The German Fach system (German pronunciation: [fax]; literally "compartment" or "subject of study", here in the sense of "vocal specialization") is a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. It is used worldwide, but primarily in Europe, especially in German-speaking countries and by repertory opera houses.

The Fach system is a convenience for singers and opera houses. It prevents singers from being asked to sing roles which they are incapable of performing. Opera companies keep lists of available singers by Fach so that when they are casting roles for an upcoming production, they do not inadvertently contact performers who would be inappropriate for the part.

Below is a list of Fächer (German pronunciation: [ˈfɛçɐ]), their ranges as written on sheet music, and roles generally considered appropriate to each. When two names for the Fach are given, the first is in more common use today. Where possible, an English and/or Italian equivalent of each Fach is listed; however, not all Fächer have ready English or Italian equivalents. Note that some roles can be sung by more than one Fach and that many singers do not easily fit into a Fach: for instance some sopranos may sing both Koloratursopran and Dramatischer Koloratursopran roles. In addition, roles traditionally more difficult to cast may be given to a voice other than the traditional Fach. For instance, the "Queen of the Night" is more traditionally a dramatic coloratura role, but it is difficult to find a dramatic coloratura to sing it (particularly given the extreme range). Therefore, the role is often sung by a lyric coloratura.

Soprano Fächer

Lyrischer Koloratursopran / Koloratursoubrette

Dramatischer Koloratursopran

One must not mistake the Mozartian dramatic coloratura soprano with the Italian dramatic coloratura soprano. A singer that sings Konstanze, Donna Anna or Fiordiligi can not necessarily sing the Italian dramatic coloratura parts, due to other vocal demands. Imogene, Leonora and Violetta require a dramatic soprano voice and are most often sung by dramatic sopranos with an agile voice that can easily produce coloratura and high notes. Roles like Norma, Lady Macbeth, Odabella or Abigaille are good examples of Italian roles that are not necessarily a coloratura soprano (even though the score calls for coloratura singing), but a full bodied dramatic soprano with a voice that can handle extreme dramatic singing and that is flexible enough to sing coloratura. Giuseppe Verdi wrote many parts like this in his early years.

Deutsche Soubrette / Charaktersopran

  • English equivalent: Soubrette
  • Range: From about middle C (C4) to the C two octaves above middle C (C6)
  • Description: A beautiful, sweet light lyric voice usually capable of executing florid passages similarly to that of a coloratura. The range is usually intermediate between that of a coloratura and lyric soprano. Most sopranos start out as soubrettes, changing fach as the voice matures.
  • Roles:

Lyrischer Sopran

  • English equivalent: lyric soprano
  • Range: From about B below middle C (B3) to the C two octaves above middle C (C6)
  • Description: A more supple soprano, capable of legato, portamento, and some agility; generally has a more soulful and sensuous quality than a soubrette, who tends to be largely flirtatious and somewhat tweety. The voice is very common; thus the purity and character of the basic timbre is essential. It is the "basic" soprano voice which is at neither extremes of the soprano range of voices; it is not known for having particular vocal attributes such as power, stamina, technical prowess, or agility. However, there are several lyric sopranos that possess a quantity of many of these vocal attributes, thus allowing them to sing a broader variety of roles. Nevertheless, the core of the true fundamentally lyric voice does not encompass such traits. Innocence, vulnerability and pathos are usually conveyed in the music written for the characters portrayed by the lyric soprano because of this endearing simplicity. This fach is also famous because the voices usually remain especially fresh until advanced age.
  • Roles:

Jugendlich dramatischer Sopran

Dramatischer Sopran

  • English equivalent: full dramatic soprano
  • Range: From about the A below middle C (A3) to the C two octaves above middle C (C6)
  • Description: Characterized by their rich, full sounding voices, dramatic sopranos are expected to project across large orchestras, a feat that requires a powerful sound. Dramatic sopranos are not expected to have the vocal flexibility of the lighter Fächer. Although most dramatic sopranos have a darker, more robust quality to the voice, there are some that possess a lighter lyrical tone. In these instances, however, the substantial amount of volume and endurance normally associated with the dramatic soprano voice is still present. The darker voiced dramatic soprano may even make a foray into the dramatic mezzo-soprano territory with great success.
  • Roles:

Two roles mentioned above, Salome and the Marschallin, are relatively high dramatic sopranos and require that the soprano can endure long stretches of very high tessitura. Richard Strauss himself said that Salome should be sung by someone with the flexibility of a dramatic coloratura due to the high tessitura.

Hochdramatischer Sopran

  • English equivalent: High dramatic soprano
  • Range: From about the F below middle C (F3) to the C two octaves above middle C (C6)
  • Description: A voice capable of answering the demands of operas of Wagner's maturity. The voice is substantial, very powerful, and even throughout the registers. It is immense, stentorian and even larger than the voice of the "normal" dramatic soprano. Although the two voices are comparable and are sometimes hard to distinguish between, this voice has even greater stamina, endurance and volume than the former. The top register is very strong, clarion and bright. Successful hochdramatische are rare.

