Opera question

I don’t know a lot about opera, so I apologize if I’m making some false assumptions.

It seems as if most operas follow a pattern in regards to the singing style of their lead parts. That is, heroine=soprano, and hero=tenor. If that’s true, what do they do if they want to feature a famous diva who does not fit this pattern?

Bryn Terfel is a magnificent baritone (I believe it’s called), and Cecilia Bartoli is a mezzo soprano. So can the arias of the lead parts be altered to accommodate the ranges of the stars of the day?

No, singers have different repertoires according to their vocal ranges. Bartoli has only ever performed 5 roles live Despina (Cosi Fan Tutti), Cherubino (The Marriage of Figaro), Zerlina (Fra Diavolo), Rosina (The Barber of Seville) and Cenerentola (the title role it’s Cinderella).

Famous mezzo-soprano roles include Carmen (Bizet’s Carmen), Delilah (Saint-Saens Samson and Delilah), Azucena (Verdi’s Il trovatore).

While trying to find you a list of baritone roles to compare with tenor roles I found this little beauty - Opera roles which explains the opera and voicing for virtually all opera roles.

Since this is a question about The Arts, I’ll move it to our Cafe Society forum.

samclem GQ moderator

Thanks, don’t ask, for both the website and your own info. So we’ll never see Cecilia Bartoli bust out and do a Countess Almaviva, eh? I always wondered.

Hah! Your last question is ironic, because of course Rosina in Barber of Seville is the same woman as Countess Almaviva in Marriage of Figaro.

I do know this about the casting of major operas and performers at major opera houses: the decisions include many factors and variables, such as (sorry to say, cost), availability of singers, conductors, etc, but ultimately the decision to mount a particular production can not come down to putting two voices together that cannot sustain a particular opera - or vice versa. Today, no one would do that, but even if they tried, the result would no doubt be an artisitic mess, and therefore, no doubt a financial one. Operatic audiences are pretty sophisticated and wouldn’t appreciate singers working to take on a role that their voices are not correct for, and which they, therefore, had not mastered in their own particular repertory. Nope - bad idea. xo C.

And of course, no singer would attemt any role that is not correct for his/her voice. That particular instrument needs loving care. They look for opportunities to sing just as opera companies look for the appropriate voices for their productions.