The term “mezzo” (Italian for “middle”) is commonly used to describe a female singer’s middle range. However, as Wallis Giunta puts it, “A mid soprano is a colour and a range of voice that helps to recognise what repertoire is best suited to a given sort of singer.”
Can you Tell Me How High a Mid Soprano can Go?
A mezzo’s range typically falls between middle C (A3) and high C (A5) (two octaves higher). However, Wallis’s singing range is slightly larger.
My normal range spans three octaves, from C3 (the C below middle C) to C6.
“I rarely employ extremes and rely heavily on the medium ground. My own chroma centre is somewhere between the middle C and the D two octaves above. The exact range of a mezzo is not set in stone, although often it is between that of a soprano and an alto.
Mezzos have Little Problem Reaching the Highest Notes.
A soprano may easily reach a high C and can also sing very softly and fade out on that note. Conversely, mezzos tend to sing in the middle of their range, however that doesn’t imply they can’t reach the upper registers when necessary.
In spite of this, Wallis claims, “I could still go up to that high C, but for me it would be more full-throttle”.
Which Types of Music Fall Under the Mezzo Soprano Umbrella?
Lyric mezzo, dramatic mezzo, and coloratura mezzo are the three most common sub-types of mezzo voices. Cherubino, the teenage lad in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, is a popular role for lyric mezzos to play in their pant (or “trouser”) persona.
On the other hand, dramatic mezzos excel in the role of the femme fatale in opera, most notably in Bizet’s Carmen. I sing Carmen with the same voice I use for everything else,” Wallis says, “but she has a more feminine, earthy, deeper tone than my Cherubino would.”
Okay, So How Do Mezzos Actually Sound?
People generally agree that mezzos have a deeper, rounder, and more richly textured tone than sopranos, Wallis says. In spite of not being necessarily lighter, they have a more effervescent quality.
The lowest female voice type, altos have the deepest, richest tones. They don’t appear as often, and consequently they don’t have as many operatic roles written for them. It’s a rare find indeed when you do.
What Roles Do They Typically Play?
It’s an intriguing fact that the soprano typically takes on the role of the opera’s protagonist, damsel-in-distress, and leading lady. The soprano voice is typically the highest in the orchestra.
A mezzo could be a young boy, an elderly lady, a gypsy, a witch, a maid, a sibling, or a woman providing support. In most cases, the soprano is less multifaceted than the other voices. Someone else is always coming to her rescue, and she rarely gets to make decisions about her own life.
“Of course, times are a-changin’,” the author acknowledges, “and contemporary opera is investigating a lot more character types within each voice range.”