Lyric Opera 2018-2019 Issue 9 La Traviata

L Y R I C O P E R A O F C H I C A G O February 16 - March 22, 2019 | 15 textbook example of this kind of singing).Many roles sung by countertenors today were originally written for castrati , men who were castrated before puberty in order to preserve their angelic treble voices. at practice, fortunately, was outlawed in Italy in 1870, and these roles today are taken by countertenors and female singers. Finally, there are Heldentenors , dramatic tenors generally specializing in German heroic parts, with a sound so dark and intense that no contemporary pop comparison can be made. Wagner’s Siegfried is probably the most famous Heldentenor role of them all. Even in the opera world, these singers have always been very hard to come by. Also exceedingly rare are genuine contraltos , the lowest-voiced female singers. Outside of opera, the term “alto” is used much more frequently, but the two aren’t interchangeable. e “alto” voice dates back to the 16th century when choirs were all male, meaning that all altos were men. e word “contralto,” invented in the 18th century, could also refer to a male castrato. e difference between the terms appears in how they are assigned; “alto” only refers to the range of the singer, while “contralto,” a part of the Fach system, takes into account the singer’s natural tessitura, timbre, and other vocal qualities. Female contraltos can sing castrato roles, but are most frequently cast as mothers; they’re so rare that mezzo-sopranos are often asked to take on these roles as well. However, the contralto voice dominates the non- classical music world with voices as diverse in sound as those of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Cher, Lady Gaga, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Pink, Nina Simone, Shania Twain, and Tina Turner. Most of opera’s important contralto roles are written for grand-voiced dramatic contraltos – two this season at Lyric are Erda in Siegfried and Klytämnestra in Elektra . We don’t generally see the designation “lyric contralto,” but some contralto roles are very much on the lighter side vocally, such as two young women in famous Tchaikovsky operas, Olga in Eugene Onegin and Polina in e Queen of Spades. Coloratura contraltos , able to balance their vocal agility with tonal richness, were especially treasured by Rossini, who wrote Rosina ( e Barber of Seville ), Angelina ( Cinderella ), Isabella ( L’italiana in Algeri ), and Arsace ( Semiramide ) for that type of voice. Baritone voices tend towards the middle of the male range, overlapping with both tenors and basses. Well-known baritones in non- classical music include Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Bruce Springsteen. In opera, these singers can play a wide variety of roles, depending on their particular Fach . Lyric baritones are the most common, and often play comic roles to match their lighter, mellower sound. Some notable lyric baritone roles include Papageno in e Magic Flute and Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale . Dramatic baritones make use of their broader, deeper, more voluminous tone in villainous roles such as Iago in Otello and Baron Scarpia in Tosca . Bass-baritones sing comfortably in a baritone tessitura, but also have a distinctive resonance in the lower end of their ranges. Again, these singers can be split into lyric and dramatic categories, although this is rarely done. e term Heldenbariton (heroic baritone) was invented almost exclusively to reference dramatic bass- baritone roles in Wagner operas, such as Wotan in the Ring cycle: Wagner himself actually called this voice type Hoher Baß (high bass), choosing to think of these singers as basses with high tessituras. Occupying the center of the female range are mezzo-sopranos , who, like their baritone counterparts, play different character types depending on their Fach classification. Lyric mezzos are ideal for so-called “trouser roles,” meaning male characters played by women. Trouser roles can be adolescent boys, but just as often young men; well-known examples of the latter this season at Lyric are Idamante in Idomeneo , Prince Charming in Cendrillon , and the title role of Ariodante . Dramatic mezzos , on the other hand, usually play witches, villains, and goddesses, or “the other woman.” ese characters are frequently foils for the leading soprano, and can unite with her in duets to sizzling effect. Verdi was particularly fond of this vocal category, exemplified at Lyric this season by Azucena in Il trovatore . And there’s another Fach – the coloratura mezzo , whose voice lends itself to passages requiring tremendous agility. is category was especially popular in the Baroque period, resulting in a large number of castrato roles that were later claimed by female singers. Fach classification becomes difficult when taking into consideration the nuances of an individual voice. Even range can be misleading: well- trained singers can often extend far above or below the average range for their Fach . For example, Johnny Cash was generally considered a bass and David Bowie a tenor when, in fact, both were baritones. eir ranges were nearly identical, yet the tonal areas where they chose to concentrate their singing – Cash at the bottom, Bowie at the top – were products of years of practice. Decades of performing at these extremes forced their natural voices to adapt. NEED PHOTO CREDIT Azucena in Il trovatore (portrayed here by Jamie Barton at Lyric), one of opera’s most celebrated roles for dramatic mezzo-soprano; and Beyoncé, pop music’s version of a dramatic-mezzo voice. TODD ROSENBERG BROOKS KRAFT/CORBIS NEWS