Saturday, September 17, 2011

Verdi Baritone

This is a shortened version of my insanely long essay on the Verdi baritone. I was inspired to write more about this, because I really don't know of any Verdi baritones around these days. There are a ton of lyric baritones, and quite a few bass-baritones. So, how is a Verdi baritone different from a lyric baritone, or a bass-baritone? I am going to explain this concept in this revised version of my original posting. The Verdi baritone became an actual baritone category after Verdi died. Verdi loved the baritone voice so much, so why not name a category after him. He wrote outstanding repertoire for the baritone voice. Baritones in Verdi's operas serve a significant purpose in the plots, and sometimes play leads. Also, they are often the trouble makers rivaling the tenors. A male singer who is categorized as a Verdi baritone is a very unique singer. Let me explain why. George Bernard Shaw called Verdi the Atila the Hun of the throat. The inside joke is that Verdi wrote an opera called Atilla. A lot of baritones who are not Verdi baritones try to sing Verdi's repertoire for baritone. Watch out. A Verdi baritone must sing in the upper portion of his range with tremendous strength and drive for long periods of time. In addition, he must sing lyrically with a dark tenor quality. Lyric baritones are similar in range, but do not have the voice size, stamina or timbre to sing Verdi baritone roles convincingly. The main issue with lyric baritones singing Verdi is that they do not sound convincing, plus they have to scream. A real Verdi baritone knocks people out of their seats. If you are falling a sleep, they will wake you up. Lyric baritones sound like a tenor on the higher notes, and can sing very softly on high notes.   The upper range of a lyric baritone has a pleasant sound, but it is not a huge sound. Whereas, a Verdi baritone has to let those high notes rip over a big orchestra. Verdi baritones do not have to yell in Verdi roles, but lyric baritones do. To sum this up, the main difference between the lyric baritone and the Verdi baritone is the size and quality of the voice.
      Bass-baritones have some similarities to a Verdi baritone. However, they should not be confused with one another. They are distant cousins. The main difference is the ranges of both voice types. A bass-baritone can sing with a lot of gusto in a baritone tessitura, but not as high, and certainly not for as long.  Verdi baritones cannot sing in the bass range, and they do not possess qualities of the bass-voice for the most part. There are exceptions. Quite often, bass-baritones sing Wagner roles such as Dutchman, Wotan, Hans Sachs, Amfortas and others. Most Verdi baritones do not explore this repertoire because it is too low. Bass-baritones do sing Verdi roles, but usually they sing the high bass roles, or secondary bass-roles. Most of Verdi's baritone roles will kill bass-baritones, except for Falstaff, Amonostros and maybe Iago. Count di Luna, Germont, Don Carlo equal death. Bass-baritones and Verdi's music are a bit tricky, because Italians do not use the term bass-baritone. They use the term basso-cantante. Basso-cante and bass-baritone are close to the same, but not quite. A lot of bass-baritones tend to have problems with the lower notes in the role of Phillip the second in Don Carlo. Both a bass-baritone and a Verdi baritone are types of dramatic baritones, but are distant cousins as far as range capabilities. Timbre wise the difference is not all that much. If a bass-baritone tries to sing Di Provenza, his larynx may have to be carried out on a stretcher. Ordering a new larynx is priceless with a 4.99 shipping and handling charge.


  1. I really enjoyed your essay, it helped quell my curiosity as to what exactly is a Verdi Baritone voice. Also, that last joke was hilarious.