I’ve listed the 10 tenors that I think were the best of those active in the 20th century. Obviously, this list is entirely subjective and reflects nothing more than my tastes and opinions. Readers are invited to submit their own lists in the comments section. I have tried to pick a selection for each tenor that shows him at his best and which also presents at least one of his unique characteristics. I have made no attempt to rank them. They are presented in the order of their birth. All of these singers had major careers at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Alas only one is still living.
Qual volutta trascorrere from Verdi’s I Lombardi has always been one of my favorite recordings by Enrico Caruso (1873-1921). In this 1912 recording he’s joined by Frances Alda and Marcel Journet. I’ve posted this piece before, but it’s so good that it deserves repetition.
March 20, 1890 was a good day for tenors. The next two tenors were born on that day. Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973) was the preeminent Wager tenor since the advent of sound recordings. No other heldentenor is close to the great Dane. I’ve decided to present two excerpts of Melchior’s singing. First is the outburst Wälse! Wälse! which occurs in the first act of Die Walküre. While this interpretation is certainly not what Wagner had in mind, as an athletic feat it is on an Olympian level. You can take your dog for a walk around the block before Melchior finishes the second ‘Wälse’. The excerpt is from a 1940 performance at the Met. This is followed by the sword forging scene – Notung! Notung! – from Act 1 scene 3 of Siegfried. The Mime is Karl Laufkötter. After hearing Melchior in Wagner everyone else seems lilliputian.
Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957) was the leading lyric Italian tenor of his era. His masterful vocal technique allowed him to sing spinto roles with success and without damage to his voice. Non Ti Scordar Di Me by Ernesto de Curtis shows the tenor’s famous ‘honeyed’ tones to great advantage.
Jussi Björling (1911-1960) was as close to perfection as a singer could get. While his voice was not big enough to sing Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot in a staged performance, on records he is the best there is. Nessun Dorma
Richard Tucker (1913-1975) is the only American on my list. About seven or eight years after his debut (1945) at the Met he morphed into a full fledged spinto. Va prononcer ma mort, Rachel quand du seigneur from the last act of Halevy La Juive recorded at a concert performance of the opera in London in 1971 shows the 58 year old tenor still in possession of his big sound. The British audience goes crazy after this reading.
Mario Del Monaco (1915-1982) was born to sing Verdi’s Otello. He was buried in his Otello costume. When del Monaco sang at the Met you could hear him on Staten Island. In the duet that concludes the second act of Otello he’s paired with another vocal miracle, Leonard Warren. This is from a 1958 Met performance. Si pel ciel
Both Giuseppe Di Stefano (1921-2008) and Franco Corelli (1921-2003) were born in the same year. Yet the former’s career was headed south at just about the same time as the latter’s was taking off. Di Stefano was known for the extraordinary beauty of his sound and the emotional content he uniquely added to the music he sang. Listen to O Sole Mio! sung like no one else ever performed it.
‘Plus blanche que la blanche’ From Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots sung in Italian as Bianca al par di neve alpina shows all of Corelli’s strengths – powerful tone, matchless breath control, and thrilling high notes. Add that he was tall and looked like a fifties movie star and you have a matchless package.
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) was the most famous opera singer after the era of Maria Callas. Unfortunately he kept singing way past his best years. To hear him at his peak you have to go back to the sixties and seventies. Verrano a te from the first act of Lucia di Lammermoor shows both Pavarotti and Renata Scotto in prime form.
Placido Domingo (b 1941) had one of the greatest tenor voices every recorded. Though he’s recently been masquerading as a baritone and as a conductor, it’s as a tenor that he will be remembered. O paradis from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine was recorded in 1972 in performance at the San Francisco Opera. The beauty and power of the sound the young Domingo produces is overwhelming.
I’ve listed 10 singers. Here’s a special case. Joseph Schmidt (1904-42) had one of most hauntingly beautiful voices yet recorded. Because of his small stature (about 5 feet even) he sang in perhaps only one staged opera. His career was made on radio, on records, and on film. His end was tragic and you can read about elsewhere on this site. He had perhaps the most complete technique of any tenor I’ve ever heard. He also could float a line like nobody since. His sound was dusky and middle European rather than Italianate. Gluck, das mir verblieb from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt shows the dreamy and utterly beautiful singing that Schmidt could produce.
