Tuesday , 23 September 2014
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Character Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (8/25)

This post on the Character Soprano is part of a series of 26 posts on the German Fach System of voice categorization. To follow the series, sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or subscribe through RSS.

A character soprano’s voice is usually bright, metallic, and flexible. Though she might have a very comfortable top range, she’s not required to, as she is known first for their acting skills and second for their singing skills.

Character soprano Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde in Candide

Character soprano Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde in Candide

This fach is called an inbetween fach or Zwischenfachstimme in German, because singers who are classified as character sopranos don’t have a set number of voice characteristics. Instead they have the skill to adopt whatever timbre, weight, or color they need to complement their acting, and often you’ll hear them singing nasally or changing their voices in comical ways.

Character sopranos usually have to sing between an A3 and a B5, but they might be pushed to extremes, especially in the musical theater repertoire.

This doesn’t mean that their melodic lines are simple. On the contrary, a character soprano is the “Jack of all trades” soprano. She has to be agile enough to sing complex cadenzas like a coloratura, powerful enough to indue her music with intensity like a dramatic soprano, warm enough to portray likable characters like a lyric soprano, and finally flexible enough to effectively bring complex personalities to life.

There are only a few sopranos that make a career as Character Sopranos in the opera, as, it is my understanding, that most of them choose musical theater instead, or move between these two worlds. The ones who choose to stay in the opera world are, often, casted in roles of soubrettes.

The following video is from a New York Philharmonic production of Candide, where the very funny Kristin Chenoweth, opera singer / actress, sings Glitter and Be Gay.

Examples of Character Soprano Arias

Aria Character Opera Composer
Glitter and Be Gay Cunégonde Candide Leonard Bernstein
Steal Me Sweet Thief Laetitia The Old Maid and the Thief Gian Carlo Menotti
Liaisons Madame Armfeldt A Little Night Music Stephen Sondheim

Character Soprano Roles

Character Opera Composer
Cunégonde Candide Leonard Bernstein
Laetitia The Old Maid and the Thief Gian Carlo Menotti
Madame Armfeldt A Little Night Music Stephen Sondheim
Carmen Carmen Georges Bizet
Mrs. Sedley Peter Grimes Edward Benjamin Britten
Mélisande Pelléas et Mélisande Achille-Claude Debussy
Volpino Lo speziale Franz Joseph Haydn
La Follie Platée Jean-Philippe Rameau
Ginevra Mona Lisa Max von Schillings
Margret Feuersnot Richard Strauss

For more examples, look at the entry under soubrette soprano.

6 comments

  1. I am a young girl now classified as a characther soprano, but I don’t know how to make better out of this voice.

  2. Is it possible to be a character alto or mezzo? I’m definitely not a soprano, but I can adjust my voice to sound like anything really.

    • Hi Lindsay, I never heard the word character for a mezzo or an alto but you can be, for exemple, a lyric or a dramatic mezzo or a lyric or a dramatic mezzo . I say personly spinto mezzo, when I will describe a mezzo voice darker than lyric mezzo, but not so hugh as a dramatic . Why only a soprano could be spinto ????
      About your voice, what is its range ? It s comfortable zone ? How does it sound ?

  3. Mabel from Gilbert and Sullivan’s, The Pirates of Penzance could be described as a character soprano or a lyric coloratura soprano. Her aria, Poor Wand’ring One technically goes up to a Bb5, but most singers of this aria throw in a two much higher cadenzas that extend to an Eb6. I just learned Poor Wand’ring One, and I got to throw in an Eb6 in the middle cadenza, bur I brought down the optional one at the end to a C6. It’s a very difficult aria, and it can get confusing what with all the high-pitched vocalizing, fast runs, and quick breaths. It’s totally worth learning though, if your a developing coloratura soprano.

  4. I don’t seem to sound like any of these singers. They’re high notes are very operatic and my voice is very, well, not. My high notes are more… pure, I guess I could call it. The highest notes I can reach can tend to have a slight vibrato, but they aren’t very operatic at all. I have a young voice, it’s more “ping-y” as my chorus teacher calls it. It’s lighter, younger, opposite of full, operatic, dramatic sounding singers, like all of these seem to be. My range, by randomly walking over to a keyboard, is G3 to E6 but when warmed up I can get to a G6 but it is quite unstable (I’ve never had voice lessons, so I don’t know if I can correct it or not). I can vary my voice a little, but I can’t make it too dramatic. I’m better at the “ping-y” side to it, the lighter side, I think. Can anyone help with categorizing my voice?

  5. my belting notes don’t seem as strong as when I hear them in my head. The notes come out fine, but they aren’t as full as the average belt you would hear I guess. If that helps.

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