Coloratura soprano

Coloratura soprano

A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs and leaps. The term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Some roles may be sung by either voice. For example, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was famously done at the Metropolitan Opera for many years by Lyric Coloratura Lily Pons, whose voice was quite small and light, but more recently the same role was sung by Ruth Ann Swenson whose voice is larger. Likewise, dramatic coloraturas have been extremely successful in singing the lighter roles. Categories within a certain voice range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.


Lyric coloratura soprano

A very agile light voice with a high upper extension, capable of fast vocal coloratura. Lyric coloraturas have a range of approximately middle C (C4) to "high F" (F6). Such a soprano is sometimes referred to as a soprano leggero if her vocal timbre has a slightly warmer quality. The soprano leggero also typically does not go as high as other coloraturas, peaking at a "high E" (E6).[1] Bel canto roles were typically written for this voice, and a wide variety of other composers have also written coloratura parts. Baroque music, early music and baroque opera also have many roles for this voice.[2]

  • To hear an example of a lyric coloratura soprano (Laura Claycomb in the role of Olympia from The Tales of Hoffman) click on this link: Watch Here

Lyric coloratura singers

Lyric coloratura soprano roles[2]

Dramatic coloratura soprano

A coloratura soprano with great flexibility in high-lying velocity passages, yet with great sustaining power comparable to that of a full spinto or dramatic soprano. Dramatic coloraturas have a range of approximately "low B" (B3) to "high F" (F6). Various dramatic coloratura roles have different vocal demands for the singer - for instance, the voice that can sing Abigail (Nabucco, Verdi) is unlikely to also sing Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti), but a factor in common is that the voice must be able to convey dramatic intensity as well as flexibility. Roles written specifically for this kind of voice include the more dramatic Mozart and bel canto female roles and early Verdi.[3] This is a very rare vocal fach, as thick vocal cords are needed to produce the large, dramatic notes, which usually lessens the flexibility and acrobatic abilities of the voice.

Dramatic coloratura singers

Dramatic coloratura soprano roles[2]

Sfogato soprano

In rare instances, some coloratura sopranos are able to sing above high F (F6) with great ease. These coloraturas are sometimes referred to as sfogato sopranos and at other times as piccolo coloratura sopranos.[4] Although both lyric and dramatic coloraturas can be sfogato sopranos, one of the defining characteristics of the Sfogato sound is a light and easy upper extension above F6 making it more unusual for a singer with a darker or heavier sound to be considered a sfogato soprano.[5] Classic examples of a sfogato soprano include Mado Robin, Lily Pons, Toti Dal Monte, and Amelita Galli-Curci. Some scholars have speculated that Maria Callas was a sfogato soprano. However, this view is not widely held as Callas had a darker quality to the voice than what is normally considered typical of a sfogato soprano.[6]

Listen and Compare

It should also be noted that several of the dramatic soprano roles are also the province of lyric coloraturas, and that some dramatic coloraturas move easily between the lyric coloratura. Both voices can also sometimes sing roles into the lyric soprano, the soubrette and rarely the lirico spinto reperetoire.[2]

Listen to lyric coloratura Beverly Sills sing the following:

  • The dramatic coloratura role of Violetta from La traviata. Click on this link: Watch Here (Compare to Sutherland below)

Listen to dramatic coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland sing the following:

  • The dramatic coloratura role of Violetta from La traviata. Click on this link: Watch Here (Compare To Sills above)
  • The lyric coloratura role of Marie from La fille du régiment. Click on this link: Watch Here (Compare To Sills above)


  1. ^ Dolmetsch Online - Music Dictionary Vm - Vz
  2. ^ a b c d Boldrey (1994),Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias, cited below
  3. ^ Coffin (1960), cited below
  4. ^ Apel, Willi (1968). Harvard Dictionary of Music: Second Edition. Belknap Press. ISBN 13: 978-0674375017. 
  5. ^ Dolmetsch Online - Music Dictionary Sf - Si
  6. ^ Vox Mentor : : Articles

Further reading

  • Boldrey, Richard (1994). Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 9781877761645. 
  • Boldrey, Richard; Robert Caldwell, Werner Singer, Joan Wall and Roger Pines (1992). Singer's Edition (Light Lyric Soprano): Operatic Arias - Light Lyric Soprano. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 9781877761027. 
  • Boldrey, Richard; Robert Caldwell, Werner Singer, Joan Wall and Roger Pines (1992). Singer's Edition (Soubrette): Operatic Arias - Soubrette. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 9781877761034. 
  • Coffin, Berton (1960). Coloratura, Lyric and Dramatic Soprano, Vol. 1. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. ISBN 9780810801882. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • coloratura soprano — noun a lyric soprano who specializes in coloratura vocal music • Syn: ↑coloratura • Hypernyms: ↑soprano • Instance Hyponyms: ↑Callas, ↑Maria Callas, ↑Maria Meneghini Callas, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

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  • coloratura — s.f. [der. di colorare ]. 1. (non com.) [il colorire] ▶◀ [➨ coloritura (1)]. 2. (mus.) [arricchimento ornamentale della linea melodica, per esibizione di virtuosismi canori] ▶◀ abbellimento, agilità, (non com.) diminuzione, fioritura, gorgheggio …   Enciclopedia Italiana

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