A contralto (Italian pronunciation: [konˈtralto]) is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range is the lowest female voice type.[1] The contralto's vocal range is fairly rare; similar to, but different from the alto, and almost identical to that of a countertenor, typically between the F below middle C (F3 in scientific pitch notation) to the second F above middle C (F5), although, at the extremes, some voices can reach the E below middle C (E3) or the second B♭ above middle C (B♭5).[1] The contralto voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic contralto.


1 History 2 Voice type 3 Subtypes and roles in opera

3.1 Coloratura 3.2 Lyric 3.3 Dramatic

4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links

History[edit] "Contralto" is primarily meaningful only in reference to classical and operatic singing, as other traditions lack a comparable system of vocal categorization. The term "contralto" is only applied to female singers; men singing in a similar range are called "countertenors".[2] The Italian terms "contralto" and "alto" are not synonymous, the latter technically denoting a specific vocal range in choral singing without regard to factors like tessitura, vocal timbre, vocal facility, and vocal weight.[3] Voice type[edit]

voice range (F3–F5) notated on the treble staff (left) and on piano keyboard in green with dot marking middle C (C4).

The contralto has the lowest vocal range of the female voice types, with the lowest tessitura.[2][4] The contralto voice range is between tenor and mezzo-soprano. Although tenors and baritones are usually male singers, some women can sing as low and are called "female tenors" or "female baritones." With the exception of very rare female singers, such terms are usually informal (slang). More formal terminology[5] would be contralto profundo (tenor) and contralto basso or oktavistka (baritone) but these are not traditionally named among the fach system. Some of the rare contraltos that can sing the female equivalent of tenor and baritone include Zarah Leander,[6][7] Ruby Helder,[8][9] and Bally Prell.[10][11] Subtypes and roles in opera[edit] The earliest cited role for the contralto is traditionally accepted to be that of the Saracen princess Clorinde in André Campra's 1702 opera Tancréde, and most famously performed by (and was originally written for) Julie d'Aubigny.[12] Within the contralto voice type category are three generally recognized subcategories: coloratura contralto, lyric contralto, and dramatic contralto. These subtypes do not always apply with precision to individual singers; some exceptional dramatic contraltos, such as Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Ernestine Schumann-Heink
and Sigrid Onégin, were technically equipped to perform not only heavy, dramatic music by the likes of Wagner but also florid compositions by Donizetti. Coloratura[edit] The coloratura contralto has a light, agile voice ranging very high for the classification and atypically maintains extensive coloratura and high sustaining notes, specializing in florid passages and leaps. Given its deviations from the classification's norms, this voice type is quite rare. Lyric[edit] The lyric contralto voice is lighter than a dramatic contralto but not capable of the ornamentation and leaps of a coloratura contralto. This class of contralto, lighter in timbre than the others, is the most common today and usually ranges from the E below middle C (E3) to the second G above middle C (G5). Dramatic[edit] The dramatic contralto is the deepest, darkest, and heaviest contralto voice, usually having a heavier tone and more power than the others. Singers in this class are rare. True operatic contraltos are rare, and the operatic literature contains few roles written specifically for them. Contraltos sometimes are assigned feminine roles like Angelina in La Cenerentola, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Teodata in "Flavio", Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri, and Olga in Eugene Onegin, but more frequently they play female villains or trouser roles. Contraltos may also be cast in roles originally written for castrati. A common saying among contraltos is that they may play only "witches, bitches, or britches."[13] Examples of contralto roles in the standard operatic repertoire include the following:.[13]

