contralto

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contralto

contralto (kəntrălˈtō), female voice of lowest pitch. Originally, the term denoted a second voice set against (contra) a high voice (alto); thus, a second high voice. Since most second parts were for a high male voice or a low woman's voice, the term came to mean a low woman's voice, pitched about a fifth below the soprano. See also alto; countertenor; voice.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Contralto

 

a female voice of low range. The chest voice (ending with A-flat or B-flat of the first octave) is its most characteristic and expressive register. It has a rich, deep timbre. Among the opera parts calling for a controlto are OI’ga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Konchakovna in Borodin’s Prince Igor. Composers have often written the parts of boys and youths for a contralto; some examples are Vania in Glinka’s Ivan Susanin and Siebel in Gounod’s Faust.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

contralto

1. Music the lowest female voice, usually having a range of approximately from F a fifth below middle C to D a ninth above it
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005