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[Ital.,=above], female voice of highest pitch. The three basic types of solo soprano are coloratura, lyric, and dramatic. The coloratura has a great range and impressive vocal agility; the lyric soprano has a light, pretty voice; and the dramatic soprano has a sustained
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in music, ornamentation in the vocal part; usually used to describe the vocal execution of several sounds, including technically difficult virtuoso-like passages, to a single syllable of text.
Coloratura was employed in vocal music as early as the Middle Ages but became particularly widespread in the arias of 18thand 19th-century Italian opera, which made a distinction between “bravura” (broad leaps and loud roulades) and “delicate” (graceful melismas and passages sung softly) coloratura. Coloratura was sometimes notated by the composer himself and sometimes improvised by the singers. Often it became an end in itself, a sheer display of virtuosity; yet many composers successfully used it as a means of artistic characterization, including Mozart, Rossini, Delibes, Verdi, R. Strauss, Glinka, and Rimsky-Korsakov. A high female voice with the flexibility and agility required for the execution of coloratura is called a coloratura soprano.