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Voices


Page 3 of 3 : Men's voices
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Haute-contre – a voice type that is specifically French. The range is higher than that of the tenor, and the singer uses a mixture of chest and head tone. The voice was often heard in the 18th century, and is coming back into fashion again.

Counter tenor – An English voice, using falsetto tones to parallel the range of a female alto or mezzo-soprano. Most of the repertoire for counter-tenor is from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Tenor – a lyric tenor performs roles depicting amiable, undramatic characters that are more tender than passionate (Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville). Lyric tenors must have an agile voice and an ability to sing fast-moving notes. A dramatic tenor has a powerful voice with a strong medium range and brilliant high range. He excels in depicting violent, heroic and tragic sentiments, and is practically excluded from expressing sweetness or charm since he can only sing high notes with the full force of his voice. A medium tenor covers the same range as a dramatic tenor, but his voice has a different timbre and character. It is more agile, and can reach high notes softly. (Don José in Bizet’s Carmen, Des Grieux in Massenet's Manon)

Baritone – A male voice situated between bass and tenor. The baritone type includes the dramatic baritone (Verdi), a rich, warm, agile and sonorous voice, and the lyric baritone, closer to the tenor range and sometimes known as a high baritone, which has less volume but a caressing colour and the ability to attack high notes lightly and easily. The bass-baritone has a higher voice than a bass, but can sing low notes. The range is greater than that of a dramatic baritone, and the high register is brilliant and virile.

Bass – the lowest male voice can vary considerably in quality. The basso buffa is an expressive, voluble voice used for comic roles (Bartolo in Rossini’s Barber of Seville). The basso cantante lies halfway between the baritone and the basso profundo. This rich, majestic voice is nevertheless capable of great agility. The basso profundo covers a range of two octaves, including an extremely low register. This massive, heavy voice is stable and powerful and provides a firm basis for vocal ensemble pieces (Zarastro in Mozart’s Magic Flute).


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