Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Twenty-Five Works for Dramatic Soprano Voice and Orchestra

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Twenty-Five Works for Dramatic Soprano Voice and Orchestra

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

SELECTING AN APPROPRIATE PIECE for performance can be a challenge for singers. This is particularly true when there is a lack of reference sources that list suitable works. The following compilation highlights twenty-five works, dating from 1787 to 2004, that are specifically suited for dramatic soprano voice with orchestra.

This listing is comprised strictly of soprano/orchestral compositions and does not include works with other soloists (vocal or instrumental), chorus, or piano only accompaniment. Some selected pieces, while still suitable for dramatic soprano voice, have a smaller orchestral scoring (i.e., string orchestra) and all are eclectic in language, style, ethnic origin, and historical period. Various cultures are represented with their individual ethnic musical expressions: German, French, Polish, Russian, American, English, Italian, South African, Chinese, and Jewish (including two works about Holocaust victims). Elements of range, tessitura, and duration of piece were also considered when selecting works for inclusion. Suitability of these works for dramatic soprano voice also is evidenced by their being performed and recorded by renowned dramatic soprano artists. At the same time, many of the compositions listed can be performed by more than one voice type. This list draws from multiple genres of vocal music, including scena and aria, song cycle, monodrama, monopera, symphonic rhapsody, cantata, symphonic cycle, and lyric tragedy. Time periods with their respective musical styles needed to be represented; that criterion tempered these selections, and each is offered in chronological order. This listing is not all inclusive; rather, it is merely representational of works suited for the dramatic soprano voice category. A preference was given to works that had a dramatic, emotional effect, either through lyrics or music or both. Arguably, all these works utilize music that enhances the text, resulting in a passionate, gripping, terrifying, beautiful, or stunning performance.

Although there are generally accepted voice classifications, no clear boundaries indisputably separate soprano voice types. These vocal groupings are based upon many variables, and there is much debate as to how many voice categories exist, as well as to criteria for inclusion. This article concentrates solely on the following, well known classifications. As found in "Voice Categories" in Singer's Edition by Boldrey and Caldwell,1 the soprano voice can be classified into groupings according to the German Fach system: Leggero (soubrette), Lyrischer Koloratursopran (lyric coloratura), Dramatischer Koloratursopran (dramatic coloratura), Lyrischer Sopran (full lyric), Jugendlich dramatischer Sopran (spinto), Dramatischer Sopran (dramatic), and Hochdramatischer Sopran (heroic). Each of these categories can be subcategorized, but for the sake of brevity, we will concentrate on this more general listing. There are several widely accepted characteristics that classify the voice into one of these categories, including range, tessitura, timbre, weight, and agility.

Range refers to the highest and lowest notes the soprano can sing. All sopranos are expected to be able to sing a high C (C^sub 6^). While heavier dramatic voices usually do not perform higher than this note, a coloratura soprano is expected to reach a fourth above (F^sub 6^). Voice range is a primary consideration in identifying a singer's Fach, but cannot be the sole determining factor.

Tessitura, in reference to the singer's voice, is the area where one feels most comfortable singing (e.g., high tessitura, low tessitura), encompassing anywhere from a fourth to an octave. This term usually refers to where the majority of a musical composition's notes lie, and where a singer can perform without feeling too taxed. A soubrette's voice usually can sustain many high light notes, whereas a spinto soprano will sing the bulk of her music in the middle and low, leading to a climactic high note toward or at the end of a long phrase. …

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