Undergraduate Research Journal


A large bounty of characters can come from a single voice type. A coloratura soprano can be a villainess such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte, or a damsel-in-distress like Gilda in Rigoletto. Although this disambiguation occurs between voice types, it rarely occurs within a single opera. In any entertainment setting, the relationship between protagonists and antagonists is the strongest piece of the story, and also the most polar. Contrasting themes of “light vs. dark” and “good vs. evil” accompany entire premises of the stories. In opera, these famous themes never fail in the storyline or in the music. Although generalized voice typing of characters is not practiced, opposition of voice type is. What makes the difference between the hero and the villain is not in terms of voice type but in terms of the relationship between the hero or heroine and the villain or villainess. Depending on where the tessitura sits for the hero or heroine, the villain or villainess will usually musically oppose the hero. And in certain cases of operas, when the villain and hero share the same tessitura, the villain will either have the highest or the lowest note compared to the hero.

Based on examination of famous roles played by sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, tenors, and basses, it will be proved that opposing voice types, whether high or low compared to the hero or heroine, denote the villains and villainesses in opera.



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