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.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
|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
|Laetitia||The Old Maid and the Thief||Gian Carlo Menotti|
|Madame Armfeldt||A Little Night Music||Stephen Sondheim|
|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|
For more examples, look at the entry under soubrette soprano.