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Thread: Soprano vs. Mezzo-soprano repertoire

          
   
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    Senior Member Involved Member Tardis's Avatar
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    Soprano vs. Mezzo-soprano repertoire

    There's the familiar saying that mezzos play "witches, villainesses, and breeches".
    So even though there seem to be a number of fantastic mezzos in the field today, are they limited by the available roles that they can play?
    Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like sopranos traditionally dominate the "diva" position.




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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    The sexy, sexy Susan Graham has the answer:


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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    There are some mezzo leading roles as well, it's not just witches and bitches. Carmen, Rosina, Angelina, Ariodante, Isabella, Giulio Cesare, Serse, Charlotte, The Composer, Donna Elvira, Dorabella, Marguerite, Octavian, Dido, to quote a few.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Involved Member Tardis's Avatar
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    This is great. I love it! Especially when the pianist starts playing at 1:18.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    The sexy, sexy Susan Graham has the answer:


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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    There are some mezzo leading roles as well, it's not just witches and bitches. Carmen, Rosina, Angelina, Ariodante, Isabella, Giulio Cesare, Serse, Charlotte, The Composer, Donna Elvira, Dorabella, Marguerite, Octavian, Dido, to quote a few.
    To be fair, Ariodante, Serse, The Composer and Octavian are all trouser roles.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tardis View Post
    There's the familiar saying that mezzos play "witches, villainesses, and breeches".
    So even though there seem to be a number of fantastic mezzos in the field today, are they limited by the available roles that they can play?
    Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like sopranos traditionally dominate the "diva" position.

    Castrati were often in the mezzo-soprano and contralto range, and they dominated the opera scene for a few centuries.

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    May I just add that mezzo-sopranos are much nicer and more pleasant race of people in comparison to sopranos who happen to be the real witches, considering the reality, not stage characters they play.

    And I don't really think it's so bad with choice of roles, indeed there are many operas where mezzo-soprano is the first lady to love and admire, not to mention that they sometimes sing soprano roles without loosing their mezzo qualities (Joyce DiDonato's great performance of Donna del Lago, for example).

    I used to think otherwise but it's the same thing as with baritones: when you start exploring opera you think they are always the secondary characters that do the evil stuff to get the drama going but the more you hear the more you realize it's not the entire truth.

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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anne of Green Gables View Post
    And I don't really think it's so bad with choice of roles, indeed there are many operas where mezzo-soprano is the first lady to love and admire, not to mention that they sometimes sing soprano roles without loosing their mezzo qualities (Joyce DiDonato's great performance of Donna del Lago, for example).
    Elena was written for Isabella Colbran and while the identity of her fach is not quite known (she is described as a soprano, although this was before people started differentiating between mezzos and sopranos - plus, we know that she did not really have any high notes), the tessitura is that of a mezzo-soprano. There are sopranos that have sung the role with interpolated high notes, but that is not what is written. The same goes for the other Colbran roles, like Desdemona and Ermione.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    Elena was written for Isabella Colbran and while the identity of her fach is not quite known (she is described as a soprano, although this was before people started differentiating between mezzos and sopranos - plus, we know that she did not really have any high notes), the tessitura is that of a mezzo-soprano. There are sopranos that have sung the role with interpolated high notes, but that is not what is written. The same goes for the other Colbran roles, like Desdemona and Ermione.
    Good to know, though most of recordings of that particular opera I know have soprano in the role of Elena (Anderson, Ricciarelli, Caballe) and so I've assumed it is rather soprano role then. Checking wikipedia (I know it's not always the best source), it's marked as soprano role there as well.

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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anne of Green Gables View Post
    Good to know, though most of recordings of that particular opera I know have soprano in the role of Elena (Anderson, Ricciarelli, Caballe) and so I've assumed it is rather soprano role then. Checking wikipedia (I know it's not always the best source), it's marked as soprano role there as well.
    Most likely because that's what the original Dramatis PersonŠ says. The same goes for CosÝ where all the female parts are sopranos and both Don Alfonso and Guglielmo are marked as basses.

    Mezzo-sopranos hadn't been invented yet.

  14. #11
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    Isabella Colbran was considered a soprano, and was singing roles of 'prima donna'. When there was a soprano in the main role, and another role for soprano, this other one was the 'seconda donna', usually a role written with somewhat less range, and also less fioriture.

    The real difference between women fach, was with the alto voice. In that same opera, "La Donna del Lago", we had Rosmunda Pisaroni singing Malcolm.

    The best historical performers of the role: Rosanna Carteri, Montserrat Caballe, June Anderson,... are also sopranos.

    Rossini considered German singer Henriette Sonntag "the purest voice of soprano I've ever heard", and she was also singing Elena. And she would never dream of singing alto roles like sometimes did the Colbran, that could be enlisted into the 'soprano sfogato" ranks.

    Could Elena being well served by a mezzo?. Well, many (not to say all) dramatic mezzos will sung Malcolm, instead. However, some light mezzos can also venture into Elena's territory, with good results.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    To be fair, Ariodante, Serse, The Composer and Octavian are all trouser roles.
    Trouser roles or not, they do provide employment opportunities for mezzo-sopranos and let them be the important character for a change, instead of being the evil one. So, as Baroque opera increases in popularity, the situation for them is actually getting better, thanks to the many trouser roles they can sing in this repertory. I quoted but a few.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Julia Riley is an English mezzo-soprano and has just joined the ensemble at Zurich Opera. I saw her last night as Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor. She really is very good & the sextet was fantastic.

    Will do a proper review when I get home.
    Annie

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    A couple more mezzo roles that don't fit in the witches/bitches/breeches category: Massenet's Therese and Donizetti's Leonora (La Favorita).

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    Senior Member Involved Member Tardis's Avatar
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