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Lyric Coloratura Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (2/25)

This post on the Lyric 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 lyric coloratura soprano is foremost a coloratura soprano which means that her range extends to the sixth octave where here voice resonates bright and clear. Another representative characteristic is her flexibility and agility singing cadenzas and rapid successions of notes with ease.

Lyric Coloratura Soprano: Natalie Dessay as Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann

Natalie Dessay as Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann

A lyric coloratura should be able to sing anywhere between a C4 to an F6, and some times even higher than that. It is very common to see singers of this Fach improvise intricate cadenzas to demonstrate their skill and natural talent.

A lyric coloratura is casted in roles of young and fragile heroines and is, thus, required to be slim and capable to portray such sweetness and freshness. Just like a soubrette, she needs to have developed acting skills and lots of energy, as her characters usually set up the action for the rest of the opera.

Some times, young soubrettes who have the necessary agility and range are casted in coloratura roles. When this happens the soubrette is called a Lyrischer Koloratursoubrette, i.e. a lyric coloratura soubrette. On the other hand, if a lyric coloratura’s timber is warm, rather than metallic, she might be referred to as a soprano leggero.

Due to their extensive use of the head resonance, coloraturas tend to be slightly off key from time to time, though this doesn’t generally subtract from their performances as their vocal acrobatics tend to steal the show.

There are many known lyric coloratura sopranos, but I think that Natalie Dessay is the paragon of this voice type. Here’s a clip of hers singing in the most uncomfortable positions and jumping up and down on a couch, and still being amazing.

Examples of Lyric Coloratura Arias

Aria Character Opera Composer
Les Oiseaux Dans La Charmille Olympia Les Contes D’hoffmann Jacques Offenbach
Chacun Le Sait Marie La Fille Du Regiment Gaetano Donizetti
Ah! Ou Va La Jeune Indoue Lakmé Lakmé Leo Delibes
Care Compagne… Come Per Me Sereno Amina La Sonnambula Vincenzo Bellini
Ah! Non Credea… Ah! Non Giunge Amina La Sonnambula Vincenzo Bellini
Je Suis Titania Philine Mignon Ambroise Thomas

Lyric Coloratura Roles

Character Opera Composer
Tytania A Midsummer Night’s Dream Benjamin Britten
Agrippina Agrippina George Frideric Handel
Alcina Alcina George Frideric Handel
Alzira Alzira Giuseppe Verdi
Zerbinetta Ariadne auf Naxos Richard Strauss
Dalinda Ariodante George Frideric Handel
Silvia Ascanio in Alba Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Venus Ascanio in Alba Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cunegonde Candide Leonard Bernstein
Madame Silberklang Der Schauspieldirektor Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Rosalinda Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss
Marguerite Faust Charles-François Gounod
Sesto Giulio Cesare George Frideric Handel
Mathilde Guillaume Tell Gioacchino Rossini
Ophélie Hamlet Ambroise Thomas
Giulietta I Capuleti ed i Montecchi Vincenzo Bellini
Elvira Walton I Puritani Vincenzo Bellini
Ilia Idomeneo Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elisa Il Rè Pastore Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Tamyris Il Rè Pastore Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
La Constanza Il Sogno di Scipione (The Dream of Scipione) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
La Fortuna Il Sogno di Scipione (The Dream of Scipione) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Soloist Il Sogno di Scipione (The Dream of Scipione) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elvira L’Italiana in Algeri Gioacchino Rossini
Marie La Fille du Régiment Gaetano Donizetti
Lisa La Sonnambula Vincenzo Bellini
Amina La Sonnambula Vincenzo Bellini
Lakmé Lakmé Leo Delibes
The Queen of Chemakha Le Coq d’Or (Zolotoy Pyetushok) Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The Nightingale Le Rossignol (Solovey) Igor Stravinsky
Olympia Les Contes d’Hoffmann Jacques Offenbach
Léïla Les Pêcheurs de Perles Georges Bizet
Celia Lucio Silla Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Philine Mignon Ambroise Thomas
Aspasia Mitridate, Rè di Ponto Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ismene Mitridate, Rè di Ponto Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Adalgisa Norma Vincenzo Bellini
Dorinda Orlando George Frideric Handel
Angelica Orlando George Frideric Handel
Gilda Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi
Almirena Rinaldo George Frideric Handel
Juliet Roméo et Juliette Charles-François Gounod
Amenaide Tancredi Gioacchino Rossini
Elizabeth Doe (Baby Doe) The Ballad of Baby Doe Douglas Moore
Oscar Un Ballo in Maschera Giuseppe Verdi

20 comments

  1. My vocal range is D3-E7 im soprano but i don’t know my soprano type. My voice is little bit light and powerfull in high notes but in the middle ones is dark and powerfull. What is my soprano type?

