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 | 17 are suffering women, and it’s not uncommon for them to die by the end of their respective operas (think of Mimì in La bohème and Violetta in La traviata .) A lyric singer with a darker, larger sound is called a spinto soprano ; much like spinto tenors, these singers are able to take on more expansiveness for dramatic climaxes. ey share many qualities with dramatic sopranos , including their ability to be heard over a large orchestra. However, a spinto singer accomplishes this using projection and squillo – the “ringing” quality of her voice – to cut through the accompaniment. Dramatic soprano voices are naturally more powerful, and don’t need to be bright to be heard. Soprano voices are plentiful in opera, but why aren’t there any in pop music? Since the prime of Peruvian-American exotica singer Yma Sumac in the 1950s, no notable sopranos have emerged outside of opera and musical theater. (Ariana Grande and Christina Aguilera, who at first hearing might seem to be sopranos, are – in terms of their most comfortable natural tessitura – actually mezzos.) We do find sopranos everywhere in folk music, early-career Joan Baez being a perfect example. e soprano range is actually impractical for most pop singers, as their music tends to highlight rhythm and lyrics rather than compositional artistry. e higher pitches of a typical soprano line can obscure the percussive components of a musical phrase, even more so considering the volume and air flow that are often required to reach those vocal extremes. Similarly, it’s often tough to discern words in the lowest notes of a bass. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of pop singers are tenors and contraltos. When the Germans invented the Fach system well over a century ago, the lines between styles of music were less specifically drawn than they seem to be today. But while the system was never intended for modern-day pop music, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be used in a contemporary context. e human voice is capable of the same extraordinary things in every musical genre – yes, even in the shower. Grace Coberly was a Lyric intern in the marketing and public relations department during the summer of 2018. Currently a sophomore at Haverford College, she participated two summers ago in the prestigious Iowa Young Writers’ Studio at the University of Iowa. Clockwise from top left: Elvis Presley, whose baritone voice covered an easy two-and-a-half octaves, even stretching upward to a tenor’s high C; Johnny Cash, whose voice, by nature a baritone, boasted a notably extended lower range; Lyric favorite Eric Owens (pictured as Wotan in Das Rheingold ), one of today’s most prominent bass-baritones; and Bing Crosby, possessor of a uniquely velvety baritone timbre. SNAP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION CINDY CASH COLLECTION TODD ROSENBERG