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Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (7/25)

This post on the Dramatic Mezzo-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 mezzo-soprano is bold, rich, powerful, and physically and vocally imposing. Most often a dramatic mezzo has the same range as a dramatic soprano, and what distinguishes her is that she sings more comfortably at a lower tessitura. While the dramatic soprano can sustain long notes in the higher register, the dramatic mezzo has more power in the middle and lower range.

Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Eugenie Grunewald as Azucena

Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Eugenie Grunewald as Azucena

A dramatic mezzo-soprano, just like the lyric and coloratura mezzo-soprano, can sing from a G3 to a B5 or C6. As you can see her range is very similar to that of the sopranos’ and this is why range is never the sole means of categorizing a singer’s voice. A darker color and a lower tessitura give the mezzo-soprano her characteristic timbre.

Though they don’t usually hold leading roles, dramatic mezzo-sopranos must have a very powerful and dynamic presence on stage. Most of the times their characters are equally important for the development of the opera as those of the protagonists’, and so the singers of this Fach must exert an air of imposing confidence.

A dramatic mezzo-soprano has the power to sing over a full orchestra and chorus, and holds her place strongly on the stage. This Fach is usually casted in roles of older women, mothers, evil witches, and anti-heroines. Though there are some relevant roles in the Frech-Italian repertoire, most of the characters dramatic mezzo-sopranos are called to portray are in German Wagnerian operas – wherever there’s Wagner, there’s drama.

As I’m not a big fan of Wagner, I found for you an example of the amazing Eugenie Grunewald, as Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore. For all dramatic mezzo-sopranos in the greater New York area, you’ll be happy to know that Eugenie Grunewald is a voice coach and if you’re serious about your career, you should definitely get in touch with her through her LinkedIn page or her personal website.

Examples of Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Arias

Arial Character Opera Composer
Sgombra è la sacra selva Adalgisa Norma Vincenzo Bellini
Stella del marinar! Laura La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli
Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix Dalila Samson et Dalila Camille Saint-Saëns
L’abborrita rivale…Già i sacerdoti adunansi Amneris Aïda Giuseppe Verdi
O don fatale (O don fatal) Princess Eboli Don Carlos Giuseppe Verdi

Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Roles

Character Opera Composer
Carmen Carmen Georges Bizet
Kontchakovna Prince Igor Alexander Borodin
Néris (Neris) Médée (Medea) Luigi Cherubini
Rosa Mamai L’Arlesiana Francesco Cilèa
Amastre Serse George Frideric Handel
Brigitta Die Tote Stadt Erich Korngold
Hérodiade Hérodiade Jules Massenet
Desideria The Saint of Bleecker Street Gian-Carlo Menotti
Augusta Tabor The Ballad of Baby Doe Douglas Moore
The Innkeeper Boris Godunov Modest Mussorgsky
Voice of Antonia’s mother Les Contes d’Hoffmann Jacques Offenbach
Laura La Gioconda Amilcare Ponchielli
Tigrana Edgar Giacomo Puccini
Zita Gianni Schicchi Giacomo Puccini
The Sorceress Dido and Aeneas Henry Purcell
Dalila Samson et Dalila Camille Saint-Saëns
Klytämnestra (Clytemnestra) Elektra Richard Strauss
Baba the Turk The Rake’s Progress Igor Stravinsky
Gertrude Hamlet Ambroise Thomas
Amneris Aïda Giuseppe Verdi
Princess Eboli Don Carlos Giuseppe Verdi
Mrs. Quickly Falstaff Giuseppe Verdi
Fricka Das Rheingold Richard Wagner
Second Norn Die Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner
Waltraute Die Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner
Ortrud Lohengrin Richard Wagner
Adriano Rienzi Richard Wagner
Fricka Die Walküre Richard Wagner
Adalgisa Norma Vincenzo Bellini
Second Dame Die Zauberflöte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Herodias Salome Richard Strauss
Countess Pique Dame Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Preziosilla La forza del destino Giuseppe Verdi
Kundry Parsifal Richard Wagner
Brangäne Tristan und Isolde Richard Wagner

4 comments

  1. Kengne Audrey Piuss

    s’il vous plait comment peut on intégrer votre opéra tout en sachant que je suis un contre-ténor?

    • Bonjour Kengne Audrey,

      Le contre-ténor n’es pas une catégorie de la opéra. Es une catégorie vocal, ma non de la opéra. Aussie n’es pa une catégorie vocal des femmes.

      Seulment les hommes peuvent être contre-ténors. Les catégories des femmes sont: soprano, mezzo-soprane, et contralto (ou alto).

      Pour plus d’informations sur les contre-ténors, lis ma blog poste ici: http://choirly.com/falsetto

      Bonne chance,
      Olga

  2. I really enjoyed your article! I’d love to see you write up the coloratura and lyric mezzos as well, two of my friends are mezzos so I have an interest there. :)

    J

  3. Hi Olga, I really enjoy your blog .
    May you tell me if Irina Arkhipova is a dramatic mezzo ? And what exactly about the natural voice of Maria Callas ?
    An intermediate between dramatic soprano and dramatic mezzo ?

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