The mezzo-soprano can have the same range as a soprano but is able to extend her voice to the lower notes beginning around A or E (top space of the staff), a step lower than the soprano.

FIGURE 8-2. General mezzo-soprano range and tessitura

Mezzo-Soprano Roles

The mezzo roles may be leading ladies, but are often the earthier characters such as a best friend or a villainess. Some musical theater roles are Lilli in Kiss Me, Kate, Rizzo in Grease, and Nancy in Oliver. Opera roles include the lead character of Carmen in Carmen, Dalila in Samson et Dalila, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville.

Some Famous Mezzo-Sopranos

Mezzo-sopranos may typically be secondary roles, but the following women have stood out in this category and are certainly worth a listen.

Classical mezzo-sopranos:

  • Marilyn Horne

  • Cecilia Bartoli

  • Frederica von Stade

  • Olga Borodina

Musical theater mezzo-sopranos:

  • Patti LuPone

  • Audra McDonald

  • Idina Menzel

  • Ethel Merman

  • Mary Martin

Popular music mezzo-sopranos:

  • Aretha Franklin

  • Bette Midler

  • Judy Garland

  • Sarah McLachlan

  • Tina Turner

  • Celine Dion

  • Whitney Houston

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