Could have been a contender – Mario Lanza (1921-59). Had Lanza concentrated on opera instead of movies I think he’d have made the above list. Whose place would he have taken? If I had to drop one tenor from the list, I think it would be Pavarotti. Anyway, here’s Lanza’s 1950 recording of the Improvviso from Andrea Chenier. Interestingly, a third tenor born in 1921.
For more on the 20th century’s 10 best tenors go here.
Do you think now in these days there is a tenor or tenors who (according to your guess) will make it into 21st centuries top tentenors 🙂 list ? who ?
Jonas Kaufmann seems a good bet for some unborn opera lover to include on a list of the best tenors of the 21st century.
nobody else out of the now working tenors? only Jonas Kaufmann?
I don’t care about Kaufmann. I don’t like his throaty voice. Juan Diego Flores is on the top. You did not mention Wunderlich. I’m surprised. But Lanza would make if not movie career ,and not Corelli? Shocking. Your list , your preferences. My list would be different.
Sir, although Di Stefano certainly should be on this list, I disagree that his rendition of “O Sole Mio” is even arguably the best. Certainly, O Sole Mio is sung with the greatest intensity and passion by Mario Lanza. No one else comes close. Whenever I am learning a new Neapolitan canzone, Lanza is one of the first people I look for on YouTube. When singing these types of songs his passion, emotion and intensity are unparalelled. Now please don’t get me wrong, he’s not hands down the best singer of every canzone. But he’s definitely one of the first artists I go to when studying a canzone. /// As far as Pavarotti being your first choice for elimination, I would have chosen Domingo instead. I would have chosen Pavarotti second. Honestly, I would have struggled with including either one of them on a top ten list, along with Richard Tucker as well. Tucker carries with him what I like to call a “leprechaun timber, all the way from his lower register up to the C. In addition, his timber lacks a certain richness of overtone–it sounds somewhat shallow and washed out. Along with Domingo and Pavarotti, he’s perhaps deserving of an honorable mention. Certainly, George Thill, Fritz Wunderlich and Tito Schipa should have made this list over the above-mentioned three. /// As far as Jonas Kaufmann with his bad technique of depressing his larynx for some sort of fake darkness or “bassy” effect…it’s a miracle he’s still singing at all. Not to mention that he squeaks like a mouse as well.
Totally agree about Lanza, Tucker, and Kaufmann.
Bryan Hymel is the most exciting tenor I’ve heard in since the 70’s. Solid high notes and intense characterization.
I heard Domingo before he went to the met. He sang nice lyric and actually hit a high C. But he lost me when he started forcing the higher notes, shaking like a leaf. Corelli….fantastic. Saw the Pasadena Tosca with that “Vittoria” that went around the world and back. Even better than the Parma ‘Vittoria.’ His E lucevan le Stelle held you on a tight rope. Unbelievable!!
I like Max Lorenz much better than Melchior. Melchior’s sloppy rhythm, less pleasant timbre, less vocal acting, and showoff style are not as impressive to me. Lorenz 3rd act of Tristan was in a class by itself. Also loved Krauss, Vickers and early Flaviano Labo.
How about Leo Slezak??
Wonderful tenors both. I limited myself to 10. Post your own list. I’d be interested to see it.
Corelli and Lanza are the most fantastic voices with such ultimate control that they can have the most intense expression without sacrificing vocal quality. Both interpretive geniuses.
Similarly Escalais, but in the French style. I wish HE had come to the US instead of Caruso, to me a droning bore. And I tried to like him. Got all his recordings, listened over and over……..doesn’t connect to me at all.
Leo Slezak, the great dramatic tenor, for me beats out all the wonderful lyric tenors with his 1903 “Viens, Gentille Dame.” Holds me in an orgasmic vice!!!
For my take on Slezak go here—-> https://medicine-opera.com/2012/06/leo-slezak/
And for Wunderlich go here—-> https://medicine-opera.com/2010/10/two-that-got-away/
I’m not a Wagnerite but I found Siegfried Jerusalem quite exceptional vocally and physically in the Met video of Siegfried. Then I saw him on youtube in the Bayreuthe Festspiele version and the voice was far better. He makes other Siegfrieds lackluster.
