La voz de contralto

A selection of our cherished roles for this rare and occasionally overlooked voice...

Discover amazing voices and excellent contralto singers on!

The Contralto, possessing the lowest female vocal range, is capable of interpreting a diverse repertoire, spanning from sultry, dark-toned femme fatales to harmonious duets that reach the same heights as the most soaring tenors. Despite their exceptional versatility, contralto singers in Western classical music seldom take center stage. Opera often elevates sopranos and mezzo-sopranos to the limelight, leaving contraltos relegated to roles of "witches, villains, and male characters". It comes as no surprise that the rich and resonant tones of a contralto were considered less suited for embodying the delicate and innocent femininity prevalent in the operas of bygone eras. In the realm of popular music, however, contralto singers have risen with vigor, and artists like, Beyoncé, Billie Holiday, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys expertly harness the depths of their lower vocal range, producing extraordinary effects. We have curated a selection of our cherished roles for this rare and occasionally overlooked voice: come and explore the myriad nuances of contralto singers on, the best classical music streaming platform!

Explore the history of contralto singers through their most extraordinary performances on!

The contralto voice only began to appear in Baroque theaters in the seventeenth century; previously, its role was entrusted to boy choristers or to men who artificially imitated the sound of the female voice (artificial falsettists, whom we now call countertenors), until around the middle of the sixteenth century when the first voices of castrati began to appear alongside them. The enduring admonition of Saint Paul, in fact, prevented women and contralto singers from singing in church and this had prolonged effects on the development of vocal art, even in secular contexts. For much of the seventeenth century, this vocal type was therefore limited to the role of the elderly nurse, often thirsty for love and just as willing to give unscrupulous advice to the mistress, taking turns in such roles with the baritonal tenor en travesti. Contralto singers, in fact, were initially considered by opera composers as a "grotesque and ignoble" timbre, a sort of parody of the art of bel canto, devoid of ornamentation and stylistic taste. The exception to the rule is, however, represented by the character of Arnalta in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, a pioneering experimenter of the vocal possibilities of these voices. She is a truly complex character, to whom the famous aria Oblivion soave is entrusted. Gradually, towards the end of the century, new roles and opportunities emerged for contralto singers: Francesca Vanini Boschi, a lady from Bologna, had Handel compose parts for her in both operas Agrippina and Rinaldo, and Antonia Margherita Merighi was primarily engaged by composers like Vivaldi, Porpora, Vinci, and Handel. However, the first "divine" contralto was Vittoria Tesi Tramontini, made famous by her extensive and extended vocal range, especially in the lower register. It was certainly thanks to these pioneers of lyrical singing that contralto singers managed to gradually establish themselves in the world of classical music, but a decisive role for their full involvement came with the definitive abandonment of the barbaric practice of castration between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. As male contraltos and sopranists disappeared from the stage forever, there was a need to find those who could replace them: contralto singers! Musicologist Rodolfo Celletti describes this transition: "Rossini is one of the composers who is most aware of this; in fact, he always missed the expressive capabilities of the castrati voices even more than the virtuosic ones. In practical terms, however, he finds himself having to fill the void left by the exodus of sopranists and contraltists and, like other composers, he leans towards the solution of women acting in male roles." Although contralto singers were still tied to a relationship with male roles, there was a sudden rebirth, and thus a golden period, of the contralto voice’s popularity in the first part of the nineteenth century: the major opera composers of the time wrote significant parts for this vocal timbre, first and foremost Rossini, but also Mayr and Paër, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, and Mercadante. Despite the flourishing of contralto singers’ roles with the success of Rossini's productions for this type of voice, the advent of Romanticism led to a rapid eclipse of this vocal type. In the context of a general resurgence in the fashion for high-pitched voices, the new romantic realism tended to favor the soprano voice over contralto singers, "more innocent and ecstatic in the roles of the beloved, and brighter in those of the comedic leading lady," while leading to the affirmation of the clear-toned romantic tenor for the majority of romantic roles. Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of opera, the mezzo-soprano voice gained its own typological autonomy: it was juxtaposed with the soprano, more often becoming its antagonist or, in the most fortunate cases, a co-protagonist. Despite some indifference and tonal confusion towards the contralto singers' voice, celebrated interpreters have been able to proudly uphold the honor of a voice with a distinctive, rich, and deep timbre, one that warms the hearts of music lovers around the world!

The greatest performers in music history: great contralto singers await you on!

Today on, the best streaming platform for classical music, you can immerse yourself in the various tones of the deepest female vocal range: venture into the discovery of the most celebrated roles for contralto singers! You will witness extraordinary interpretations of characters that have marked the history of classical music and contralto singers’ history: enjoy a surprising performance by Ruxandra Donose in the leading role of Rossini's La Cenerentola; the dark and mysterious tones of the seer Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera; the en travesti interpretation of Maffio Orsini in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, a drama with Machiavellian shades; or dive into Marie-Nicole Lemieux's interpretation in the role of Quicky in Verdi's Falstaff, in the splendid direction of Richard Jones for the Glyndebourne Festival; and many more arias and amazing roles await you! The spotlight is on contralto singers, and gives you the unique opportunity to listen to an extraordinary and often underrated vocal range in opera, virtually placing you in the front row of the most famous concert halls around the world! Discover the function of the chest register in the middle range: listen to arias and songs that showcase the true depth of the contralto range. Whether you're a vocal enthusiast or simply a lover of music, you will undoubtedly find a new appreciation for these unique voices!