Home > Blog > Soubrette Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (1/25)

Soubrette Soprano: Voice Type Characteristics (1/25)

This post on the Soubrette 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 soubrette is usually a young soprano whose voice portrays her youthfulness and energy, but is still powerful enough to be heard over an orchestra. Her voice is light and bright, and has a soft timbre. Most roles won’t require extensive coloraturas, nor long sustaining notes.

A soubrette’s range is generally between C4 and C6.

Many lyric and dramatic sopranos start out as soubrettes before they develop into their respective voice types as they mature. This doesn’t mean that they are full soubrettes, but rather that they can play soubrette roles.

A soubrette will usually be casted in comic operas in secondary and supporting roles, like those of a friend, maid, or lady in waiting. Her characters will be young and frisky, coy but flirtatious, fickle and whimsical.

Soubrette Soprano: Despina in Cosi fan Tutte
Danielle de Niese as Despina in Cosi fan Tutte. Photograph by Marty Sohl

Most of the times, a soubrette’s roles will require more acting than singing. Though her melodic lines are rather simple, she must possess excellent acting skills and a good command of the German language. This is why this soprano is also called acting soprano or Spielsopran.

Here’s a very nice example of Ainhoa Garmendia as Despina in Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Take note of the light quality of her voice and her amazing acting.

Examples of Soubrette Arias

Aria Character Opera Composer
Mein Herr Marquis Adele Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss II
Spiel Ich Die Unschuld Vom Lande Adele Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss II
Deh Vieni, Non Tardar Susanna Le Nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Batti, batti Zerlina Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In uomini, in soldati Despina Così Fan Tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Una donna a quindici anni Despina Così Fan Tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
O war ich schon mit Dir vereint Marzellina Fidelio Ludwig van Beethoven

Soubrette Roles

Character Opera Composer
Cis Albert Herring Benjamin Britten
Emmie Albert Herring Benjamin Britten
Echo Ariadne auf Naxos Richard Strauss
Bastienne Bastien und Bastienne Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Despina Così fan tutte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ännchen Der Freischütz Carl Maria von Weber
Dido’s attendant Dido and Aeneas Henry Purcell
Belinda Dido and Aeneas Henry Purcell
Blondchen Die Entführung aus dem Serail Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Adele Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss
Papagena Die Zauberflöte Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Zerlina Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Norina Don Pasquale Gaetano Donizetti
Nannetta Falstaff Giuseppe Verdi
Josephine H.M.S. Pinafore Arthur Sullivan
Gretel Hänsel und Gretel Englebert Humperdinck
Elisa Il Rè Pastore Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Tamyris Il Rè Pastore Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Adina L’Elisir d’Amore Gaetano Donizetti
Giannetta L’Elisir d’Amore Gaetano Donizetti
Elvira L’Italiana in Algeri Gioacchino Rossini
Clorinda La Cenerentola Gioacchino Rossini
Servilia La Clemenza di Tito Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Serpetta La Finta Giardiniera Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ninetta La Finta Semplice Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Serpina La Serva Padrona Giovanni Pergolesi
Lisa La Sonnambula Vincenzo Bellini
Annina La Traviata Giuseppe Verdi
Walter La Wally Alfredo Catalani
Susanna Le Nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Barbarina Le Nozze di Figaro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Clotilda Norma Vincenzo Bellini
Amor Orfeo ed Euridice Christoph Willibald Gluck
Laurie Moss The Tender Land Aaron Copland

11 comments

  1. any suggestions for a light soubrette soprano voice regarding the “golden age” of musical theater?

    • Hi Kelly, thank you for your question!

      A light soubrette interested in musical theater would be classified as a character soprano. The first thing to do would be to complement your singing lessons with acting classes. Then you want to make sure that you enunciate consonants very clearly. It would help to practice speaking lyrics out and overemphasizing the consonants before staring to sing.

      The good thing about the gold era of musical theater is that there are a few very nice songs for sopranos. Depending on your age, there are different roles and songs that you could master. Think that usually it’s the younger characters that would require a light soubrette. Here are a few roles and songs for you that I can think of right now:

      West Side Story, Maria – I feel pretty
      Gypsy, June – Let me entertain you
      Bye Bye Birdie, Kim – How lovely to be a woman
      Annie, Annie – Tomorrow
      Guys and Dolls, Sister Sarah – If I were a bell
      My Fair Lady, Eliza – The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain

      Finally, I think that the hardest thing would be to keep yourself from copying the nasal singing that you’ll hear from most singers who take on these roles. Remember that singing nasally tenses your throat and neck muscles and eventually has a toll on your voice. Stay relaxed and avoid hearing recordings of the songs you are studying until after you’ve mastered them yourself.

