The word coloratura (Italian pronunciation: [koloraˈtuːra]) is originally from Italian, literally meaning "coloring", and derives from the Latin word colorare ("to color"). When used in English, the term specifically refers to elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, with runs, trills, wide leaps, or similar virtuoso-like material. Its instrumental equivalent is ornamentation. It is also now widely used to refer to passages of such music, operatic roles in which such music plays a prominent part, and singers of these roles.
The term "coloratura" was first defined in several early non-Italian music dictionaries: Michael Praetorius's Syntagma musicum (1618); Sébastien de Brossard's Dictionaire de musique (1703); and Johann Gottfried Walther's Musicalisches Lexicon (1732). In these early texts "the term is dealt with briefly and always with reference to Italian usage".
The term was never used in the most famous Italian texts on singing: Giulio Caccini's Le Nuove musiche (1601/2); Pier Francesco Tosi's, Opinioni de' cantori antichi e moderni (1723); Giovanni Battista Mancini's Pensieri, e riflessioni pratiche sopra il canto figurato (1774); Manuel García's Mémoire sur la voix humaine (1841), and Traité complet de l’art du chant (1840–47); nor was it used by the English authors Charles Burney (1726–1814) and Henry Fothergill Chorley (1808–1872), both of whom wrote at length about Italian singing of a period when ornamentation was essential.
The term "coloratura" is most commonly applied to the elaborate and florid figuration or ornamentation in classical (late 18th century) and romantic (19th century, specifically bel canto) vocal music. However, early music of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and in particular, baroque music extending up to about 1750, includes a substantial body of music for which coloratura technique is required by vocalists and instrumentalists alike. In the modern musicological sense the term is therefore used to refer to florid music from all periods of music history, both vocal and instrumental. For example, in Germany the term "coloratura" (German: Koloratur) has been applied to the stereotypical and formulaic ornamentation used in 16th‑century keyboard music written by a group of German organ composers referred to as the "colorists" (German: Koloristen).
Despite its derivation from Latin colorare ("to color"), the term "coloratura" does not apply to the practice of "coloring" the voice, i.e. altering the quality or timbre of the voice for expressive purposes (for example, the technique of voix sombrée used by Gilbert Duprez in the 1830s).
The term is not restricted to describing any one range of voice. All female and male voice types may achieve mastery of coloratura technique. There are coloratura parts for all voice types in different musical genres.
Nevertheless, the term "coloratura", when used without further qualification, normally means soprano di coloratura. A coloratura soprano role, most famously typified by the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute, has a high range and requires the singer to execute with great facility elaborate ornamentation and embellishment, including running passages, staccati, and trills. A coloratura soprano has the vocal ability to produce notes above high C (C6) and possesses a tessitura ranging from A4 to A5 or higher (unlike lower sopranos whose tessitura is G4–G5 or lower).
Richard Miller names two types of soprano coloratura voices (the coloratura and the dramatic coloratura) as well as a mezzo-soprano coloratura voice, and although he does not mention the coloratura contralto, he includes mention of specific works requiring coloratura technique for the contralto voice.
Examples of coloratura music for different voice ranges include:
A baritone is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος (barýtonos), meaning heavy sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (i.e. F2–F4) in choral music, and from the second A below middle C to the A above middle C (A2 to A4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end. The baritone voice type is generally divided into the baryton-Martin baritone (light baritone), lyric baritone, Kavalierbariton, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble baritone, and the bass-baritone.Beverly Sills
Beverly Sills (May 25, 1929 – July 2, 2007) was an American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s.
Although she sang a repertoire from Handel and Mozart to Puccini, Massenet and Verdi, she was known for her performances in coloratura soprano roles in live opera and recordings. Sills was largely associated with the operas of Donizetti, of which she performed and recorded many roles. Her signature roles include the title role in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, the title role in Massenet's Manon, Marie in Donizetti's La fille du régiment, the three heroines in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, and most notably Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux.
The New York Times noted, "In her prime her technique was exemplary. She could dispatch coloratura roulades and embellishments, capped by radiant high Ds and E-flats, with seemingly effortless agility. She sang with scrupulous musicianship, rhythmic incisiveness and a vivid sense of text." NPR commented, her voice was "Capable of spinning a seemingly endless legato line, or bursting with crystalline perfection into waves of dazzling fiorature and thrilling high notes." After retiring from singing in 1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the chairwoman of Lincoln Center and then, in 2002, of the Metropolitan Opera, stepping down in 2005. Sills lent her celebrity to further her charity work for the prevention and treatment of birth defects.Coloratura soprano
A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.
