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Alto Villainess

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A subtrope of Evil Sounds Deep. In musical theatre, Voice Types are often stereotypes too: the main hero will often be tenor if male or soprano if female. If the villain is female, however, she will often sing alto. This is quite often the case if the villainess is Large and in Charge. Compare Basso Profundo.

Altos themselves frequently refer to their options as "witches, bitches, and britches" (crossdressing roles as boys or young men). This would be the "bitches" part of that triad.

Compare other tropes for characters with deep voices: Authority Sounds Deep, for socially powerful characters; Baritone of Strengthnote  for strong characters; and finally, Power Makes Your Voice Deep, when a character's voice becomes deeper after they gain some sort of power.


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    Films — Animation 
  • Ursula the sea witch, the main antagonist in The Little Mermaid (1989), has Pat Carroll's throaty alto, opposing the more crisp and pure higher range of Ariel, the protagonist. The contrast is most clear at the end of Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls", when she commands Ariel to sing. (This is reduced in the stage version, where Ursula sings in more of a mezzo register.)
  • Mother Gothel, witch and main antagonist in Disney's Tangled, is voiced by Donna Murphy.
  • Eartha Kitt provides the voice of the villainous Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Averted in Across the Universe (2007), in which the female lead has a mezzo-soprano voice that borders on alto, as do most of the women.
  • Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson, the leader of the Sanderson sisters and the main antagonist in Hocus Pocus, played by Bette Midler.
  • Rock of Ages : Both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Mary J. Blige play antagonists to the main heroes, and sing in a lower range than the heroine.
  • In a speaking-only version of this trope, Amy, the calculating, manipulative title character in the film Gone Girl. Rosamund Pike pitches her voice to be low and husky, as opposed to her voice in other roles.

  • The Basic Eight: murderess Flan Culp is (fittingly) an alto, albeit a rather off-key one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Glee: The more antagonistic roles are played by the actors with lower voices, including Quinn and Santana (altos in the group) and Sue Sylvester. Kurt's voice is also in a much higher range than his antagonists.


  • Mrs. Meers from Thoroughly Modern Millie. The owner of the Hotel Priscilla, she runs the business as a front for her real stock in trade; white slavery.
  • Lucy from 13. Lucy is the Alpha Bitch and has learned how to manipulate her friends.
  • Madame Morrible from Wicked. Though the wizard is the one initially responsible for the oppression in Oz, Madame Morrible pushes him to greater levels of tyranny and summons the storm that brings Dorthy's house to Oz. Then again, she barely has a singing part.
  • Shenzi the hyena in the stage adaptation of The Lion King.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, opera tends to avert this trope more often than not, partially because the pitch of the voice is perhaps more commonly correlated to a character's age than to their moral alignment, and also because sopranos tend to hog most of the bigger female roles. Some of the most notable evil or borderline evil female roles - the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, Lady Macbeth from Verdi's Macbeth, Puccini's Turandot, Richard Strauss's Salome (despite a few unusually low notes), Alban Berg's Lulu, and Katerina from Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mzensk - thus are soprano parts. However, Bizet's femme fatale Carmen was originally scored for a mezzo (like Delilah from Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah), but has also often been performed as an alto (or a soprano) and thus usually has a deeper voice than her foil, the angelic Micaela, and Herodias from Salome is a mezzo or alto. Klytemnestra from Strauss's Elektra is nominally a mezzo-soprano, but with much darker inflections than the soprano title character.
  • In The Love of the Three Oranges Prokofiev averts it with Fata Morgana (soprano), plays it straight with Princess Clarisse (alto), and turns it up to eleven with the cook (a bass in drag). He also scores Hélène as an alto in his operatic adaptation of War and Peace.
  • Whenever Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas involve an even vaguely antagonistic female character, it's usually a contralto part (and was always played by Rosina Brandram either originally or in an early Savoy revival). These include the "bloodthirsty" Katisha in The Mikado; Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, whose allegiance to the pirates is mostly Played for Laughs; and the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, who, despite having no tendency towards villainy, stops a little short of executing the title character twice. The mezzo-soprano characters, by contrast, tend to receive warmer characterizations than even the unambiguously good contralto Grand Dames.
  • In Matilda: The Musical, the evil headmistress Trunchbull has traditionally been a Crosscast Role played by baritone-tenors.
  • In The Musical of Howl's Moving Castle, the Witch of the Waste is a contralto.
  • In Into the Woods, the Anti Villainous Witch sings alto (and, unusually, raps too), which helps set her voice apart from the soprano ingenue part of Rapunzel.
  • Hélène from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
  • In Hadestown, the three Fates sing a three-part harmony in a lower register than the other female leads. The Fates are a trio of women who use half-truths and pessimism to manipulate people into making terrible choices.
  • Anyone Can Whistle has Cora Hoover-Hooper, the corrupt Mayoress, displaying plenty of chest voice in her opening number.

    Video Games 
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Sheeva is a female member of the Shokkan race. She is often on the side of the villains and speaks with a deep, commanding voice.
    • Sindel has been depicted as a villain since Mortal Kombat 11 and has a deep voice.
  • Resident Evil Village: Lady Dimestrescu is one of the villains of the game. She has a deep voice to go with her imposing height.

    Western Animation