  2. Hello there! I am a Junior in High School and currently looking at universities as I’m hoping to major in Voice! My private instructor recommended finding a personal “inspiration” for myself, a young opera/classical singer with a very similar voice type to mine; serving as both a motivation and also hopefully I can work on some of the simpler songs she sings that seem to agree with my voice! I was wondering if you would have any ideas? I am DEFINATELY as soubrette as a soubrette can be; my voice has been numerously described as being uniquely “bright” and young sounding. Not nasally sounding, I’ve worked hard to correct that, (though I do still have to watch out for it sometimes) just young, warm, and very, VERY bright! And this was when performing alongside OTHER soubrettes, mine STILL stood out as bright!

    • Hi there Claire,

      The thing with the soubrette category is that it’s usually an intermediate stage before the voice matures and settles.

      Some contemporary singers who started their careers are soubrettes include:
      – Camilla Tilling
      – Tracy Dahl
      – Sally Silver
      – Kristin Chenoweth and more

      Also, the most popular role for soubrettes is Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.

      Though finding some inspiration is, indeed, a great idea, I would urge you to look outside your vocal category until your voice settles. Two of my personal favorites of all time because of the perfection of their singing and the theatricality of their performances are Cecilia Bartoli and Natalie Dessay.

      I hope this helps!
      Olga

  3. Also my voice seems to agree the most with the “ah” vowels, another odd trait!

  4. hi i was curious because a week ago i saw a young choir they were amazing like angels and the lead soloist was a 19 years old girl when i heared her i was like oh wait thats heavenly but she remains me of someone it took me a while to figure out that she had almost the same voice of tom cully from libera and he was like 11 in there so i wonder how can she had not changed her voice yet i mean does a teen who sings like a treble fits the soubourette category?

  5. Hi! 🙂 I know it’s hard for you to tell because you’ve never heard me sing, and seeing as this was written two years ago I’m not even sure that I’ll get a reply, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my voal range and what that means with my vocal type. I can sing E2 through E6, but comfortable and without as much warmup I can sing G2 through B5. I’ve sang alto and soprano throughout my different choirs (I’m currently in three- in one I’m an alto, in one I’m a mezzo or second soprano, and in one I’m a first soprano) and I don’t know which one is best. As far as acting, I’ve played a few different roles, though I feel I’m rather dramatic. In my singing, I’m often told I convey my emotions well (it was my only five in solo & ensamble). I’m only fourteen, so my voice is very light, and I really can’t belt anywhere in my voice. I was just wondering…what does all of that mean? What am I in the world of music? I can’t really tell, and I was hoping you could help. I know that without hearing my sing it’s more difficult, but hopefully with the information given, you can give me a starting place. Thank you for taking your time to read this! 🙂 Much love, Abby. x

  6. My range is about an F3-C6 (I can sometimes go up to an D or E on a really good day, usually it depends if i’ve been talking a lot), and my voice has been described as “overly bright” but also “lovely” by the same person. I switch between soprano 1 and soprano 2 in choir and I also do a lot of musicals because my voice is pretty well suited for most musicals as long as i don’t have to belt. I’m also kinda young (15). Does this sound like a soubrette?

    • Thank you, Will, for this quote. Never heard it before but I’m glad to reoprt that I have intuitively done this since I can remember. I keep lists and put a check-mark on each as I complete my tasks one by one. This keeps me focused and on track most of the times On a side note, my kids make fun of me because I still use pen and paper for this, vs any gadget that they have tried to talk me into. I much rather see my tasks in front of me so I check on my progress visually.Have a successful week ahead!Tammy

  7. Hi! I am nearly 20 years old and have a very light and bright singing voice. I don’t have quite the range of a soprano or an alto, rather I’m somewhere in between without full control of the extremes. Though it’s not the most projecting voice it is bright and light. Would that be a soubrette?

    I have a functional understanding of music, as I’m a music major and instrumentalist.

  8. Will, you must have been reading my mind!I’ts Monday mnnoirg in the UK and I have been mulling over what to do first as I hadn’t written out a prioritised TO DO list for the day.I think that it is vital to create a list of actions for the day and work through them ONE by ONE if you are going to get anything productive done.Jim Rohn had a good saying: Never start your day, before you finish it meaning that he would plan his day the night before, and then work his plan the following day makes sense.

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