    • Hi there Mary Lou,

      I can’t be certain without hearing you sing, but from your range and type (light) you should be a coloratura. Coloraturas tend to have a hard time with their middle range and this is why they usually sound dark in that area.

      As far as what type of coloratura, if it’s easier for you to hold long high powerful notes than sing lots of short quick notes, then you’re most probably a dramatic coloratura. If, on the other hand, you have an easier time singing cadenzas and lots of short quick notes, then you’re most probably a lyric coloratura. Your age maters, too, though. Younger women are very rarely dramatic coloraturas.

      This is my best guess! I hope this helps! You might wish to look at the two posts about the dramatic and lyric coloratura and compare your voice to the videos.

    • Hi mary lou, if you really are soprano, you cannot have the D3, you means probably D4 .
      A high soprano can be coloratura or not, a low soprano can be coloratura or not .
      Coloratura doesn t mean high but agil .

  2. Alcina is a lyric soprano, Sesto from G. Cesare is a lyric mezzo and Mathilde is also a lyric soprano.

  3. I just started singing and my range is C3-B6. What would I be? Also, what is falsetto and how do I use it? Also, I am a girl and my speaking voice slightly deepened, but my singing voice got higher (from an E6 to a B6). Is this normal? Please respond!! Thanks for answering my questions.

  4. Hello, I am a soprano with a singing range of G3-C6. I tried to follow your guides, but I must admit, I was slightly confused. If it matters, I am a 13-year-old girl. I don’t know if you follow musicals, or if you’re just into the opera stuff (which I will admit I know nothing about, besides Pavarotti), but you might know these songs that I’ve sung with my Jr. Thespians group. “My Strongest Suit” from Aida, it was too low for me, “Unworthy of Your Love” from Assassins, in which, I struggled on the harmony at first, but I actually ended up getting Superior at the state competition, “Edgar Allen Poe” from Snoopy! the Musical, I was Peppermint Patty by the way, “All for the Best” from Godspell, I just sang Judas an octave higher, and “Six Months Out of Every Year” from Damn Yankees, which was easy, if not a tad low. Based on this, what do you think my subtype would be?

    • Hi Zola,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me. Though I write mostly about classical singing, I have to admit that I’m a very big fan of musical theater as well.

      Judging from your current range, you are a soprano. At least for now. Your voice will continue changing for at least 3-4 years more. You might be a soprano now, but once your voice settles you might figure out that you’re a mezzo-soprano or even an alto. This is the case with all women and the reason why classical training doesn’t start until a singer is 16.

      For the time being try not to push yourself. When singing in choir, if there’s a part of the melody that you can’t reach or it’s too strenuous, then just don’t sing it. When singing musical pieces solo, choose songs that you can sing easily and effortlessly. Keep in mind that most songs in the musical theater have been written for young adult singers.

      Since more than 60% of women are in fact mezzo-sopranos, most musical songs cater to them. Being a coloratura, I also find most musical songs too low for me, just like you. It might help to look for songs by characters who are around your age like Annie and the girls from the Sound of Music.

      Take care,
      Olga

  5. Hi My name is Michael. My range is from B flate in bass to an F naturel in coloratura sopran. I was told I am countertenor is that true

  6. Hi! I know you cannot give me a definitive answer without hearing me sing, but I am having the hardest time trying to type my voice. I am 23 years old, I took lessons briefly when I was 19 and my teacher then classified me as a lyric soprano with the potential to be a coloratura. I’ve been getting back into classical singing, and the more I learn about voice types, the more I think she may be mistaken, but I just don’t know. My current untrained full range is a2-d6 e6 on a good day, and I am most comfortable singing in between C5 and C6. I am also most comfortable with rapidly moving music rather than legato sustained notes, although I can hold notes for a long time. I feel as though my range goes awful low for a soprano, and without the F6 and given that above a C6 is quite difficult for me to hit I definitely wouldn’t be considered a coloratura soprano. Do you have any insights? I am not currently taking lessons, but would like to sometime in the near future.

  7. Hi, my name is Grace.
    I am currently eighteen years old, and I’ve been taking lessons for two years. I am a light lyric soprano, with potential to be a lyric coloratura (I think) and my vocal range extends from G3-F#6. However my vocal teacher has still not let me perform any song beyond a Bb5, even though she is aware that I can sing much higher. She still thinks that I’m not ready for a C6. I realize that anything beyond a C6 would be crazy right now with my level of experience, but I would like to be able to perform a sond with a C6 before I turn twenty.

