iconic singers

Coloratura soprano

A voice with great agility in the upper register. Not necessarily lacking in power or low notes.

 

The Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute: Der hölle Rache)

Rita Streich

Natalie Dessay

Light soprano

A supple voice at ease in the upper register.

Sophie (Werther: Du gai soleil)

Hilde Güden

Barbara Bonney

 

Lyric soprano

Voice with a solid middlerange but capable of agility in the upper register.

 

Gilda (Rigoletto: Caro nome)

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Renée Fleming

Soprano lirico-spinto (or “Grand lyrique” in the French and German repertoire)

 

A big, powerful voice that is strong in the middle range, and capable of lightening its upper range.

Aida (Aida)

Leontyne Price

Leonie Rysanek

Dramatic soprano

A very detailed and powerful voice, with a solid foundation in the lower register and hard-hitting highs.

 

Isolde (Tristan und Isolde: Liebestod)

Turandot (Turandot)

Kirsten Flagstad

Birgit Nilsson

Coloratura mezzo-soprano

Warm low notes and agile highs.

Rosina (The Barber of Seville: Une voce poco fa)

Teresa Berganza

Cecilia Bartoli

 

Lyric mezzo-soprano

female voice whose range lies halfway between that of the soprano and the contralto’s darker color.

Charlotte (Werther: Va! Laisse couler mes larmes)

 

Susan Graham

Anne-Sofie von Otter

Dramatic mezzo-soprano

Consistent middle register, generous highs, a larger and more powerful voice.

 

Azucena (Il trovatore: Condotta)

Christa Ludwig

Tatiana Troyanos

Contralto

A sepulchral female voice.

 

The Mother (The Consul: Lullaby)

Erda (Das Rheingold)

Kathleen Ferrier

 Male voices

 

Name

Characteristics

Representative roles

Iconic singers

Leggiero tenor

A flexible and agile voice, capable of halftones in the upper register.

 

Almaviva (The Barber of Seville: Ecco ridente)

Lindoro (L’Italiana in Algeri)

Luigi Alva

Lyric tenor

A bright and clear voice with a good foundation in the middle register.

 

Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore: Una furtiva lagrima)

Luciano Pavarotti

Roberto Alagna

Spinto tenor (or Dramatic in the German repertoire)

 

A powerful voice with a more full-bodied tone.

Calaf (Turandot: Nessun dorma)

Plácido Domingo

Franco Corelli

Heroic tenor (or Heldentenor in German)

Solid low notes, an almost baritone-like tone, great endurance.

 

Tristan (Tristan und Isolde)
Otello (Otello: Esultate)

Lauritz Melchior

Jon Vickers

 

Lyric baritone

A flexible and lilting voice, capable of halftones in the upper register.

 

Mercutio (Roméo et Juliette: Mab)

Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau

Thomas Hampson

Dramatic baritone

Consistent middle register, generous highs, a larger and more powerful voice.

 

Rigoletto (Rigoletto: Cortigiani)

Piero Cappuccilli

Louis Quilico

Bass-baritone

A bass voice quality but in the baritone range, with great authority.

Jochanaan (Salome: Wo ist er)

Hans Hotter

Ezio Pinza

José Van Dam

 

Basso buffo

An expressive voice and comic volubility.

Bartolo (The Barber of Seville: A un dottor della mia sorte)

 

Enzo Dara

Basso cantante

Dark but melancholic colour.

Méphistofélès (Faust: Le veau d’or)

 

Feodor Chaliapin

Kurt Moll

Basso profondo

Dark, extremely deep colour.

Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra: Il lacerato spirito)

Martti Talvela

Joseph Greindl

 Source: L’opéra, mode d’emploi, by Alain Perroux.