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. Categories within a certain vocal range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.Contralto
A contralto (Italian pronunciation: [konˈtralto]) is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range is the lowest female voice type.The contralto's vocal range is fairly rare; similar to the mezzo-soprano, 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 D below middle C (D3) or the second B♭ above middle C (B♭5). The contralto voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic contralto.Fach
The German Fach system (German pronunciation: [fax]; literally "compartment" or "subject of study", here in the sense of "vocal specialization") is a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. It is used worldwide, but primarily in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries and by repertory opera houses.
The Fach system is a convenience for singers and opera houses. It prevents singers from being asked to sing roles which they are incapable of performing. Opera companies keep lists of available singers by Fach so that when they are casting roles for an upcoming production, they do not inadvertently contact performers who would be inappropriate for the part.
Below is a list of Fächer (German pronunciation: [ˈfɛçɐ]), their ranges as written on sheet music, and roles generally considered appropriate to each. When two names for the Fach are given, the first is in more common use today. Where possible, an English and/or Italian equivalent of each Fach is listed; however, not all Fächer have ready English or Italian equivalents. Note that some roles can be sung by more than one Fach and that many singers do not easily fit into a Fach: for instance some sopranos may sing both Koloratursopran and Dramatischer Koloratursopran roles. In addition, roles traditionally more difficult to cast may be given to a voice other than the traditional Fach. For instance, the "Queen of the Night" is more traditionally a dramatic coloratura role, but it is difficult to find a dramatic coloratura to sing it (particularly given the extreme range). Therefore, the role is often sung by a lyric coloratura.Fioritura
Fioritura (Italian for "flourish", or "flowering") is the florid embellishment of melodic lines, either notated by a composer or improvised during a performance. It usually involves lengthy, complex embellishments, as opposed to standardized local ornamental figures such as trills, mordents, or appoggiaturas, and its use is documented as early as the thirteenth century (Da Costa 2002; Jander 2001). The alternative term "coloratura" is less accurate (Steane 1992). It is closely related to the sixteenth-century practice of diminution or division (Randel 2003).Harolyn Blackwell
Harolyn Blackwell (born November 23, 1955) is an American lyric coloratura soprano who has performed in many of the world's finest opera houses, concert halls, and theaters in operas, oratorios, recitals, and Broadway musicals. Initially known for her work within musical theater during the early 1980s, Blackwell moved into the field of opera and by 1987 had established herself as an artist within the soubrette repertoire in many major opera houses both in the United States and in Europe. Feeling that she was being "type cast" into one particular kind of role, Blackwell strove to establish herself within the lyric coloratura repertoire beginning in the mid-1990s. With the aid of such companies as Seattle Opera, Blackwell successfully made this move and is now an interpreter of such roles as Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Olympia in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffman. She has also periodically returned to musical theater performances throughout her career in staged productions, concert work, and recitals. Blackwell is known for her interpretations and recordings of the works of Leonard Bernstein.Lilac (color)
Lilac is a colour that is a pale violet tone representing the average colour of most lilac flowers. It might also be described as dark mauve or light purple. The colours of some lilac flowers may be equivalent to the colours shown below as pale lilac, rich lilac, or deep lilac. There are other lilac flowers that are coloured red-violet.
The first recorded use of lilac as an English colour name was in 1775.The "lilac" colour has a specific book published in 2018 by Coloratura Publisher.Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (English: , ; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz).
The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn
"O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn" ("Oh, tremble not, my dear son") is the first aria performed by the Queen of the Night (a famous soprano coloratura part) in Mozart's singspiel The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). It is not as well known as the Queen's second aria, "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen", though no less demanding; the aria requires a soprano coloratura with extremely high tessitura and great vocal flexibility.Raspberry (color)
Raspberry is a color that resembles the color of raspberries.
The first recorded use of raspberry as a color name in English was in 1892.The "raspberry" color has a specific book published in 2018 by Coloratura PublisherRoberta Peters
Roberta Peters (May 4, 1930 – January 18, 2017) was an American coloratura soprano.