I call Miguel Fleta ‘restrained Spanish elegance’. Not only an incredible voice, but unique, spellbinding interpretations.
Agree totally about Del Monaco. Solid as a brick wall and with a dark quality that so suits Otello. A unique vocal wonder.
While Del Monaco is my favorite for ‘Opera Noir,’ esp. Il Tabarro, I find Richard Leech delightful in youthful, ardent characters. Golden voice and solid technique.
That gets me up to 8 tenors. There were many fine lyric tenors and its a matter of what one I like in what role more than liking one over another.
And where is the great Carlo Bergonzi?
Yes. Immediately I realized my mistake last week above when I forgot to include Bergonzi. You can find him singing some roles besides Verdi as well. His squillo and clarity are absolutely excellent! His is a voice uniquely suited for singing Italian lyric tenor roles.
and what palce would be for you Jose Carreras? or more to be precisely, if you split in lyric, in spinto and in dramatic tenors, each maybe ten, I would say it would be more force, because the tenors are so much different in the roles.
I personally like honeyed, sensual beauty tenors, and GDS and Jose Carreras I love both at the same LEVEL.I have one question to you:
what is the reason of the TENOR-crisis at time, generally?
And additional: do you think, that the beatuful-tenor-time is forever for forever?
best greatings from Vienna/Austria/Europa on 29 April 2016
Carreras in the 70’s, wonderful. My favorite in I Lombardi. Then he had vocal troubles he never got over. Sad.
Where is Nicolai Gedda, or
I wish I could find a recording of Gedda and Mary Costa in Fra Diavolo. I just have a few video clips where they both sound fantastic. I used Gedda’s Postillion de Lonjumeau aria to blast neighbors playing garbage music very loudly. Instead of retaliating they asked for more!!
If you want sheer perfection, go to this on
Gedda is fantastic
You might try Peter Anders here. Good as any tenor, better than most:
I saw the marvelous Corelli in this role. Anders is amazing tho singing in German, the style is Italian. Even good German singers often lose me when they sing Italian or French roles. Thank you so much.
These are my favourites:
2. Nicolai Gedda
3. Richard Tauber
4. Joseph Schmidt
5 . Peter Anders
6 . Fritz Wunderlich
7. Rene Kollo
8. Anton Dermota
Jussi Björling has it all. He was sent from heaven.
You are absolutely right.
Jussi is in a class of his own. Try his O Holy Night on Youtube
Many thanks for including Lanza. I had always heard and accepted the line on him–big eater, robotic voice. Then I heard him sing the song transcribed from Anton Rubenstein’s “Romance in Eb”–“If You Are But a Dream.” He inhabited the music and its text, utterly faithful to music and words. A deservedly celebrated (albeit brief) star.
Thanks to YouTube and my interest as a bari-tenor, I’ve heard them all. Of course it is not, unfortunate that Pavarotti, “kept singing way past his best years.” Deny millions a chance to hear him live beyond the seventies? He can be heard from the sixties and seventies on the Internet. As my voice teacher, Todd Duncan said I could have an international singing career. Alas, marriage and family came along, a decision I do not regret.
I agree with your comment about Mario Lanza.
Giving the show away at the end….Placido is agricultural compared to most of the others….’dropping’ Pavarotti, come on, don’t be silly.
