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A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass that shares certain qualities with the baritone. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende Holländer, Wotan/Der Wanderer in the Ring Cycle and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner labelled these roles as Hoher Bass ("high bass").
The bass-baritone voice is distinguished by two attributes. First, it must be capable of singing comfortably in a baritonal tessitura. It must also, however, have the resonant lower range typically associated with the bass. For example, the role of Wotan in Die Walküre covers the range from F at the bottom of the bass clef to F# above middle C, but only infrequently descends beyond the C below middle C. Bass-baritones are typically divided into two separate categories: lyric bass-baritone and dramatic bass-baritone.
The term bass-baritone is roughly synonymous with the Italian term basso cantante; for example, in Verdi, Philip II in Don Carlos is usually taken by a bass-baritone, while Ferrando in Il Trovatore is sung by a true bass—though the two roles' ranges are very similar. In Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande the lower baritone role of Golaud is a bass-baritone, sitting between Pelleas (high baritone) and Arkel (bass). See fach for more. Much of the oratorio repertoire, from Handel's Messiah to Mendelssohn's Elijah is best suited to a bass-baritone with the ability to combine a rich, dark tone with a smooth high-lying cantabile line. Many of the Mozart baritone roles such as Don Giovanni, Figaro and Gugliemo&mdashcomposed before the term "baritone" gained currency—are typically played by a bass-baritone.
Bass-baritone is a voice with the resonant low notes of the typical bass but with the ability to sing in a baritonal tessitura. Sometimes it also refers to a voice with a range and tone somewhere between a bass and a baritone. The Bass-baritone's required range can vary tremendously based on the role, with some less demanding than others. Some bass-baritones are baritones, like Friedrich Schorr, George London, James Morris and Bryn Terfel. The following are more often done by high basses as opposed to lower baritones.
- Don Pizarro Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Escamillo Carmen by Georges Bizet
- Golaud Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy
- Méphistophélès, Faust by Charles Gounod
- Don Alfonso, Così fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Figaro, The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Igor, Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin
- Scarpia, Tosca by Giacomo Puccini
- Dutchman The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner
- Hans Sachs Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner
- Wotan Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
- Amfortas Parsifal by Richard Wagner
Bass-baritone roles in operetta and musicals
All of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas have at least one bass-baritone character. Bass-baritones famous for singing these roles included Richard Temple, Darrell Fancourt and Donald Adams.
Some notable bass-baritones roles featured in Musicals are:
- Leon Czolgosz-Assassins
- Ivan Molokov-Chess
- Mr. Simon Stride-Jekyll and Hyde
- The Bishop of Digne-Les Miserables
- Mufasa-The Lion King
- Scar-The Lion King
- Jud Fry-Oklahoma!
- Bill Sykes-Oliver!
- Captain Hook-Peter Pan
- The Coachman-Pinocchio
- Sweeney Todd-Sweeney Todd
- Judge Turpin-Sweeney Todd
- Isidor Strauss-Titanic
- Officer Lockstock-Urinetown
- Mr. Spettigue-Where's Charley?
Some roles that are routinely played by baritones may also be played by a strong Bass-Baritone. Some notable examples include Don Quixote/Miguel de Cerventes in Man of La Mancha and Javert in Les Miserables.
|Instruments and Voices|
|Woodwinds||Flute (Piccolo/Alto/Bass) • Recorder • Oboe (Cor Anglais/Oboe D'amore/Heckelphone) • Clarinet (E♭/Bass/Contrabass) •|
|Brass||Horn • Cornet • Trumpet • Trombone • Euphonium • Tuba • Saxhorns|
|Keyboards||Piano • Organ • Harmonium • Harpsichord • Clavichord • Celesta • Accordion|
|Percussion||Tuned: Timpani • Glockenspiel • Chimes • Vibraphone • Xylophone • Marimba • Crotales • Musical saw • Hammered Dulcimer
Untuned: Snare drum • Bass drum • Triangle • Cymbals • Gongs • Tom-toms • Shakers • Drumset
|Electronic||Theremin • Ondes Martenot • Synthesizer • Electronic Wind Instrument|
|Stringed||Bowed: Violin • Viola • Violoncello • Contrabass|
|Voices||Female: Soprano • Mezzo-soprano (often mistaken with Alto) • Contralto (often mistaken with Alto)
Male: Treble • Countertenor • Tenor • Baritone • Bass-baritone • Bass