One of the most prominent American singers to achieve lasting fame and success in opera, Peters is noted for her 35-year association with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York, among the longest such associations between a singer and a company in opera. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1998.Soprano
A soprano [soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) =880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) =1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody.
The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.Soubrette
A soubrette is a type of operatic soprano voice fach, often cast as a female stock character in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy". A soubrette is also defined as a young woman regarded as flirtatious or frivolous.Susan Powell (Miss America)
Susan Carol Powell (born March 24, 1959) is an American actress, singer, and television personality. A native of Elk City, Oklahoma, Powell began her career as a successful beauty pageant contestant, winning the Miss Oklahoma pageant in 1980 and proceeded to the Miss America crown for the year 1981. A coloratura soprano, she has performed in musical theater and on opera stages around the world. In 1993, Powell embarked on a new television career, becoming the co-host of Discovery Channel's Home Matters home and garden program in 1993.Vocal weight
Vocal weight refers to the perceived "lightness" or "heaviness" of a singing voice. This quality of the voice is one of the major determining factors in voice classification within classical music. Lighter voices are often associated with the term "lyric" and are usually brighter and more agile; heavier voices are often associated with the term "dramatic" and are usually powerful, rich, and darker. Other voice types like the spinto have a more medium vocal weight. Vocal weight can also affect overall vocal agility; heavier voices often have more difficulty maneuvering through florid coloratura passages than their lighter counterparts, as their weight and power compromises agility. Likewise, dramatic roles are often written with larger orchestras in mind as dramatic voices can carry more easily over larger ensembles.Voice type
A voice type classifies a singing voice by vocal range, vocal weight, tessitura, vocal timbre, vocal transition points (passaggia) like breaks and lifts, and vocal register. Voice classification was developed for European classical music and seldom applies to other kinds of singing; voice classification is in the opera to pair roles with voices. Several different voice classification systems are available to identify voice types, including the German Fach system and the choral music system among many others; no system is universally applied or accepted.Voice classification is a tool for singers, composers, venues, and listeners to categorize vocal properties and to associate roles with voices. While choral singers are classified into voice parts based on their vocal range, solo singers are classified into voice types based more on their tessitura – where their voice feels most comfortable for the majority of the time.A singer will choose a repertoire that suits his or her instrument. Some singers such as Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, Ewa Podleś, or Plácido Domingo have voices that allow them to sing roles from a wide variety of types; some singers such as Shirley Verrett or Grace Bumbry change type and even voice part over their careers; and some singers such as Leonie Rysanek have voices that lower with age, causing them to cycle through types over their careers. Some roles as well are hard to classify, having very unusual vocal requirements; Mozart wrote many of his roles for specific singers who often had remarkable voices, and some of Verdi's early works make extreme demands on his singers.Whistle register
The whistle register (also called the flute register or whistle tone) is the highest register of the human voice, lying above the modal register and falsetto register. This register has a specific physiological production that is different from the other registers, and is so called because the timbre of the notes that are produced from this register is similar to that of a whistle.
In some sopranos, the modal register vocal production may extend into what is usually thought of as the whistle register.Yma Sumac
Yma Sumac (; September 10, 1923 – November 1, 2008), was a Peruvian–American coloratura soprano. In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous exponents of exotica music.
Sumac became an international success based on her extreme vocal range. She had six-and-a-half octaves according to some reports, but other reports (and recordings) document four-and-a-half at the peak of her singing career. (A typical trained singer has a range of about three octaves.)In one live recording of "Chuncho", she sings a range of over four and a half octaves, from B2 to G♯7. She was able to sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of an ordinary soprano and notes in the whistle register. Both low and high extremes can be heard in the song "Chuncho (The Forest Creatures)" (1953). She was also apparently able to sing in a remarkable "double voice".In 1954, classical composer Virgil Thomson described Sumac's voice as "very low and warm, very high and birdlike", noting that her range "is very close to five octaves, but is in no way inhuman or outlandish in sound." In 2012, audio recording restoration expert John H. Haley favorably compared Sumac's tone to opera singers Isabella Colbran, Maria Malibran, and Pauline Viardot. He described Sumac's voice as not having the "bright penetrating peal of a true coloratura soprano", but having in its place "an alluring sweet darkness ... virtually unique in our time."