Spinto (from Italian, "pushed") is a vocal term used to characterize a soprano or tenor voice of a weight between lyric and dramatic that is capable of handling large musical climaxes in opera at moderate intervals. (Sometimes the terms lirico-spinto or jugendlich-dramatisch are used to denote this category of voice.)
The spinto voice type is recognisable by its tonal "slice" or squillo. This enables the singer to cut through the wall of sound produced by a full Romantic orchestra in a wide variety of roles, excluding only the most taxing ones written by the likes of Richard Wagner (such as Brünhilde, Isolde, Tristan and Siegfried), Giacomo Meyerbeer (John of Leyden), Verdi (Otello), Puccini (Turandot, Calaf) and Richard Strauss (Elektra).
- Spinto soprano: a fundamentally lyric soprano with a fair amount of extra "pulp" in her tone and a distinct thrust in her vocal attack. As they possess both a lyric and a dramatic quality, spinto sopranos are suitable for a broad spectrum of roles, ranging from genuine lyric parts such as Micaela in Carmen and Mimì in La Bohème through to histrionically demanding Verdi heroines such as Leonora (in Il trovatore and La forza del destino) and Aida, not to mention Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Tosca. Lighter Wagnerian roles such as Elsa in Lohengrin or Elisabeth in Tannhäuser also fall within their domain. Elisabeth Rethberg is a famous example of a soprano who sang exactly this kind of mixed Italian and German repertoire.
- Tenore spinto: the tenor equivalent of the above. They can convincingly sing roles as lyrical as Rodolfo in La Bohème, the Duke in Rigoletto and Alfredo in La traviata, yet still excel in parts as heavy as Cavaradossi in "Tosca", Don Jose in "Carmen" and Radames in Aïda. Canio, the tenor lead in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and Lohengrin in Wagner's opera of the same name, are other well-known examples of spinto tenor parts.
The British soprano Rosalind Plowright defines a spinto voice as one that has a tonal colour one down from its range. For example, a voice with a mezzo's tone colour and the high notes of a soprano, or a voice with a tenor range and a baritone's tone colour, is a spinto. She names Plácido Domingo as an instance of the latter. Plowright's generalisation fails to hold true for all spinto tenors, however. Giovanni Martinelli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Georges Thill, Jussi Björling and Agim Hushi for instance, successfully sang spinto roles such as Radames or Canio with bright-toned voices that lacked any trace of baritonal colouration.
- "Rosalind Plowright, mezzo dramatico-instinctif". Altamusica. 15 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- A recording of six different sopranos singing Vissi d'arte, illustrating the sound of a spinto voice and how it differs from a lyric voice. Hosted at Parterre.com. In order:
- Lyric (Claudia Muzio)
- Spinto (Leontyne Price)
- Spinto (Renata Tebaldi)
- Spinto (Zinka Milanov)
- Lyric (Montserrat Caballé)
- Spinto (Antonietta Stella)
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