Opera top 10 most beautiful best coloratura arias

A compilation of the most beautiful coloratura arias with explanations and great YouTube videos.





from IDOMENEO by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Plot: Ilia appears before the king and tells him that she considers Crete her new home and Idomeneo her father. Idomeneo is pleased and surprised at Ilia’s change of heart. He suspects that she is in love with his son Idamante and is filled with grief at the suffering he brings upon them both.

This aria of Idomeneo was a novelty of Mozart. This aria, full of coloratura, is indeed composed in a baroque da capo form (ABA’). But such a heroic, passionate aria had not been heard from tenors before. The tenor must master long chains of coloratura. Mozart composed the aria into the throat of Anton Raaff, the first Idomeneo, who was famous for his coloratura skills. Mozart wrote a second version for the Viennese performance, which included fewer coloraturas (and was chosen, for example, by Pavarotti and Domingo).

Juan Diego Florez surprised in 2018 with his Mozart recital. His voice has darkened and deepened over the years. His coloratura is terrific (as expected) and the voice has the necessary punch. A stirring recording!

from CANDIDE by Leonard Bernstein

Plot: In Paris lives a courtesan who is kept by two lovers, the Archbishop of Paris and a rich Jewish merchant. It is Cunegonde. She despises her life, but she loves the luxury it allows.

The title role belongs to Candide, but Cunegonde gets to sing the most famous aria and it became a showpiece for coloratura sopranos. Bernstein called Candide a Valentine’s card for European opera. This aria of Cunegonde, singing about luxury and jewelry is not set in Paris by chance, for it is a blatant parody of Gounod’s “Jewel Aria” from his masterpiece “Faust.”

The interpreter faces considerable difficulties. On the one hand, it has a large range – three high E-flat notes must be sung! – on the other hand, some of the ornamented scales are extremely tricky. The whole thing must be sung with apparent lightness and wit; after all, we are in a comedy.

For the first performance of Candide, the casting team had great difficulty finding a suitable singer who could manage the high notes. Barbara Cook was the first cunegonde. Bernstein personally selected her and coached her for this difficult role. Cook later compared singing this piece to an athletic grandeffort.


Plot: The courtesan Violetta responds hesitantly to Alfredo’s advances. She knows life too well to believe him. She wants to buy time and gives him a camellia – if it had faded, he may come back. The guests come back from the dance hall to the room. When Violetta is alone after the ball, she is surprised to find that she is moved by Alfredo’s confession of love and admits to herself her longing for a deep relationship. But she shoos away these foolish thoughts, isn’t it freedom that she needs?

Follie! It’s all madness, after all, and she wipes the thoughts away. With virtuoso trills and runs that lead to the high Des she sings of pleasure. Fueled by Alfredo’s singing, which she hears through the open window, she concludes this fiery and virtuosic cabaletta with an ecstatic high C.

You can hear a rousing “Sempre libera” from Magda Olivero, “the prima donna who sent the audience into a state of frenzy” (Peter G. Davis). Magda Olivero (1910-2014) had an ardent following that idolized her and accompanied her everywhere.

from THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Action: Constanze comes into the garden. She has been kidnapped by the Musulmans and longs for her lover Belmonte. Selim appears. He expects that tomorrow Konstanze will be his and will love him. But Konstanze wants to die rather than give herself to him. When Selim threatens her, she shows herself willing to endure torment, the redemption of which will be her death.

Mozart wrote a stunning piece for this drama of Konstanze’s soul. The so-called “Martern aria (Marter = Torture)” of Konstanze is one of the most difficult arias in opera literature. It demands strength for the long dramatic passages, great coloratura assurance and a considerable vocal range. It takes the voice up to high D. Moreover, stamina is necessary, because directly before this aria the singer already had to sing a great aria. If the preceding aria “Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose” is in resigned, hopeless tone, Mozart shows Konstanze in the so-called “Martern-Arie” as a passionate woman ready for sacrifice. This 10-minute piece is musically and dramatically immensely substantial and has also been described as a “concerto for coloratura soprano, solo instruments and orchestra.” The aria begins with an unusually long, overture-like introduction in which the solo instruments (oboe, flute, violin, cello) play colorful passages.

Listen to this recording sung by Edda Moser. Moser was one of the great Mozart coloratura sopranos of the postwar era. She was a singer who gave herself uncompromisingly to her roles and never spared her voice. The power of her voice enabled her not only to sing coloratura roles, but also to shine in the dramatic field. Her recordings of Konstanze and the Queen of the Night glowed like a red flame. The latter even made it as a music title in the series of golden recordings that carried the Voyager spaceship into the vastness of space. The simultaneous agility and power of your voice is worth noting. Listen, for example, to the part where she sings the sustained C followed by a flawless trill (6:30).

from MANON by Jules Massenet

Plot: It is afternoon. The better society promenades on the Cours-de-reine, the great promenade of Paris. Young Manon is happy, because she is the center of society.

Manon is happy – One bows, one kisses my hand, for by my beauty I am the queen. She sings with vitality and joy the famous gavotte with the high D-flat at the end of the first part. Massenet draws no arrogant bitch, but a young, happy woman. She sings the word “Reine” (Queen) first in piano, she can hardly believe herself that she is the admired center of the “haute volée”. Only in the second attempt she sings the word “Reine” in forte. There is a telling anecdote about Massenet’s conception of Manon: on his daily walk, every day he passed by a flower girl with the blue, innocent eyes of a child. He later told that this woman had been an inspiration for him to write Manon.

