Bass Arias


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 easy 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.

Singers: Fernando Corena, Enzo Dara, Beno Cusche

Example: Enzo Dara, La Cenerentola

Don Bartolo * Der Barbier von Sevilla A un dottor della mia sorte
(Figaro) * Figaros Hochqeit All three arias
Leporello * Don Giovanni Register-arie (Catalogue Aria)
Beckmesser * Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Ständchen from the 2nd act
Pasquale * Don Pasquale Ah, un foco insolito
Baculus * Der Wildschütz Fünf Tausand Taler
Don Magnifico La Cenerentola Miei rampolli femminini
Dulcamara Der Liebestrank (L’elisir d’amor) Udite, udite, o rustici



Heavy buffo

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.

Singers: Alexander Kipnis, Kurt Böhme, Gottlob Frick, Karl Ritterbusch, Kurt Moll

Examples: Gottlob Frick; Kurt Böhme, Der Freischütz


Compare the lighter Spielbaß with the Schwerer Spielbaß

Franco Corena (Spielbaß) and Alexander Kipnis (Schwerer Spielbaß / Seriöserbaß): Don Giovanni


Endre Koreh (Spielbaß) and Martti Talvela (Schwerer Spielbaß), Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Basilio * Der Barbier von Sevilla Verleundung-Arie (La calunnia è un venticello)
Osmin * Die Entführung aus dem Serail All three arias
Kaspar * Der Freischütz Hier im ird’schen Jammertal
Schweig, sehweig
Daland * Der fliegenden Holländer Mögst du mein Kind
Falstaff * Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor Trinklied (Als Büblein kein an der Mutter Brust)
Ochs * Der Rosenkavalier Macht das einen lamen Esel aus mir? / Da leg’ich
Kezal * Die verkaufte Braut Wer in Lieb’ entbrannt
van Bett * Zar und Zimmermann O sancta justitia
Rocco Fidelio Gold-Arie (Hat man nicht auch Gold daneben)
Méphistophélès Margarethe (Faust) Le veau d’or / Ständchen (Vous qui faites l’endormie)
Plumkett Martha Laßt mich euch fragen




A large voice with an extended range and a fine characterization 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 way 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.

Singers: José van Dam, Samuel Ramey, Ruggero Raimondi

Example: José van Dam, Faust

Basilio *Der Barbier von Sevilla Verleundung-Arie (La calunnia è un venticello)
Don Bartolo *Der Barbier von Sevilla A un dottor della mia sorte
Daland *Der fliegenden Holländer Mögst du mein Kind
Figaro *Figaros Hochqeit All three arias
Leporello *Don Giovanni Register-arie (Catalogue Aria)
Don Ferrando *Der Troubadour Di due figli vivea padre beato
Baculus *Der Wildschütz Fünf Tausand Taler
Alidoro La Cenerentola Là del ciel
Rocoo Fidelio Gold-Arie (Hat man nicht auch Gold daneben)
Banquo Macbeth Come dal ciel precipita
Méphistophélès Margarethe (Faust) Le veau d’or
Ständchen (Vous qui faites l’endormie)
Plumkett Martha Laßt mich euch fragen



Basso Cantabile

A full voice with a dark color and a 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.

Singers: Cesare Siepi, Feodor Chaliapin, Ezio Pinza, Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Marti Talvela, Matti Salminen, Aage Haugland, Kurt Moll, Hans Sotin.

Examples: Cesare Siepi, La Sonnambula


Cesare Siepi, Les Huguenots

Philipp * Don Carlos Ella giammai m’amò
Gremin * Eugen Onegin Ein jeder kennt die Lieb’ auf Erden
König Heinrich * Lohengrin Mein Herr und Gott
Pogner * Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Nun hort, und versteht mich recht
Fiesco * Simone Boccanegra Il lacerato spirito
Sarastro * Die Zauberflöte O  Isis und Osiris / In diesen heil’gen Hallen
Boris Boris  
Rocco Fidelio Gold-Arie  (Hat mann nicht auch Gold daneben)
Kaspar Der Freischütz Hier im irdischen Jammertal / Schweig’!, schweig’!
Hagen Götterdämmerung Hier sitz ich / Hoi-ho
Collin La Bohème Mantel-Arie (Vecchia zimarra, senti )
Raimund Lucia di Lammermoor Dalle stanze ove Lucia
Banquo Macbeth Come dal ciel precipita
des Grieux Manon Èpouse quelque brave fllle
Zacharias Nabbucco D’Egitto la sui lidi / Gebet / Ptophzeiung
Gurnemanz Parsifal Erzählung from the 1st act
König Marke Tristan und Isolde Ansprache (Tätest du’s wirklich?)