    • Hi Grace,

      I understand your eagerness to sing all these high notes, anyhow they are the ones that have that wow factor and showcase your voice.

      Your teacher is right, though, not allowing you to sing above a C6 yet. You might be able to reach these notes, but if you’re not ready, meaning that you still don’t know the technique to tackle these notes, you might truly hurt your voice.

      It’s something that I have seen very often. Young coloraturas being encouraged and pressed by their teachers to sing high too soon, and eventually falling out of the scene really fast.

      Your teacher seems to know what she’s doing. I’d stick with her.
      I hope this helps!
      Olga

  8. Hi! I know you can’t be really sure without hearing me, but I’m a 15 year old girl who is a definite soprano, but I’m not really sure as to which one. I can sing the Jewel Song from Faust, and Juliet’s Waltz from Romeo et Juliette with ease, as well as Du gai Soleil from Werther. I can also sing Les Oiseaux Dans La Charmille (Doll Song) and Je Suis Titania very well, but with a little less accuracy, but Lakme’s Bell song is hard! I think my range is like a G 3 to an E6, more or less. I’m just really curious, (most of the arias I sing are coloratura) as to what my voice type is! Opera is so much fun, and I really do love it…your input is very much appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Hi Sofia,

      You have mentioned a couple of my favorite arie in there and yes the Bell Song is quite hard because you not only need to be able to sing the high notes of the bells, but you need to be able to support the opening recitativo as well.

      The arie you mentioned are, indeed, in the coloratura category, so if you can sing them even not very accurately, you can pretty much assume that you’re a coloratura.

      Having said that and taking in consideration that you’re interested in classical singing, I would strongly urge you to find a vocal coach. These pieces maybe be fun to sing, but doing so at this age and without proper technique can really affect your voice.

      I know that you want to sing and impress everyone with your voice, but trust me, if you push it too hard too soon, you might not get to enjoy it for very long. Again, talk to your parents or your music teacher and try to find a voice coach. Not only she/he will help you become better, but it will, also, look great on college applications.

      I hope this helps!
      Olga

  9. I’m not very sure what type of Soprano I am and I’m 12. But, I am the highest voice as a person in my whole high-school(I’m also the lowest girl). My voice is still maturing, but I think it’s ok. I can sing really high and it feels light and really easy. When I sing really low it’s Rich and still really easy. My choir teacher says I should keep at it, I’m already able to get a scholarship for it. But, since I can sing really high and really low, she can’t tell where she should put me. I can sing up to the highest key on the piano. And Almost to the lowest key. I get confused myself on what I am. Hope this helps! :D

  10. Hi, I am 35 years old and my experience is that, I am very often taken to be an alto, because my speaking range is about D2-F2, I can sing very low notes and bottom of my voice has dark color. I also thought I was an alto until a phoniatrican, who saw my vocal cords, told me my voice is very high and it has coloratura ability. When I checked this with a singing teacher, I appeared to be a… coloratura soprano, but with unbalanced registers and register break between C#5 and F#5 (which I earlier considered to be the top of my range). After a year of taking lessons, it is much better and I can go up to C7 so far. But some people (even those with musical education) consider me to be an alto because I can sing very low notes. Now I know not only the range decides about the voice type. Also the part of a voice which is the strongest. My voice is stronger in high notes than in low ones (so definitely this is a soprano, not an alto).

  11. Hello i am keith and im 21 years old and i am a baritone but i dont know what type of baritone i am i have like a tenor like quality in my lower register and i have 4 octaves with a whistle register and i a lyric or dramatic baritone .

  12. Excuse me, what is it about “oubrette, i.e. a lyric coloratura soubrette. On the other hand, if a lyric coloratura’s timber is warm, rather than metallic, she might be referred to as a soprano leggero.”? I Mean, what’s a metallic nd warm sound to be understood by?

    To be honest I don’t really get what a lyric coloratura is. Here in my country I’ve been told to be coloratura and to be leggero for different teachers, hence for me, are… The same. That’s why I don’t understand this about their timber.. Could you please provide with an example of each?

  13. Hi Olga – fascinating blog!

    I have a question: Does the whistle register tend to shrink early? I am a baritone, but in my late teens through mid twenties, I could access a whistle register up to about G above soprano high C (and sometimes though C above and beyond, though the sound here was tiny). Then I started taking singing lessons focusing on falsetto, and now, in my 30′s, I can rarely access that register except by “zipping up” and sucking in air. I kinda miss being able to hit those birdlike high notes.

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