soprano [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 power suitable for operatic roles. The voices of boys who have not reached puberty are generally in the soprano range and replace women's voices in some church choirs. In the castrato of the 18th cent. the quality of a boy's voice combined with the lung power of a man made for vocal powers of great brilliance (see eunuch). The highest-pitched member of various families of instruments is termed soprano, e.g., soprano saxophone.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.