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Coloratura: Wikis


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Coloratura has several meanings. The word derives from the Italian colorare (to colour; to heighten; to enliven) or colorazione (colouring, coloration).

The term usually refers to a soprano who has the vocal ability to produce notes above C#6 and whose tessitura is A4-A5 or higher (unlike lower sopranos whose tessitura is G4-G5 or lower).

It is also applied to a voice-type, the coloratura soprano, most famously typified by the role of Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.[1] This type of soprano has a high range and can execute with great facility the style of singing that includes elaborate ornamentation and embellishment, including running passages, staccati, and trills.

All other female and male voice types may also achieve mastery of coloratura technique, but the term coloratura when used without further qualification normally means soprano coloratura. Richard Miller names two types of soprano coloratura voices (the coloratura and the dramatic coloratura)[2] as well as a mezzo-soprano coloratura voice[3], and although he does not mention the coloratura contralto, he includes mention of specific works requiring coloratura technique for the contralto voice.[4]



The musicological meaning of coloratura is most specifically applied to the elaborate and florid figuration or ornamentation in Classical (18th century) and Romantic (19th century, specifically bel canto) vocal music. Coloration, a closely associated term, includes this meaning of coloratura, but also includes the florid ornaments written out for keyboard instruments and lute music. The florid details themselves, and sometimes their execution, are also termed 'fioritura' (floriation), so that 'coloratura' refers more particularly to the coloration effects on the voice itself rather than to the ornaments in notation. Early music (music of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries) — in particular, music of the Baroque — includes a substantial body of music for which coloratura technique is required by vocalists and instrumentalists alike. This type of coloratura was first defined in several early non-Italian music dictionaries, like the works by Michael Praetorius in Syntagma Musicum (1618), Sébastien de Brossard in his Dictionnaire de Musique (1703) and Johann Gottfried Walther in his Musicalisches Lexicon (1732), in which the term is dealt with briefly and refers to the word's Italian usage.[5]


Christoph Bernhard defined it in two ways:

  • cadenza: "runs which are not so exactly bound to the bar, but which often extend two, three or more bars further [and] should be made only at chief closes" (Von der Singe-Kunst, oder Maniera, c1649);[5]
  • diminution: "when an interval is altered through several shorter notes, so that, instead of one long note, a number of shorter ones rush to the next note through all kinds of progressions by step or leap" (Tractatus compositionis, circa 1657).[5]

In the most famous Italian texts on singing (Caccini, 1601/2; Tosi, 1723; Mancini, 1774; García, 1841), coloratura is never used; it is also absent from the vocabulary of English authors such as Burney and Chorley, who wrote extensively about Italian singing at the time when ornamentation was of utmost importance.[5]

Strictly speaking, the term coloratura is not restricted to describing any one range of voice. In spite of its derivation from the word colorare or colorazione, it does not specify changing the tonal colour of the voice for expressive purposes (that is Voix sombrée)[5] or the English term colouring the voice. There are coloratura parts for all voice types in different musical genres:

  • Each character in Rossini's operas has to have a secure coloratura technique.

See also


  1. ^ Don Michael Randel, ed (October 1986). New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Belknap Press. pp. 180. ISBN 0-6746-1525-5.  
  2. ^ Miller, Richard (2000-06-23). Training Soprano Voices. Oxford University Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 0-1951-3018-9.  
  3. ^ Miller, Richard (2000-06-23). Training Soprano Voices. Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-1951-3018-9.  
  4. ^ Miller, Richard (2000-06-23). Training Soprano Voices. Oxford University Press. pp. 13. ISBN 0-1951-3018-9.  
  5. ^ a b c d e Owen J, Harris ET. "Coloratura". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy. Retrieved 2006-11-27.  


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