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A soubrette is a female stock character in opera and theatre. The term arrived in English from Provençal via French, and means "conceited" or "coy."[1]


In theatre, a soubrette is a comedy character who is vain and girlish, mischievous, lighthearted, coquettish and gossipy—often a chambermaid or confidante of the ingenue, she often displays a flirtatious or even sexually aggressive nature. The soubrette appeared in "Commedia dell'arte" scenarios, often in the role of Columbina, where the actress would provide the details of her behavior and dialogue.[2] From there, she moved to the works of Molière, which were influenced by the Commedia; the role of Dorine in Tartuffe (1664) fits the description. A famous example, though a hundred years later, is Suzanne in Beaumarchais' Le Mariage de Figaro (1784).[3]


In classical music and opera, the term soubrette refers to both a soprano voice type and a type of opera role. A soubrette voice is light with a bright, sweet timbre, a tessitura in the mid-range, and with no extensive coloratura.[4] A soubrette's range extends approximately from middle C (C4) to "high C" (C6).[5] The voice has a lighter vocal weight than other soprano voices with a brighter timbre. Many young singers start out as soubrettes but as they grow older and the voice matures more physically they may be reclassified as another voice type, usually either a light lyric soprano, a lyric coloratura soprano, or a coloratura mezzo-soprano. Rarely does a singer remain a soubrette throughout her entire career.[6] The tessitura of the soubrette tends to lie a bit lower than the lyric soprano and spinto soprano.[7]

The soubrette roles are typically found in comic operas or operettas and they usually portray good-looking, youthful girls who are flirtatious, saucy, and street-wise. Typically these roles are sung by younger singers and both sopranos and mezzo-sopranos are cast in them.[8] Many soubrette roles have a considerable amount of spoken German dialogue, and therefore the soubrette singer must possess both an excellent comprehension of the German language and considerable acting skills. It is rare today to find true soubrettes singing in major opera houses as their voices are typically unable to carry over larger orchestras in larger halls. Often lyric, coloratura, and mezzo sopranos are cast in soubrette roles, especially in the early part of their singing careers. This does not mean that these singers are soubrette sopranos but it does mean they can play soubrette roles.[8] The coloratura soprano has a higher range, can sing more dexterous vocal passages and has a somewhat brighter sound than the soubrette. The lyric soprano has a richer voice and higher range than the soubrette soprano. The mezzo-soprano can sing as high as a soubrette but with a darker timbre and heavier weight in the voice. Mezzos also have a much more extensive range in the lower register.[9] In addition, the beautiful light voice of the soubrette is ideal for baroque music, early music and baroque opera, as well as many art songs. However, the soubrette soprano voice is limited even in this repertoire by its lack of coloratura skill and relatively limited range.[8] Many operettas and musicals include soubrette characters, such as Valencienne in The Merry Widow[10] and in Gilbert and Sullivan, the Jessie Bond mezzo-soprano roles such as Cousin Hebe (H.M.S. Pinafore) and Lady Angela (Patience).[11] Another example is the character Ellie Mae Chipley, who sings "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" in Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat.[12]

Sopranos who sing or sang soubrette roles[edit]

Mezzo-sopranos who sang or sing soubrette roles[edit]

Soubrette roles in opera and operettas[13][edit]

Soubrette actresses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ soubrette - definition of soubrette by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Italian Comedy | Commedia dell'Arte | Servetta | Soubrette | Colombina
  3. ^ http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9068785/soubrette Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ voicetype
  5. ^ Dolmetsch Online - Music Dictionary Vm - Vz
  6. ^ Stark, James (2003). Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8614-3. 
  7. ^ Boldrey, Richard (1994). Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias. Caldwell Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-877761-64-5. 
  8. ^ a b c Boldrey (1992), Singer's Edition (Soubrette), cited below
  9. ^ IPA Source - Soprano.
  10. ^ The Merry Widow – VLOG Spring 2006.
  11. ^ Jessie Bond.
  12. ^ Showboat - Kern/Hammerstein.
  13. ^ Boldrey (1994), Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias, cited below

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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451 news items

Corriere della Sera

Corriere della Sera
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 02:43:12 -0700

ROMA - Arrestata nella Capitale Sylvie Lubamba, la soubrette divenuta famosa come Miss Toscana durante il concorso Miss Italia del 1992 e poi lanciata in tivù da Piero Chiambretti con il programma «Markette». Più volte a giudizio, anche con la madre e ...

Slate Magazine

Slate Magazine
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:44:41 -0700

Grande, like many teen aspirants to Broadway, trained as a belter, a more natural fit for her voice than the R&B soubrette she hadn't quite grown into. Even now her singing can come off a little mush-mouthed and forced. And where Carey's strengths lie ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 21:46:00 -0700

In her prime, in the 1920s, Anita Loos was "the Soubrette of Satire"and also boasted that her first screen credit was for an adaptation of Macbeth in which her billing followed immediately after Shakespeare's. The roaring success of Gentlemen Prefer ...

Gazzetta di Parma

Gazzetta di Parma
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 02:27:57 -0700

La soubrette televisiva di origine congolese Sylvie Lubamba, nota anche per aver partecipato a un programma di Piero Chiambretti, è stata arrestata dalla polizia a Roma, a seguito di un'ordinanza per l'esecuzione di un cumulo di pene. La donna ...
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 02:56:15 -0700

Une nouvelle série de costumes est attendue aujourd'hui sur le Xbox Live et demain sur le PS Store pour Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate en Europe. Comme vous pouvez l'observer avec la vidéo ci-dessous, Tecmo Koei et Team Ninja mettent en ligne un total de 11 ...
The Doings La Grange
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:47:35 -0700

... and Susanna, the couple about to be married, are themselves married. Bass baritone Dan Richardson has been cast as Figaro and his wife soprano Diana Stoic Richardson is the lively Susanna. “Susanna is considered a soubrette role,” Diana explained.

Broadway World

Broadway World
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 18:37:21 -0700

... and how hard it is to find an ingénue ballerina, a quirky soubrette with high notes, and a young character actress who can belt it out of the park. The talents of folks like Nancy Walker, Cris Alexander, John Reardon, Sono Osato and, yes, Comden ...

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NewsWalk.info (Pressemitteilung)
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Kabarett der GESCHWESTER L A N G Die Geschwester Iris und Irene Lang haben dieselben Eltern sie haben dieselben Schulen besucht denselben Beruf erlernt und benutzen beide am liebsten die gleiche mittelharte... A- A+. DIE RACHE DER TOURETTE ...

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