BASSES ARE NOT BARITONES ARE NOT BASS-BARITONES
Now that I have exhausted you with fach, range and tessitura I will now take on my next feat and deal with the evergrowing misconception that all low voices are the same.
My voice type is true Basso and my fach is lyric coloratura (with some lyric and dramatic capabilities) but have been asked in the past to sing things like Carmina Burana (get real!), Wotan (whoa Nelly!) and Falstaff (yeah right)not Nicolai's Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor, which I would gladly welcome but rather Verdi's Falstaff. Unbelievable! I tried out Falstaff in a scenes program and got through it but the role is nowhere near what I should be singing. Falstaff is a BARITONE or can be a high, mature Bass-Baritone but certainly is not rep for a Basso. These and other misunderstandings are being made too often by people in the business who should know better.
Know what type of voice you're dealing with (and this all ties in with my last long-running article on fach, range and tessitura, which now has been archived but not forgotten). One problem is that every voice is different and even two voices in the same fach may still have many differences. You should not think that because one Bass can sing Mephistopheles that all Basses can.
Agility. Another problem is that some singers are able to cross over to other fachs and enjoy a wider pool of repertoire. This can confuse a novice but pros should know that some voices can handle more than one fach. I sing Handel and Rossini but can also sing some Verdi. As much as I would love to devote my life to singing early music, masses, cantatas and oratorios, stretching one's limits is a good thing provided one knows when to stop. I have a recording of a certain well-known singer, who shall remain nameless so that I won't be accused of trashing him, singing a certain group of lieder. It is absolutely marvelous! Such style and grace and agility in the voice. However, I gasp when I walk into Tower Records and see recordings of this same individual singing Dutchman. Sorry. Love ya but, it aint happenin' for me, babe. Now Siepi sang lighter fare and the big rep and I love it all. Also Raimondi is quite the formidable Basso. A mention must also be made about Ramey who has sung so many Rossini roles but has also moved into the dramatic rep.
But, for argument's sake let us go from the standpoint of one fach per voice. If you don't have a guide like on the Aria Database website that tells you the range of arias and so much more, then you can go through the music and literally count the upper and lower ledger lines. If there are more upper ledger lines than lower than chances are it's not real bass music. If there are excessive upper ledger lines then it is definitely not bass music. "What?" you ask. If you have noticed that a lot of bass rep is written excessively on upper ledger lines you might be asking yourself as I have whether it's true bass music. I won't go as far as to say composer didn't know what they were doing but I will say some of them didn't really know the bass voice.
I always tell people that low voices plunge and high voices soar. The glory of the low voice is in LOW NOTES not high notes. Basses are always straining on high D's, E's and F's, and repetitive ones at that, as if they are in competition with Baritones.
I went through a few scores and examined roles written for Bass and saw hardly any lower ledger lines. Houston, we have a big problem. What some people consider low and impressive obviously is not considered to be that low for Basses. We welcome the low D's, C's and B's because that's what basses do. We do low notes. Hey, that's a nice slogan.
Well, that will be it for now but I will soon create a forum for this and other topics concering low voice singers (contraltos included, we love you guys too).
Ciao and happy screaming.
I have done a lot of research to make this database. I will be continually adding information to it. Please feel free to utilize this information. If you have any information that I've missed feel free to inform me. I like to search out obscure works as well as the standard. You may find alot of music you never heard of.
To search for bass roles by language:
To search for bass roles by composer (only these specific composers):
To search for bass roles by size of role:
Secondary or Cameo Roles