THE BASS VOICE
With the possible exception of the Baßbuffo, there is no such thing as a lyric or dramatic classification for the bass voice. The true Italian buffo, the German Spielbaß, has a somewhat lighter voice than the other basses but still must produce a considerable amount of sound as he must sing the lowest voice in ensembles. He must have excellent German and be a flexible actor. The difference between the Baßbuffo and the Schwerer Spielbaß is size: size of voice, range and body. The voice of the Schwerer Spielbaß has a rougher black sound with an easily carrying bottom range. This Fach is dominated by German singers as the Schwerer Spielbaß is as much a physical type as a vocal one. The Charakterbaß is generally sung by the singer who doesn't fit into either the serious bass or buffo Fachs. More often than not he possesses the true Italian basso cantante sound but lacks the physical size and metallic ring demanded of the German Seriöserbaß voice. The Seriöserbaß himself must have a large voice with a dark rough quality that lends itself to German declamation.
Those arias most often heard in German Theater auditions are marked with *. Those arias heard in audition but not normally sung by the singer of this Fach in the opera house are given in parenthesis.
A smaller, flexible and expressive voice and an excellent actor.
Within the category of Spielbaß there is a division made on consideration of both physical and vocal size. The Spielbaß; or Bassbuffo is the true Italian buffo. The voice is less massive and flexible in both characterization ability and speed of patter. He must be an excellent actor and have very good German. The classic roles of the Italian literature are his: Leporello in Don Giovanni, Don Bartolo in Der Barbier von Sevilla, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, Dulcamara in L'elisire d'amore, and the title role in Don Pasquale. In the German repertoire he has the thankful roles of Baculus in Der Wildschütz, Truffaldin in Ariadne aus Naxos and, if his voice is high enough, the Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
A large voice with an extended range, imposing physical appearance, with good comic acting abilities.
The singer who sings the repertoire of the Schwerer Spielbaß must above all be large in voice and body. The true test of the heavy buffo voice are the roles of Falstaff in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier. He must possess a great comic flair for such roles as Kezal in Die verkaufte Braut and van Bett in Zar und Zimmermann and the ability of fine characterization in the roles of Basilio in Der Barbier von Sevilla and Colline in La Bohème. His German repertoire contains the roles of Daland in Der fliegenden Holländer and Caspar in Der Freischütz. This is a typical German Fach which very much rests on physical type and vocal power.
A large voice with an extended range and a fine characterizations ability.
The bass-baritone voice in the German theater is what one thinks of in America as the basso cantante and since he has one of the largest repertoires of all the voice categories, tends to be on the stage every night. The voice generally has a more refined, Italian sound than the Seriöserbaß and lies a bit higher. Although he can usually sing the repertoire of either the Seriöser- or Spielfach, he lacks either the physical or vocal size or the acting ability that would make his portrayal of the leading characters acceptable. Most often he is relegated to secondary roles of a supportive type: he is the friend, the father, or the wise man in the opera: Zuniga in Carmen, Warlaam in Boris, Angelotti in Tosca, Don Ferrando in both Fidelio and Il Trovatore the Großinquisitor in Don Carlos and the King in Aida. A few plums do come his ray in the roles of Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte. If the voice is large enough he may also sing roles from both the Seriöser- and Schwerer Spielbaß Fachs such as Daland in Der Fliegenden Holländer, Mephisto in Faust, and Hunding in Die Walküre.
A full voice with a dark color and good low voice.
This is the Fach which includes the very deep bass roles, such as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte and the leading basses of the opera including Phillip in Don Carlos, König Marke in Tristan und Isolde and König Heinrich in Lohingrin. It also includes many smaller roles as does the Baßbariton Fach. It demands an imposing figure, a large voice, a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity in acting and the kind of personality which inspires confidence. Although included in this Fach are the great Italian bass roles, the Seriöserbaß in the German theater has a darker rougher sound than his Italian counterpart.