AskDefine | Define contralto

Dictionary Definition

contralto adj : of or being the lowest female voice [syn: alto]


1 a woman singer having a contralto voice
2 the lowest female singing voice [syn: alto] [also: contralti (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



Contraction of contratenor alto, from Latin contratenor altus.



  1. In the context of "music": the lowest female voice or voice part, higher than tenor and lower than soprano. The terms contralto and alto refer to a similar musical pitch, but among singers, the term contralto is reserved for female singers; the equivalent male form is counter-tenor. Originally the contratenor altus was a high countermelody sung against the tenor or main melody.



Extensive Definition

This article is related to a series of articles under the main article Voice type.
In music, a contralto is a classical singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the deepest female singing voice. The typical contralto range lies between the G below middle C (G3) to two Gs above middle C (G5). In the lower and upper extremes, some contralto voices can sing from the E below middle C (E3) to two bs above middle C (b5). The contralto voice has the lowest tessitura of the female voices and is noted for its rich and deep vocal timbre. It should be noted that in current operatic practice, female singers with very low tessituras are often included among mezzo-sopranos, because singers in both ranges are able to cover the other, and true operatic contraltos are very rare.
The term contralto is not synonymous with the term alto which designates a specific part within choral music and is not a voice type. Technically, "alto" is only a separate category in choral music where it refers simply to the vocal range and does not consider factors like vocal tessitura, vocal timbre, vocal facility, and vocal weight. For information regarding non-classical singers see Voice classification in non-classical music.
Although both men and women may have voices in the contralto vocal range, the word is always used in the context of a female singer. Men singing in the contralto, mezzo-soprano, or soprano range are called countertenors.
To hear an example of a contralto (Ewa Podleś in the role of La Cieca from La Gioconda) click on this link.

Contralto roles in operas

The following is a list of examples of contralto roles in the standard operatic repertoire. @-Indicates a role that may also be sung by a mezzo-soprano.

Famous contraltos

Classical and operatic contraltos are singers who have regularly performed unamplified classical or operatic music in concert halls and/or opera houses. Some of the most famous of all historic and contemporary contraltos include:

See also


Further reading

contralto in Czech: Alt
contralto in German: Alt (Stimmlage)
contralto in Estonian: Alt
contralto in Spanish: Contralto
contralto in Esperanto: Aldo (kantvoĉo)
contralto in French: Contralto
contralto in Italian: Contralto
contralto in Hungarian: Alt
contralto in Malay (macrolanguage): Alto
contralto in Dutch: Alt (zangstem)
contralto in Japanese: アルト
contralto in Polish: Kontralt
contralto in Portuguese: Contralto
contralto in Simple English: Alto
contralto in Slovenian: Alt
contralto in Serbo-Croatian: Alti
contralto in Finnish: Altto
contralto in Swedish: Alt
contralto in Ukrainian: Альт (голос)
contralto in Chinese: 女低音

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Heldentenor, Meistersinger, accompaniment, alto, aria singer, baritenor, baritone, bass, basso, basso buffo, basso cantante, basso continuo, basso ostinato, basso profundo, bassus, blues singer, canary, cantatrice, canto, cantor, cantus, cantus figuratus, cantus planus, caroler, chanter, chantress, coloratura soprano, comic bass, continuo, countertenor, crooner, deep, deep bass, deep-echoing, deep-pitched, deep-toned, deepmouthed, descant, diva, dramatic soprano, drone, figured bass, grave, ground bass, heavy, heroic tenor, hollow, hymner, improvisator, lead singer, lieder singer, line, low, low-pitched, melodist, mezzo-soprano, opera singer, part, plain chant, plain song, prick song, prima donna, psalm singer, rock-and-roll singer, sepulchral, singer, singstress, songbird, songster, songstress, soprano, tenor, thorough bass, torch singer, treble, undersong, vocalist, vocalizer, voice, voice part, warbler, yodeler
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