Sir,..Thank you for your list. Here are my comments followed by my own list. For 50 years I have now studied and enjoyed the great tenors of opera. In all this time I have never gotten used to Lauritz Melchior’s voice. Honestly,..he always sounds like a sqeeling pig,. terrible voice,..sorry!.[respectfully] Gigli would also not make my top ten list,…too much crying in the voice,….but a beautiful voice. Correction here, Gigli was the leading lyric tenor of his generation until the international arrival of Jussi Bjorling. Unanimously, the experts agree that he was the world’s leading tenor from 1935 until his death in 1960. Del Monaco and Di Stefano would not make my top ten list ever. Di Stefano destroyed his voice early on as you pointed out and Del Monaco was great in Otello,..what else Otello,..that’s it! Domingo was a wonderful tenor in every respect except one,he did not possess a clear sounding confident high C,..compare him to say Tucker or Corelli,…that’s the difference,…so although he was great no top ten post on my list for Placido. I fully agree with your comments regarding Tucker, Corelli and Caruso, what wonderful tenors they were and they will always be on my top ten list. You dissapointed me about Bjorling, in my opinion and many others the finest tenor of them all,…and you say it but you could have said a little more about this vocal wonder from Sweden! I am surprised you did nor list Gedda,…however I would not give him a top ten spot either, although he was a great tenor for sure. For what it’s worth, here is my top ten list in this order. 1 Jussi Bjorling. 2 Jon Vickers. The tornado of a voice possessed by Vickers is a wonder of nature, even in Otello I choose him over MDM,..especially in the middle register, the voice has weight and a deep sound required for Otello, and no voice has ever had these qualities. AMAZING! Perhaps you should reconsider Vickers!! 3. Fritz Wunderlich an absolute pure beautiful lyric yet powerful tenor a voice of such great distinction. Many rank him with Bjorling and some prefer him as no 1 all time,..but oh my what a voice he had. 4. Richard Tucker. What power what intensity, Brilliant! 5 Franco Corelli, since my youth he was my first favorite tenor and it hurts me to put him at no 5. What soul what emotion,..the tue italian spinto! 6.Franco Bonisolli I choose him as no 6 after studying his carreer more intensely over the last year year,..such a natural flowing legato of a lyric with a touch of the dramatic in his voice. His rendering of “una vergine” from La Favorita by Donizetti is totally mindblowing ending with a diminuendo on the high C. Incredible. He is my Di Stefano,..ruined his own voice and carreer later on,..but OH my what a voice he had. 7. Mario Lanza. here I agree with you,…what an outstanding voice, I choose him at no 7 because he sang enough opera to deserve this spot,..what an amazing voice Lanza was. 8. Giovanni Martinelli Corelli “teacher”,.his top notes have the power and ring of Caruso,..the rest of the voice was awesome,…I include Marftinelli here at no 8. Tito Schipa., talk about foating soft notes and pure beauty of tone,…perfect techniqe,…some in the fifties called him the no 2 tenor behind Bjorling,… love his voice. 10 Pavarotti,….I agree,..he desrves the no 10 spot. I wish I could include Pertile, Leo Slezak Jan Kiepura and probably Gedda also,…so here it is,…thank you for reading!
A word about Bjorling. There are very few listeners left who heard him live at the old Met. I heard all the roles he sang at the Met between 1956 and 1959, when he last appeared at the old house. His voice was much smaller than it appears on recordings. The idiosyncratic acoustics of the Met were such that if he was in a “dead” spot on the stage or you were placed in a “quiet” part of the auditorium, he was almost inaudible. Tucker, for instance, could be heard irrespective of where he or the listener was situated. I never heard Bjorling in a smaller house than the cavernous old Met. In such a hall I’m sure his sound was bigger. As I’ve said here earlier, if you wanted to make the perfect tenor – you’d make Bjorling.
I remember reading a quote from Björling who, in answer to a question about why he didn’t do “Lohengrin” on stage, said, “Who would believe that I could ever win a battle with broadswords”. My dad got to hear him in person; I was not so lucky. But your comment about the size of certain celebrated voices reminded me of a time my brother and I saw a “Macbeth”with Milnes as the title character and Ruggiero Raimondi in the relatively small role of Banquo. Milnes, if he turned away from you, was hard to hear. Not Raimondi. He blasted everyone off the stage even if his back was turned to the house.
And full agreement about Tucker. I was lucky enough to hear him sing Manrico at the tail end of his career and he was still kicking the doors out. His “Di Quella Pira” left nothing to be desired. Loved that guy!
A top ten list of 20th century tenors that doesn’t include Giovanni Martinelli?
Please. I don’t have a quarrel with any other names, Melchior’s recording of the first act of Walkure with Lehmann, conducted by Bruno Walter with the Vienna is in the top five Wagnerian (and operatic) recordings ever made.
I have no problem, certainly, with Björling or Del Monaco or Gigli (who, I agree had a bit more of a crying element in his voice than was necessary, but his Cavaradossi was magical).