Mezzo-soprano and Contralto Fächer


  • English equivalent: coloratura mezzo-soprano
  • Range: From about the G below middle C (G3) to the B two octaves above middle C (B5)
  • Description: Found especially in Rossini's operas, these roles were written originally for altos with agility and secure top notes. Today they are often played by mezzo-sopranos and sometimes even by sopranos. At times a lyric or full lyric soprano with a flexible voice will assume the roles as written while a true coloratura soprano will sing the same music transposed to a higher key.
  • Roles:

Lyrischer Mezzosopran / Spielalt

Dramatischer Mezzosopran

Dramatischer Alt

  • English equivalent: dramatic contralto
  • Range: From about the F below middle C (F3) to the G or A two octaves above (G–A5)
  • Description: Stylistically similar to the dramatic mezzo, just lower. Sings usually around the break between the chest voice and middle voice. Many mezzos tried their luck in these roles, yet real altos fare better. A deep, penetrating low female voice. This is a very rare voice type with a darker, richer sound than that of a typical alto.

Tiefer Alt

Tenor Fächer

Spieltenor / Tenor buffo

  • English equivalent: (lyric) comic tenor. It is quite possible for a young Spieltenor to eventually work into the lighter lyrischer Tenor category; the deciding factor will be the beauty of voice.
  • Range: From about low C (C3) to the B an octave above middle C (B4)
  • Roles:


  • English equivalent: character tenor; must have good acting abilities.
  • Range: From about the B below low C (B2) to the C an octave above middle C (C5)

Lyrischer Tenor

Jugendlicher Heldentenor


Baritone Fächer

Bariton / Baryton-Martin

  • Italian: baritono leggero
  • English equivalent: light baritone
  • Range: From the low C (C3) to the B above middle C (B4)[11]
  • Description: The Baryton-Martin, named after Jean-Blaise Martin (sometimes referred to as Light Baritone)[12] lacks the lower G2–B2 range a heavier baritone is capable of, and has a lighter, almost tenor-like quality.

Lyrischer Bariton / Spielbariton



  • Italian: baritono verdiano
  • English equivalent: Verdi baritone
  • Range: From about the A below low C (A2) to the G above middle C (G4)
  • Description: A voice particularly effective with passages in its higher reaches. A high tessitura vis-a-vis the range extremes. A Verdi baritone refers to a voice capable of singing consistently and with ease in the highest part of the baritone range, sometimes extending up to the C above middle C (C5 or high C). The Verdi baritone will generally have a lot of squillo, or "ping"
  • Roles:


Lyrischer Bassbariton / Low lyric baritone

  • English equivalent: lyric bass-baritone
  • Range: From about the G below low C (G2) to the F above middle C (F4)
  • Description: The bass-baritone's required range can vary tremendously based on the role, with some less demanding than others. Some bass-baritones are baritones, while others are basses.

Dramatischer Bassbariton / Low dramatic baritone

  • English equivalent: dramatic bass-baritone
  • Range: From about the G below low C (G2) to the F above middle C (F4)

Bass Fächer

Basso cantante / Lyric bass-bariton / High lyric bass

  • English equivalent: lyric bass-baritone
  • Range: From about the E below low C (E2) to the F above middle C (F4)
  • Basso cantante means 'singing bass'.[15]

Hoher Bass / Dramatic bass-baritone / High dramatic bass

  • English equivalent: dramatic bass-baritone
  • Range: From about the E below low C (E2) to the F above middle C (F4)

Jugendlicher Bass

  • English equivalent: young bass
  • Range: From about the E below low C (E2) to the F above middle C (F4)
  • Description: A young man (regardless of the age of the singer).

Spielbass / Bassbuffo / Lyric buffo

Schwerer Spielbass / Dramatic buffo

Lyrischer seriöser Bass

Dramatischer seriöser Bass


  1. Kloiber 2002, p. 899.
  2. Kloiber 2002, p. 900.
  3. Kloiber 2002, p. 901.
  4. Kloiber 2002, p. 902.
  5. Kloiber 2002, p. 903.
  6. Kloiber 2002, p. 905.
  7. Kloiber 2002, p. 906.
  8. Kloiber 2002, p. 907.
  9. Kloiber 2002, p. 908.
  10. McGinnis 2010, p. 257
  11. John Warrack and Ewan West, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 2nd edition, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869164-5
  12. Tom Huizenga, "Breaking Down Baritones"
  13. Kloiber 2002, p. 909.
  14. Kloiber 2002, p. 910.
  15. Bass Guide, BBC Wales
  16. Kloiber 2002, p. 911.
  17. Kloiber 2002, p. 912.
  18. Kloiber 2002, p. 913.


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