Created By: bladedancer00 on May 31, 2012

An Alto is Always Evil

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Ever notice how in musicals, if the main villain is female, she is almost always an alto, or at least spends part of her song in alto range? For example: Madam Morrible in Wicked, Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Miss Hannigan in Annie, Madam Thernandier in Les Miserables (she's as close to a female villain as you can get in the show), and Miss Andrews in Mary Poppins.
Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • June 1, 2012
  • June 1, 2012
    This is Evil Sounds Deep

    Nothing in that trope says it is exclusively male. In fact it specifically mentions villainesses. At most maybe we should add a paragraph to Evil Sounds Deep about how this works out in musicals and operas. (Bass and Alto voices for the villains.)
  • June 4, 2012
    I am SO certain. I once YKTT Wd this but... I cannot seem to find anything. Anyways, I'm not sure of the current form of this proposition.

    Altos are not always evil. But sure enough, an alto is never the heroine. If they're not antagonist, they're a minor role, usually a mature or elderly lady who has no danger or romantic subplots. Notable alto roles in general are pretty rare. There are three main reasons: first, actual altos are pretty rare; most naturally deep female voices can through training reach the mezzo soprano scale, and if not that, at least perform some of the less high-climbing mezzo soprano roles. Second, a mezzo soprano is more flexible: they can usually perform an alto scale more or less completely, and also go higher for added value. Writing an alto role is basically writing a one-legged mezzo soprano role, to put it crudely. [[hottip:*:At this point, I'd like to point out that I am a very low voice, and although my teacher insists I am mezzo soprano I have always felt more at home at the tenor scale. And disliked most soprano voices I hear as too sharp. So I don't mean to pull altos down or anything.]] Third, the lower scale of female voices lacks the, so to say, drama and sparkle of the higher one. Not many altos (or mezzos at the alto range) can produce a voice that is clear and sounding enough over an orchestra. One would want their main roles to be audible to the audience, thus one would write them higher rather than lower on the scale.
  • June 4, 2012
    Re: "an alto is never the heroine": Mary Martin was an alto, and played heroines in One Touch Of Venus, South Pacific and The Sound Of Music (though Julie Andrews is more remembered in the last).
  • June 6, 2012
    ^ Those are musicals, I'm pretty sure they differ from opera tradition. Interesting anyway.