Angelina*, La Cenerentola
La Cenerentola
(Rossini) Arsace, Semiramide
(Rossini) Art Banker, Facing Goya
Facing Goya
(Nyman) Auntie*, landlady of The Boar, Peter Grimes
Peter Grimes
(Britten) Azucena*, Il trovatore
Il trovatore
(Verdi) The Baroness, Vanessa (Barber) Bradamante, Alcina
(Handel) La Cieca, La Gioconda (Ponchielli) Cornelia Giulio Cesare
Giulio Cesare
(Handel) The Countess*, The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) Didone, Egisto (Cavalli) Erda, Das Rheingold, Siegfried (Wagner) Madame Flora, The Medium
The Medium
(Menotti) Fides, Le prophète
Le prophète
(Meyerbeer) Florence, Albert Herring
Albert Herring
(Britten) Isabella*, L'italiana in Algeri
L'italiana in Algeri
(Rossini) Katisha, The Mikado
The Mikado
(Gilbert and Sullivan) Klytemnestra*, Elektra (Richard Strauss) Lel, The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden
(Rimsky-Korsakov) Little Buttercup, H.M.S. Pinafore
H.M.S. Pinafore
(Gilbert and Sullivan) Lucretia, The Rape of Lucretia
The Rape of Lucretia
(Britten) Maddalena*, Rigoletto
(Verdi) Magdelone, Maskarade
(Nielsen) Mama Lucia, Cavalleria rusticana
Cavalleria rusticana
(Mascagni) Ma Moss, The Tender Land (Copland) Malcolm*, La donna del lago
La donna del lago
(Rossini) Margret, Wozzeck
(Berg) Maria, Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess
(Gershwin) The Marquise of Berkenfield, La fille du régiment
La fille du régiment
(Donizetti) Marthe, Faust (Gounoud) Mary, Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner) Mother, The Consul
The Consul
(Menotti) Mother Goose, The Rake's Progress
The Rake's Progress
(Stravinsky) Mrs Quickly, Falstaff (Verdi) Norn (I), Götterdämmerung
(Wagner) Olga*, Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) Orfeo, Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
(Gluck) Orsini, Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti) Pauline, The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) La Principessa, Suor Angelica
Suor Angelica
(Puccini) Ratmir, Ruslan and Lyudmila (Glinka) Rosina*, The Barber of Seville
The Barber of Seville
(Rossini) Rosmira/Eurimene*, Partenope
(Handel) Ruth, The Pirates of Penzance
The Pirates of Penzance
(Gilbert and Sullivan) Schwertleite, Die Walküre
Die Walküre
(Wagner) Smeaton, Anna Bolena
Anna Bolena
(Donizetti) Sosostris, The Midsummer Marriage (Tippett) Stella, What Next? (Carter) Tancredi, Tancredi
(Rossini) Ulrica, Un ballo in maschera
Un ballo in maschera
(Verdi) Widow Begbick*, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
(Weill) 3rd Woodsprite, Rusalka (Dvořák)

* indicates a role that may also be sung by a mezzo-soprano. See also[edit]

Category of contraltos List of operatic contraltos Fach, the German system for classifying voices Voice classification in non-classical music List of contraltos in non-classical music


^ a b McKinney, James (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults. Genovex Music Group. ISBN 978-1-56593-940-0.  ^ a b Appelman, D. Ralph (1986). The Science of Vocal Pedagogy: Theory and Application. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-20378-6.  ^ Stark, James (2003). Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8614-3.  ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Contralto". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  ^ "Female Tenor...or...Profundo and Oktavistka?" Contralto
Corner. 4 August 2013. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2016-11-13.  ^ Peucker, Brigitte. "The Material Image: Art and The Real in Film". 2007. p. 120 Archived 2017-09-05 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Rosa Sala Rose. " Zarah Leander
Zarah Leander
and the Leibstandarte SS". Archived 2016-06-02 at the Wayback Machine. 15 December 2012. ^ " Contralto
Update: English Contralto
Profondo Ruby Helder". Archived 2016-06-03 at the Wayback Machine. Contralto
Corner. 20 September 2013. ^ Elliot, David J. (2005). Praxial Music Education: Reflections and Dialogues. Oxford University Press. p. 302. ISBN 9780199725113. Archived from the original on 2017-03-26.  ^ " Contralto
Profondo Bally Prell
Bally Prell
Added To The Contralto
Corner" Archived 2016-06-03 at the Wayback Machine., Contralto
Corner. 14 July 2015. ^ " Contralto
Female Voice (Fach)". YouTube: DHO Gwen. 8 January 2017. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-09-05. Retrieved 2017-03-26.  ^ The part of Clorinde is notated in the soprano clef (original score, p. 71), but, although it never descends below d′, tradition has it that it was the first major bas-dessus (contralto) role in the French opera history (Sadie, Julie Anne, Maupin, in Sadie, Stanley (ed), op. cit., III, p. 274). ^ a b Boldrey, Richard (1994). Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-877761-64-5. 

Further reading[edit]

Coffin, Berton (1960). Coloratura, Lyric and Dramatic Soprano, Vol. 1. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-0188-2.  Peckham, Anne (2005). Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singer. Berklee Press Publications. ISBN 978-0-87639-047-4.  Smith, Brenda (2005). Choral Pedagogy. Plural Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-1-59756-043-6. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Contralto
vocalists at Wikimedia Commons The dictionary definition of Contralto
at Wiktionary<