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Dramatic Voices
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Opera singing has not changed over the centuries, but opera houses, orchestras and the scope of repertoire are constantly growing and evolving. A great deal of mystery has surrounded the “dramatic voice,” and early career artists have many questions about their career path, choosing repertoire and training. In an effort to assist singers and educators to sift through the vast amount of information, OPERA America will soon add a Web page dedicated to dramatic voices, consisting of frequently asked questions and responses written by Roger Pines, dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago. The following is a sample of the upcoming Web page’s content:

What qualities of the voice make it a dramatic voice? How does it differ from a voice that is simply loud?

Dramatic voices are typically those that require the maximum in weight and heft in the sound. Classifying a voice as “dramatic” is less about sheer volume and more about timbre, projection and the ability to sustain wide-ranging music over a large orchestra.

At what age do dramatic voices typically mature?

As each singer is unique, there are always exceptions, but singers with dramatic voices generally fully develop their sound later than lyric voices, many not until their mid- to late 30s or even early 40s.

What are some of the opera roles considered to be dramatic voice repertoire in each voice type?

Role Opera Composer
Soprano ( * dramatic coloratura; ** can also be sung by mezzos)
Aida Aida Verdi
Sélika ** L’africaine Meyerbeer
Lady Billows Albert Herring Britten
Alceste Alceste Gluck
Maddalena Andrea Chénier Giordano
Anna * Anna Bolena Donizetti
Ariane Ariane et Barbe-Bleu Dukas
Amelia Un ballo in maschera Verdi
Santuzza ** Cavalleria rusticana Mascagni
Mother Marie ** Dialogues des Carmélites Poulenc
Elisabeth Don Carlos Verdi
Lucrezia * I due Foscari Verdi
Elektra Elektra Richard Strauss
Chrysothemis Elektra Richard Strauss
Elvira * Ernani Verdi
Woman Erwartung Schönberg
Eglantine Euryanthe Weber
Minnie La fanciulla del West Puccini
Fedora ** Fedora Giordano
Leonore/Fidelio Fidelio Beethoven
Senta Der fliegende Holländer Wagner
Leonora La forza del destino Verdi
Dyer's Wife Die Frau ohne Schatten Richard Strauss
Maria Friedenstag Richard Strauss
Gioconda La Gioconda Ponchielli
Elizabeth I Gloriana Britten
Kostelnička Jenůfa Janáček
Rachel La juive Halévy
Katerina Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Shostakovich
Valentine Les Huguenots Meyerbeer
Cassandre ** Les Troyens Berlioz
Elsa Lohengrin Wagner
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