I realize these lists are hugely subjective, but I see only one mention of Il Vecchio, the old man, Martinelli. Martinelli not only had an amazing instrument (he recorded into his 80s) but an incredible repertoire. In addition to Verdi and Puccini, he did Bizet, Halevy, Saint-Saëns, and Meyerbeer (L’Africaine), and very late in his career, he sang Tristan (!). Who does that? (I know, I hear someone saying “Domingo”, but he wasn’t taking on Tristan for the first time forty years into his career.
Someone mentions the limitation of Del Monaco (great as Otello, but otherwise, meh), but I have to say his Don Jose was killer. I do love the reference to Del Monaco as an “Opera Noir” singer. But if we’re going to get into “niche” singers, how ’bout Alfredo Kraus?
Also, someone mentions Gedda’s “Postillon von Lonjumeau” and I’m sure they’re referring to his take on the aria “Mes amis, ecoutez l’histoire.” And yes, it’s very good. But listen to Helge Roswaenge’s version of that aria (and many others). It’s hair raising stuff.
I do agree that Vickers deserves a place here. His voice was not only clarion clear and bright, with excellent diction in several languages, as well as outstanding control, but he excelled in the warhorses like Otello, as well as Siegmund and more offbeat stuff like Peter Grimes.
Nice to see that there is some love for Wunderlich, as there should be. His “Il Mio Tesoro” is right up there with John McCormack’s (who, by the way, deserves mention as well, especially if you know of that story about Caruso meeting on him on the street one day and asking him how the ‘Greatest tenor in the world’ was doing that day).
Some fans, it seems, are not enamored of Melchior, but his Winterstürme in that 1935 recording is truly amazing.
In any event, it’s great fun working up lists of the greatest opera singers. Wonder what we’d have to say if we could have heard some of the greats of the 18th and 19th century.
I recently read a list of the greatest Schubert recordings ever made and saw not a single mention of Hans Hotter, Janet Baker, or Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. For some people, the “best” is the “coolest” and “latest”.
Drop Pavarotti??? You definitely don’t appreciate the best!
As Anna Russell would say, “Screechenralph!!
You’re obviously either very young or new to opera.
The “Agree Completely” comment below should be my response to sly. Don’t know why it went elsewhere.
I totally agree. No one else has that beautiful, clear, rounded, gorgeous, golden, Italian bel canto sound. Listen to him in his prime. After that, he is still first-rate.
I first heard Michael Spyers on The Opera Show, ABC Australia. Many thanks for your very fine article and a truly marvelous selection of musical gems! To me, his voice has shades of the great German tenor, Fritz Wunderlich? Many thanks also for your health tips. You might well find our Web site of interest.
Robin E Layton Perth,Western Australia
Great post. I agree with the switch plan if Lanza had built an opera career.
Pavarotti was blessed. And for a while he took advantage of his blessing. Then, he took it for granted. He wasn’t known for his musicianship nor his work ethic. He was known for his appetites, insecurities and little boy charm. A tenor is more than high notes. He came to rely on high notes as his saving grace… until he couldn’t. That some people think he is–quoting one I know–a “god” is a testament to their lack of circumspection and to the Pav’s rapacious publicist ex-car exec who would’ve shipped the Pope to Mars if he thought it would grow Pavarotti’s fame and fatten their wallets yet more. It was his work that planted the ad slogan “King of the High C,” and spawned the bizarre notion that if you aren’t born with it, used in a copious dispensary style, then you’re just a commoner who should stop pretending the throne. Those who crown themselves are usually despots. Or lousy gods that don’t know how to be immortal.
Vis a vis Placido Domingo, again, agree. His voice is sheer magic. It never fails to stop me still, to make me close my eyes, to make me use all my senses just on his music. That he uses it now to interpret baritone roles appears to not bother those who attend his performances to this day. I have to say, I still like listening to him. Now his voice has the Corelli tremulo. After a good warm up his voice is still velvety, clear and tenor with exceptions. He’s now 77–and still selling tickets. He just finished selling out a 50,000 seat venue in Spain last year! How would any of us walk away from that kind of adoration? To those who think he should go away, I say if the sight and sound of him bothers you so much, then pick someone else to entertain you, ok? If you have a gun to your head forcing you to watch him, let me know, I’ll send a posse.
