The baritone utilizes predominantly the middle range of the male voice and is probably the vocal category of most men. This voice type tends to have a rich, warm, and lyrical quality and sounds strong in the middle part of the range. The overall range is generally A below middle C (written in the treble staff, but sounding one octave lower) to G above the top line of the staff. This is the same range as the mezzo-soprano, only it sounds an octave lower. The natural passaggio is also similar to the mezzo, around E to E on the top space if written in the treble staff.

FIGURE 8-5. General baritone range and tessitura

Men's solo vocal music is written in the treble staff except in opera scores. The man's voice, however, sounds an octave lower than the pitch as written. Middle C written in the treble staff, for example, is actually sung on the pitch of C in the second space of the bass clef. See Chapter 12 for more information about reading vocal music.

Baritone Roles

Baritone roles in musical theater are the most plentiful of all the male vocal categories. Some roles are Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, and El Gallo in The Fantasticks. Representative opera roles are Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni, Figaro in The Barber of Seville, and Baron Scarpia in Tosca.

Some Famous Baritones

The following men are characteristic of the baritone voice and are worth a listen:

Classical baritones:

  • Bryn Terfel

  • Robert Merrill

  • Thomas Hampson

  • Sherrill Milnes

Musical theater baritones:

  • Richard Kiley

  • Nathan Lane

  • Robert Goulet

  • Alfred Drake

  • Brian Stokes Mitchell

Popular music baritones:

  • Josh Groban

  • Frank Sinatra

  • Nat King Cole

  • Elvis Presley

  • Barry Manilow

  • Michael Feinstein

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