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Dramatic Coloratura Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (3/25)

This post on the Dramatic Coloratura 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 dramatic coloratura soprano has great power and intensity in the upper register, as well as the ability to sing complex cadenzas with agility and speed. Her timber is full and dark, and she can sustain notes in the 6th octave with ease. This Fach requires tremendous acting and an imposing stage presence.

Just like the lyric coloratura, the dramatic coloratura is expected to be able to sing anywhere between a C4 and an F6, though she occasionally takes the liberty to include a G6 and showcase her skill.

Dramatic Coloratura Soprano: Maria Callas as Violetta in La Traviata

Maria Callas as Violetta in La Traviata

Real dramatic coloraturas, as opposed to lyric coloraturas singing dramatic roles, are by nature rare. In order to have a dark timber, vocal folds need to be thick. On the other hand, in order to have the agility to sing cadenzas, vocal folds need to be flexible. As you understand, these two characteristics are hard to coexist, and therefore the women who happen to have both and by chance decide to learn how to sing, are very lucky.

If they happen to be good in acting, they are even luckier as dramatic coloraturas are usually casted in the roles of tragic heroines who usually die at the end of the opera or intense characters who seek revenge. Of all the voice types, they are the ones who will give you chills every single time you hear them sing.

Maria Callas, the most renowned opera singer of the 20th century was a dramatic coloratura and one could say that just like the heroines she portrayed, her life was full of glamour but, also, tragedy. 35 years have passed since her death on September 26th 1977, but the world still remembers her as La Divina, the devine, and the voice of perfect imperfections.

In the following video, Callas transforms into Norma and sings the best Casta Diva I’ve heard so far.

Examples of Dramatic Coloratura Arias

Aria Character Opera Composer
Casta Diva Norma Norma Vincenzo Bellini
Regnava Nel Silenzio Lucia Lucia di Lammermoor Gaetano Donizetti
Martern Aller Artern Konstanze Die Entführung aus dem Serail Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
O Zittre Nicht, Mein Lieber Sohn The Queen of the Night Die Zauberflöte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen The Queen of the Night Die Zauberflöte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Dramatic Coloratura Roles

Character Opera Composer
The Prima Donna/Ariadne Ariadne auf Naxos Richard Strauss
Aïda Aïda Giuseppe Verdi
Marina Mnishek Boris Godunov Modest Mussorgsky
Daphne Daphne Richard Strauss
Senta Der Fliegende Holländer Richard Wagner
Third Norn Die Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner
Brünnhilde Die Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner
Gutrune Die Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner
Eva Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Richard Wagner
Sieglinde Die Walküre Richard Wagner
Brünnhilde Die Walküre Richard Wagner
Chrysothemis Elektra Richard Strauss
Elektra (Electra) Elektra Richard Strauss
Leonora Fidelio Ludwig van Beethoven
La Gioconda La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli
Chimène Le Cid Jules Massenet
Cassandre Les Troyens Hector Berlioz
Elsa of Brabant Lohengrin Richard Wagner
Lucrezia Borgia Lucrezia Borgia Gaetano Donizetti
Médée (Medea) Médée (Medea) Luigi Cherubini
Leonora Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio Giuseppe Verdi
Kundry Parsifal Richard Wagner
Princess Yaroslavna Prince Igor Alexander Borodin
Irene Rienzi Richard Wagner
Brünnhilde Siegfried Richard Wagner
Venus Tannhäuser Richard Wagner
Elisabeth Tannhäuser Richard Wagner
Annina The Saint of Bleecker Street Gian-Carlo Menotti
Isolde Tristan und Isolde Richard Wagner
Turandot Turandot Giacomo Puccini
Amelia Un Ballo in Maschera Giuseppe Verdi
Vanessa Vanessa Samuel Barber

17 comments

  1. The roles you have listed are mainly dramatic soprano roles, not dramatic coloratura. You were right with Queen, but Lucia could be considered lyric coloratura, as it sits in the middle more than the higher register. As for examples from Ariadne, Zerbinetta is more a dramatic coloratura, and Ariadne is a dramatic soprano. Lulu from Berg’s “Lulu” is another dramatic coloratura.

  2. What musical theater roles are good for dramatic coloratura sopranos?

    • Musical theatre roles. If you are coloratura, Cunegonda is a good role from Candide. Bess, from Porgy and Bess. But I spent years in musical theatre and I am dramatic coloratura and I ended up doing mostly belted/mezzo roles.

  3. I don’t think Wagner wrote for this voice type. Wagner was known to hate coloratura singing with a passion.

    • I know that Wagner hated a lot of things and people, but I’ve never really read that he hated coloraturas. As you know, many of his female roles require a very high tessitura. It might have been that traditionally only very strong German dramatic sopranos would be casted in those roles, but since they usually had trouble keeping up with all those high notes, it makes sense that dramatic coloraturas, which were more popular in the Italian tradition, are nowadays casted in those roles as well.

  4. IT’S POSSIBBLE WAGNERIAN SOPRANO WITH COLORATURA TECHIQUE ?

    • Hi Jesse,
      Yes it is possible. But she would probably be classified as a dramatic coloratura who can also sing Wagner. Which I think is a good thing as you can be considered for a greater range of roles this way, and not only Wagnerian characters.
      I hope this helps!
      Olga

    • It’s possible, but very rare. I am one. I can sing Wagner very comfortably, but I can also sing Großmächtige Prinzessin in the original key. Hope this helps :)

  5. DRAMATIC COLORATURA SOPRANO’S VOICE CAN BE exceptionally big ,, extremely POWERFUL LIKE WAGNERIAN SOPRANO ?

  6. spinto soprano’s can became dramatic soprano ? for example jessie j

    • First of all, we’d only could make an assumption of a vocal fach for a pop voice, since it doesn’t work like a classically trained voice does, and also because it does not sing classical repertoire. Anyway, if we had to determine an equivalent vocal fach for Jessie J it would be miles away from a spinto soprano; in fact, I’m pretty sure she would be a light-lyric soprano.

  7. From what I know dramatic coloraturas are actually spinto voices in their core; spinto voices with agility, and not actually real dramatic voices with agility. Since spinto voices have the lyric quality to their voices, so it’s easy to match it to their dramatic side. Anyway, that’s a theory. Maybe a true dramatic voice can indeed be a coloratura. As for Maria, as far as I know, she’s an Assoluta (a.k.a. sfogato soprano), since she can pretty much handle all sorts of repertoire, but for conventional terminology I could accept that, even though I lean more towards dramatic if I were to take that so called theory about the spinto voice, because Maria’s voice is clearly metallic and cold, instead of warm, dark and velvety. Anyway, that’s only a point of view that’s completely debatable.

  8. Frances Catherine

    Actually as someone already said, some of the roles up there are just dramatic and not coloratura at all, especially most of Wagner’s roles and even more so Turandot. She does not reqire any kind of agility. Just icy control and huge volume. I know because I am that kind of soprano and my coloratura is laughable over extensive passages. Verdis’s Lady Macbeth and Abigail are more coloratura than most mentioned up here usch as Aida and Amelia.

    Plus one should point out that usually dramatic voices that have coloratura abilty are usually pointed voices, whereas those that are wide (literally like a moving wall) can rarely have coloratura because a singer’s physical structure will also have substantial bearing on the way the voice is placed and the ability to move.

  9. Maria Callas can sing fairly lower than C4.

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