I’ll shut up on this note. I’m not a member of the Church of Caruso Immortal Ascended to 19th Century Heaven. I’ve heard his recordings. He had a great voice. But it’s not so great that he gets to be treated like a dead god for another century. No one gets to reign forever, I don’t care how Italian they are.
I only regret that some silly little American magazine came along and tattled to the world what the opera world of fans had already decided and was enjoying about who we crowned our King of Opera. The Greatest Tenor of the 20th Century title belongs to him (and these experts have already said Greatest Ever (link to BBC 2008): http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/bbcworldwide/worldwidestories/pressreleases/2008/03_march/music_magazine_domingo.shtml).
When the next Greatest comes along in the next century, it’ll be his time.
Again, thanks for a great post and inviting comment. Peace and Prosit!
One singer always seems to be missing. The one Luciano Pavarotti himself declared the greatest Tenor of the 20th century: Fritz Wunderlich
See here and here.
It’s as impossible to rank the top tenors as it is to rank the top poets or ballet dancers. But I do believe Mario Lanza deserves a higher ranking.
If you’re interested in pre-1950 tenors, (not to mention sopranos, mezzos, baritones, basses and even a castrato), you might enjoy checking
The amazing thing is that three of them were born in 1921 and one died….Caruso, the day Lanza was born. I have vinyls of Caruso, Bjorling (No.1 ), Gigli, Corelli and Lanza, but I wouldn’t be replacing Pavarotti with him on a list. I listened to the incredible Schmidt often in the 50s.
Not a bad list. I would replace delmonaco with corelli. Delmonaco did not have the best technique
I miss Bergonzi and Lauri-Volpi.
At last, Mateus, someone mentions the great Giacomo Lauri-Volpi.
Wonderful list. I agree completely, unlike other lists that leave out greats like Mario Del Monaco and Franco Corelli. Would like to see Giuseppe Giacomini On one of your list as he had a truly great dramatic tenor voice in my opinion.
I’ve written several time about Giacomini. Put his name in the search bar to see some of the posts that mention him. A late bloomer who was much better in the second half of his career than in the first.
I love big powerful voices, and the great Jerome Hines said Mario Del Monaco had the biggest voice he ever heard in all of his years at the Met. Corelli was wonderful, And I think Mario Lanza is right up
there. The greatest I ever heard in person was Nikolai Gedda In the 1970s. All the tenors in Los Angeles were there, and at the end they all movedforward and we’re pounding their fists on the stage for the encore.
As you say, the list is subjective. As for me, I would have replaced Pavarotti, Domingo And Lanza by Wunderlich (Die Bildnis), the young Lauri Volpi (A te o cara) and Bergonzi (Celeste Aida) – just my suggestions of the arias, of course.
Good, Pierre. Another person has recognized the great Giacomo Lauri-Volpe.
Young Domingo had a fine lyric tenor voice. Then, it became nasal.
Actually I concur with many of the tenors you have chosen. An honorable mention should certainly be Fritz Wunderlich short as his career was. For German lyric tenors I would put him & Joseph Schmidt, who you also mentioned, as having the most beautiful voices from all the German lyric tenors I have heard. However In my view one celestial voice with supreme musicianship belongs not only in the top 10 but perhaps even in the top 5. He is the only LIGHT lyric tenor that I would include: Leopold Simoneau. I have never lseen him listed on any top tenor lists of any kind but if one has heard him in Mozart or the lighter French tenor
roles, he certainly stands alone at least in the post electrical era. In the Berlioz Requiem his singing of the SANCTUS is one of the most exquisite sounds from any singer, tenor, baritone, or bass that I have ever experienced. There is no tenor on your list with Simoneau’s singular gifts. For the heavier tenor voices on your list, I am for the most part in agreement although I would add Jon Vickers for his unique artistry & timbre. Di Stefano I love for his lyric voice prior to 1953, but he was musically lazy & blew his voice out trying to be a Spinto. He also does not quite equal Corelli’s absolutely superb O SOLE MIO in my opinion.
Anyone have anything good to say about one of my favourite tenors, Jan Peerce?
