re: Roles for female tenors?

madbrian Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 08:29am
My daughter has been told by her music teacher/choirmaster that she is a tenor. I'm not sure what the implications are for her, regarding what roles might be appropriate. Obviously, I know some soprano roles are out (I didn't need a choirmaster to tell me that), but I was wondering what roles might be good. Particularly, are any roles actually written for a female tenor? Thanks.
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BroadwayBound115 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 11:29am
How old id your daughter? If she's young enough she may be a mezzo, alto or contralto when she gets older.
claudioislove Profile Photo
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 11:42am
In my experience, school choirs are usually very female, so it's possible your daughter is really just a lower alto, who her choir master put in the tenor section because he didn't have enough boys (though obviously I could be wrong).
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madbrian Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 12:06pm
She just turned 14, and I realize her voice may change as she matures. I think she is probably a tenor (for now, at least), for a couple of reasons. First, when she tried out for a regional chorus, they had her tryout as a tenor, and there was no shortage of boys. Also, when she sings along to songs, she is clearly more comfortable singing typically male songs, and when she sings along to a male/female duet, she naturally slips into the male range.
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AwesomeDanny Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 12:34pm
The first female role with a deep voice that comes to mind is Mama Rose in Gypsy. In the original movie version (the one with Natalie Wood and Karl Malden), and Mama Rose had the keys significantly lowered for her, and they were extremely low.
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 12:43pm
I think your daughter might be a bit young for the material, but I think Nell Carter's material in "Ain't Misbehavin'" was in the tenor range. She might be able to perform "Cash for Your Trash".

Are the Mary Martin songs in the tenor range? The solos in Peter Pan or South Pacific?
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husk_charmer Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 01:55pm
Mary was a pretty high soprano with a strong low range. Listen to "Mysterious Lady." Tenors typically can't pull that off at all. In fact, I want to say the two options for Dolly Levi are a low alto (Carol) and a sporano (Mary).

My immediate thought was anything Bea Arthur Vera Charles and Matchmaker.
theaterkid1015 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 02:48pm
Rose Alvarez is lower than some roles, but it's not quite tenor. One role that I would say definitely is a female tenor is Aurora in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN. The Baker's Wife in INTO THE WOODS is a kind of low alto, but it goes all over the place.
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Schmerg_The_Impaler Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 02:58pm
I have a friend who's singing tenor in our school choir this year who sang soprano last year. And I can only sing tenor or mezzo-soprano, but I'm a weak alto. Your daughter might be a mezzo, just not be as strong in the medium-low alto range.
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mariusmyhomeboy Profile Photo
Featured Actor
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 03:24pm
I thought I was a tenor in middle school because I was really comfortable singing in my low chest voice. It wasn't until high school that I discovered my entire voice.

As for roles... what about Addaperle from The Wiz? "He's the Wizard" is pretty low.
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HollyGolightly2 Profile Photo
Broadway Star
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 03:44pm
I knew a girl in my high school choir who had possibly the lowest female voice I've ever heard. But she sang alto just fine.
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 04:19pm
14 is way too young to make that distinction - sounds like she's just comfortable in her lower register, and rather than help her build her range, the teacher's taking the easy way out.

All of the roles above are still considered "mezzo" roles, except for Dolly in Channing's keys. (Mama Rose has to belt a C or C#, which is well out of a "tenor's" range. Mary Martin's stuff consistently takes Cs and Ds - the octave above middle C. NEll Carter belted high, too - having sung Hannigan in Annie, which is around C, too.) I think the Bea Arthur stuff in "Mame" is reasonably low.

The only role I can truly think of that could be sung by a female tenor is Princess Puffer in "Mystery of Edwin Drood" - requires no real high notes, and a low F or E.
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/14/09 at 08:18pm
As someone who morphed into Bea Arthur (in voice and height) at 12, I feel your daughter's pain! I ended up singing wildly inappropriate songs like "Could I Leave You", "Send in the Clowns", and "The Ladies Who Lunch". Most of the middle-aged, jaded roles are in the right voicing. Which, of course, doesn't help when you're 14.

Another thought -- it's music-oriented rather than theater-oriented, but if you have a local Sweet Adelines chapter, she might enjoy singing with them. It's women's 4 part a cappella singing (barbershop), and it's one of the few places I know of where a low voice is a great thing. They have an outstanding music education program called Young Women in Harmony, and it really is a blast. I wish I'd known about it when I was a teenager. If she might be interested, you can check and see where your local chapter is at
Irrational Number
Chorus Member
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/16/09 at 03:01am
Madbrian's daughter should take private voice training. She is not stuck in her voice, especially at 14, and you'd be surprised at what just a bit of power in her mix will do. This is something a choirmaster doesn't have time to work on in a group setting.

By the way, all the roles suggested except for Vera and Dolly require strong belts. Nellie has to reach a C (nice mix, not belted) at the end of "Wonderful Guy" and in her "Some Enchanted Evening" reprise and Nell Carter has a pretty gosh darn strong soprano belt type of quality in her singing. Aurora mostly stays low, but she still needs a strong belt in stuff like the end of the title song.
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re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/16/09 at 06:00am
Updated On: 12/19/10 at 06:00 AM
zoran912 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/16/09 at 01:51pm
There's also the small issue of "tenor" not being applicable to the female voice. Some people jokingly refer to actresses like Lauren Bacall and Bea Arthur as tenors, but when you boil it down, tenor is a male voice classification.

If your daughter is really interested in pursuing performing arts as a career, I would highly suggest getting into private voice lessons with a good teacher. 14 is not too young to start. With some good guidance, I'm sure her voice will open up and she'll develop the skills to navigate her upper range.
Broadway Legend
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/23/09 at 05:14pm
Golde in FIddler on the Roof could definitely be played by a tenor. Wasn't she a tenor in the film?
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BwayLeadman Profile Photo
Broadway Star
re: Roles for female tenors?
Posted: 8/24/09 at 01:24am
also keep in mind directors may cast non traditionally.
I've seen girls play roles usually cast male.
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