I have not thought about this in twenty years but yesterday, while weeding a footpath, I remembered a late 1980s conversation with a soprano. It went something like this:
Me: So. You’re a soprano.
Me: What pieces are you studying?
She: Right now we’re working on Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen.
Thank Christ, I thought. I know three soprano arias, and that’s one of them.
Me: Oh, the Queen of the Night aria. Wow, good for you. So you must be – am I right? – a coloratura soprano?
She: Oh, I can do dramatic, lyric, coloratura … My teacher can’t decide which one I’m best at.
This should have tipped me off.
Me: So how are you doing with that top F?
She: It’s an F sharp.
Me: Oh. Really? I always thought it was a high F.
She: Well, I’m the one learning to sing it. I can tell you now, it’s an F sharp.
Me: Yes, of course, you would know.
Now, why did I back down? I mean, sure, I was observing a rule I adhered to until well into my twenties: never annoy a young woman whose breasts you might get to see. But that’s surely not enough. F sharp, indeed! It doesn’t make sense. The Queen’s showstopping arpeggios rise to the tonic of the piece’s key at that point, so if the note were F sharp, the arpeggio would be of F sharp major, and the key of the piece would be F sharp major. Would Mozart have made his players rock out in six sharps in 1791? No. The horn players, with maybe three useful notes among them, would have taken him out the back and dusted him up.
It’s an F. Of course it’s a bloody F. I looked it up, and I didn’t need to, because there’s no way the mini-diva would have corrected me had the real top note been an E. No, because she needed it to be higher. And an F is bloody high, but not high enough, apparently. It had to be an F sharp, against all reason.
So here’s my proposed term. Just as the term Size Queen is used in certain quarters to describe those who value size above everything else, I propose the term Height Queen.
That girl is such a Height Queen.
It can be used for men or women, in any register. Dramatic, lyric or coloratura.