She Victoria de los Angeles in an immensely virtuosic yet calm and expressive interpretation of this piece. The aria is very intricate and laced with difficult coloratura. Note especially the minute before the high D-flat, starting at about 1:15.

from LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR by Gaetano Donizetti

Plot: Lucia has been meeting with Edgardo for some time and awaits him in the castle park. In the evening at the fountain, she tells her maid with a dark face that once appeared to her the ghost of a dead Ravenswood, who had been murdered at the fountain by a relative and since then lies buried in the depths of the well. Soon her spirits brighten again, triggered by the anticipation of Edgardo’s imminent arrival.

The piece begins with the famous cavatina “Regnava nel silenzio”.  With the subsequent cabaletta “Quando rapito in estasi” lightens the mood of Lucia. Donizetti expresses his excitement about Edgardo’s imminent arrival with great leaps of tone, which present the singer with considerable difficulties. Donizetti also writes remarkable rubati in this aria. For example, time almost stands still in “Il ciel per me” and then immediately returns to the basic tempo with “Si schiuda il ciel per me”. Also noteworthy is the trill in the middle of the aria, which extends over two measures. This first part is repeated again. For the ending Donizetti chose an artful twist: the second to last “Ciel” ends on a C, and with a beautiful figure he repeats once more “Si schiuda il ciel” which ends on a spectacular D.

Maria Callas made stage history with the role of Lucia.  The famous producer Walter Legge wanted to set new recording standards with the ensemble of La Scala and Serafin, and chose among others the “Lucia di Lammermoor”. Kesting “The great voices: “The recording of Lucia was not yet finished when Legge sent the last three minutes of Act II on a tape snippet to Karajan. He immediately decided to stage the work himself, and with the performance he soon traveled to Berlin and Vienna. Callas as Lucia caused pandemonium in both opera houses.

from LES CONTES D-HOFFMANN by Jacques Offenbach

Plot: Nicklausse warns Hofmann about the strange person of Olympia, but Hoffmann has no ear for it. He has bought glasses from Coppélius and so does not realize that Olympia is not a living woman. In the evening, Spalanzani has invited guests to his salon to present them. They celebrate the inventive host and wish to see Olympia. Spalanzani makes Olympia dance and sing. Every now and then she loses momentum and has to be raised.

This aria is one of the most unique pieces of opera literature. The singing machine Olympia is half an hour on stage and says for a long time only “oui”. Finally, she awakens and begins to sing. Offenbach, of course, drew a caricature of the singers of the Grand Opéra; the coloratura singer only has to be wound up and she produces notes like an automaton. The aria is virtuosic with many coloraturas and at the same time the singer has to imitate with her voice the choppy singing and the mechanical dancing movements of a puppet, just as the composer had ingeniously set it to tones. This is a great challenge for the singer in the live performance.

Listen to this famous aria in Joan Sutherland’s version in Richard Bonynge’s recording. Sutherland carried the honorary title of “La Stupenda” with her nightingale throat.

from LA SONNAMBULA by Vincenzo Bellini

Plot: Amina has been suspected by Elvino of nocturnal infidelity, yet Amina was merely a sleepwalker who unknowingly wanders away from the house at night. Elvino has now realized his mistake and slips the ring over Amina’s finger. Amina is happy.

Bellini composed a bravura aria for Amina at the end of the opera with great leaps of tone, trills and top notes.

Joan Sutherland’s technique allowed her to sing the aria at a mad pace with a glorious ending of breathtaking trills. Pavarotti was reportedly speechless when he learned that Sutherland could give a noon performance of Sonnambula the same day before an evening performance of Traviata.

from FAUST by Charles Gounod

Action: Margarethe sees Siebel’s bouquet and takes it in her hands. When she sees the jewelry box, she drops the simple bouquet. Intrigued, she tries on the jewelry. Now she feels like a princess. If only the stranger were with her now and could see her.

This piece requires the vocal range of a lyric coloratura soprano. Most of the part of Margarethe is written for a lirico-spinto, a dramatic soprano who can credibly portray the entire range of emotions: She must portray the innocence of the young woman, then be Faust’s lover, then the devout churchgoer, later the tragically abandoned, and finally the mad, incarcerated one. In this aria, the music of the coquettish young woman, peppered with ornamentation, is now added. This wide range of demands makes Margarethe one of the most demanding roles in operatic literature and, accordingly, difficult to cast. The famous British singer critic John Stean wrote in 1971 that in the history documented by records only four singers could cover this entire vocal spectrum: Lili Lehmann, Rosa Ponselle, Maria Callas and Montserrat Caballé.

Listen to Maria Callas’ recording from 1963. Fantastic the vocal nuances she can bring out of the aria. “If ever the unity of diction and declamation, fine nuance of words and eloquence of delivery demanded by Gounod was achieved again after the war, it was in this performance. (Kesting, “great voices”)

from CENERENTOLA by Gioachino Rossini

Action: The Prince has chosen Cenerentola as his bride. Arriving at the Prince’s castle, Cenerentola can hardly believe her luck. She wants to forgive her stepfather and sisters and asks for leniency. She embraces her relatives and they are all touched by her magnanimity.

In this final piece, we are met by a transformed Cenerentola. She has not only changed visually, but also blossoms musically. Rossini saved the big fireworks for the finale. What Rossini presents us with in terms of ornamentation, chains of notes and leaps in this aria is breathtaking. This piece is one of the most demanding that has been written for coloratura sopranos.

Cecilia Bartoli’s Cenerentola sparkles with singing joy. She sings her way through this aria seemingly effortlessly and the notes shimmer like pearls on a necklace. For many, Bartoli is considered the best Cenerentola in recording history.



0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *