Soprano Fächer: What Kind of Operatic Soprano are You?

Patricia Racette performs the title role in Puccini's opera, Tosca

Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images

Operatic fächer can be confusing, but without knowledge of them you will never fully understand and identify with professional opera singers. Fächer are voice classifications like soprano or alto but indicate more than vocal range. They also categorize voices based on color (light or dark), size, and texture (heavy or light) of a voice.

Once you identify the various classifications and find which ones you prefer, you will have an easier time choosing operas to attend and music to buy based on your individual tastes. Later when you assign your own voice to a particular fach, it will be easier to choose and learn music appropriate for you. Listed below are the most common types of sopranos. Click on the links to hear singers of each fach.

Soprano Acuto Sfogato

Soprano acuto sfogatos have the highest vocal range of all sopranos. They can sing and perform with ease above F6. Sometimes informally referred to as stratospheric coloratura sopranos, they have the same tone and weight as either a light or dramatic coloratura and sing the same roles.

  • Roles: Same as light or dark coloraturas
  • Soprano Acuto Sfogato: Susanna Foster  

Light Coloratura

A very high and bright voice. Light coloraturas are known for their florid singing. Typical vocal range does not extend past F6 or below C4. Soprano leggero is a less common term referring to a light coloratura with a warmer tone.

  • Roles: Juliette in Roméo et Juliette by Gounod, Adele in Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.
  • Light Coloratura: Rachele Gilmore

Dramatic Coloratura

Dramatic coloraturas have the same qualities as light coloraturas, but their voices are darker, heavier, and often larger.

  • Roles: Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute by MozartDonna Anna in Don Giovanni by Mozart, and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti
  • Dramatic Coloratura: Joan Sutherland, Diana Damrau


Soubrettes have a light, bright tone with a slightly lower range extending to C6 or high C. Roles for soubrettes tend to range from flirtatious maids to young boys. Many opera stars starting out as a soubrette, shift into larger more challenging roles in their later careers.

  • Roles: Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, Oscar in The Masked Ball by Verdi, Zerlina in Don Giovanni by Mozart
  • Soubrettes: Kathleen Battle, Dawn Upshaw

Light Lyric Soprano

Lyric sopranos are the most common soprano type; lyric meaning light. They sound tender and sweet with a warm, pleasing tone that carries over a full orchestra. They are typically cast in younger roles and often play the lead role in an opera. The light lyric soprano has a warm tone slightly more brilliant and smaller than the full lyric.

  • Roles: Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck, La Contessa in The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, Elizabeth Doe in The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore
  • Light Lyrics: Lucia Popp and Anna Moffo

Full Lyric Soprano

Full lyrics have a warmer and larger voice than the light lyric soprano.

  • Roles: Mimi from La bohème by Puccini, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly by Puccini, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni by Mozart
  • Full Lyric: Renée Fleming

Spinto Soprano

Spintos have a heavier and darker sound than the lyric soprano, but not as heavy and dark as the dramatic soprano.

  • Roles: Lyric and some dramatic roles
  • Spintos: Leontyne Price and Renata Tebaldi

Dramatic Soprano

Dramatic Sopranos have a darker timbre and significantly more volume than other sopranos. Typically their voices are a bit lower with a range between C4 or middle C to D6.

  • Roles: Title role in Tosca by Puccini, Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, Minnie in La fanciulla del West by Puccini
  • Dramatic Soprano: Jessye Norman

Wagnerian Soprano

Wagnerian sopranos specialize in singing Wagner. Their voices sing over large orchestras of 80 or 100 instruments. Their voices are the darkest, largest, and project the farthest as compared to other sopranos.

  • Roles: Isolde inTristan und Isolde by Wagner and Brünnhilde in Die Walküre by Wagner
  • Wagnerian Sopranos: Deborah Voigt, Jane Eaglen, and Birgit Nilsson