Mozart and a Contralto Voice
Starting at the Beginning
Music has always been an important part of my life, and I constantly strive to make my voice better. Now, before I continue any farther, let me make something clear about my voice – I am a contralto, which means my vocal quality is very deep, and low notes are incredibly easy for me. Conversely, high notes can sometimes require me to warm up my voice for a good hour before I even attempt singing higher than a C the octave above middle C. I believe this partially stems from back when I was thirteen, and pretended that I was a soprano; therefore, never bothering to warm up my upper notes before belting out something along the lines of Mozart’s Queen of the Night.
In fact, Mozart was a big reason I used to pretend that I was a soprano – almost every opera that I had heard up to that point only had soprano female leads, and even back then my biggest dream was to be an opera singer. Eventually after about three years, I realized that I was doing nothing but destroying my voice by keeping up the act that I was a soprano, so I sadly put away my Mozart aria books, dug out my mom’s old contralto songbook, and began the process of healing my voice from the years of abuse I had subjected it to. At that time, I had figured that singing a Mozart lead would never be in my future, and I kept this mindset for about four years.
Then, one day last summer, I wandered into Van Curlers, the music store in the Proctors Theater. I was looking for materials for the upcoming semester, since I had exhausted the music I enjoyed in my current songbooks, so I walked over towards to vocal music section. Lo and behold, what do I find? Sitting at the very front of the M section – ahead of Mahler, Mendelssohn, and Meyerbeer – sat a Mozart aria book. This wasn’t just any Mozart aria book, though. This was a Mozart aria book for contraltos, and it turned out that the arias were for a lead in Mitridate, re di Ponto, an opera Mozart had written when he was fourteen. I immediately bought the book and all but ran home to learn as much as I could about the opera. Links led to more links, and more researching. Soon, it was after midnight, and I had learned that during his earlier years Mozart had had a heavy flirtation with composing roles for male altos, which are today performed by women contraltos. It looks like my hopes of performing a lead role in a Mozart opera isn’t such a pipe dream after all!
In fact, I realized a part of this dream this past semester, where I studied and performed "Son reo, l'error confesso," from Mitridate.