A lyric soprano is a type of operatic soprano that has a warm quality with a bright, full timbre that can be heard over an orchestra. The lyric soprano voice generally has a higher tessitura than a soubrette and usually plays ingenues and other sympathetic characters in opera. Lyric sopranos have a range from approximately middle C (C4) to "high D" (D6). There is a tendency to divide lyric sopranos into two groups, light and full.
Light lyric soprano
A light-lyric soprano has a bigger voice than a soubrette but still possesses a youthful quality. Light lyrics often have a "full package" of musicianship, appearance and stagecraft. This voice needs to be careful in its repertory choices, because smaller houses may offer them heavier roles if they have good stage presence. Then as they become successful, if they take these meatier roles into larger houses they will damage their voices. There are a wide variety of roles written for this voice, and they may sing soubrette, baroque and other light roles as well.
Light lyric sopranos
Light lyric soprano roles
Full lyric soprano
A full-lyric soprano has a more mature sound than a light-lyric soprano and can be heard over a bigger orchestra. This more mature sound may make a full-lyric less suitable for some of the lighter roles. Occasionally a full lyric will have a big enough voice that she can take on much heavier roles, using volume in place of vocal weight. This is done when a more lyric timbre is desired in an otherwise heavier role. Otherwise full lyric sopranos need be judicious with spinto and other heavy roles to prevent vocal deterioration.
Full lyric sopranos
Full lyric soprano roles
- Coffin (1960)
- Boldrey (1994), Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias
- Nashville Opera
- Boldrey (1992), Singer's Edition (Light Lyric Soprano)
- To hear an example of a Light lyric soprano (Barbara Bonney as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier) click on this link: Watch here (Bonney is the woman on the left who sings first).
- To hear an example of a Full lyric soprano (Renée Fleming as La Contessa Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro) click on this link: Watch here.
- Boldrey, Richard (1994). Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-877761-64-5.
- Boldrey, Richard; Robert Caldwell, Werner Singer, Joan Wall and Roger Pines (1992). Singer's Edition (Light Lyric Soprano): Operatic Arias - Light Lyric Soprano. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-877761-02-7.
- Coffin, Berton (1960). Coloratura, Lyric and Dramatic Soprano, Vol. 1. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8108-0188-2.