See here and here.
Yes, Herbert. Early in his career, Jan Peerce’s voice was truly remarkable. Like Domingo, though, it became nasal with time. Did you know that he was the brother-in-law of Richard Tucker, and that they both trained to be cantors in the synagogue.There was quite a competition between the two. Try to get ahold of Peerce chanting. Can’t remember, but I think there is a recording on YouTube. Tucker’s chanting is also remarkable. Again, try YouTube.
Peerce had a very good tenor voice and technique. But. He was nobody’s nominal physical or dramatic exemplar, nevermind ideal. We naturally crave the total package. For opera house ticket prices anyway.
What a great injustice you did to Pavarotti! A duet with Scotto, who does most of the singing? You could have chosen a fine recording of one of his beautiful arias easily available on YouTube. One early Pavarotti aria that comes to mind is “A te, o cara,” with Joan Sutherland, which definitely showcases his early career. What a beautiful lyric tenor voice! You made it sound as if he was “washed up” after the 70s. I don’t think they had a 30th Anniversary Gala for him at the Met if his singing had gone way downhill! He continued to perform in opera houses for many years. What about Corelli, who probably had one of the shortest good tenor careers? Before he retired, by his own admission, his voice was not reliable. I am being polite. You certainly weren’t being polite when you discussed Pavarotti’s voice. I guess you really prefer Corelli. Or is it Domingo? He had a fine lyric tenor voice in his early career, but later he began to sing nasal. Listen to some of his later performances. I’ve read in more than one place that HE should have retired many years ago. I haven’t listened to him as a baritone. Few, if any, would ever put Domingo in front of Pavarotti. Alfredo Kraus has a much finer voice than Domingo, by far. So does Lauri-Volpi. I realize these are your 10, but I really don’t believe Pavarotti is one of them. I don’t think anyone else reading and listening to this post/video would think so either. So then comes the question, “Why did you put him on your list?” I could be wrong, but with the video’s not being representative of his beautiful voice, your comment about his singing way past his prime, and your comment that you would take Pavarotti off your list and substitute Lanza if Lanza had qualified as an opera tenor–I think you just wanted to take a big shot at Pavarotti for whatever personal reason you have. Be professional. No tricks. Put up your list of ten. Get the best possible recordings for all of them. Speak well of all of them. After all, they are on your top 10 list. Let your readers make comments based upon your fair representation of everyone.
I’d like to edit my answer about Pavarotti. I think “Una Furtiva Lagrima” would be an excellent choice to feature Pavarotti’s outstanding operatic voice, rather than “A te, o cara,” which is also fine, but is a duet.
2) Jaume (Giacomo) Aragall
3-on) Take your pick.
Enjoy yourselves and take time to listen to ‘Di Quella Pira’ by Franco Corelli’s understudy, Pedro Lavirgen; The 2nd best rendition ever …after Lazaro’s, of course.
Agree in the main. For sure Domingo at #1. A true marvel who will never grace this earth ever again.
Given various names under general tenor category and without breakdown of type tenor voices chosen I.e. mixing apples and oranges, and fact of differing pr over years as to each tenor, obviously influencel, your list is probably best I have seen although a little weighted toward a little heavier voices.
The only reconsideration I would suggest would be to eliminate Pavarotti from the top ten due to a lack of a real beautiful quality, a fairly boring voice not demanding much if any recording rehearing , and the inclusion of Nicolai Gedda due to his incredible vocal beauty, versatility and listenability.
As you had added Joseph Schmidt as a sort of postscript, I might have also included in your list of the top ten,thinking of evenness of production and arguably more real beauty,Max Lorenz (political considerations aside, since the subject is musical) rather than Melchior and replace Richard Tucker on the top ten ( despite his obvious pluses) with the tenor Lomanto who, all things considered, including overall sound, smoothness,musicality, flexibility and ability to sing comfortably and with beautiful consistent communication in various operas requiring different vocal weight ,
a real “natural”. I also appreciate in your listing of voices a legitimacy often lacking in similar listings.None of my comments are meant to belittle the several other accomplished tenors of the period who may not quite qualify for the top ten- of the several, the name Jan Kipura comes to mind – a fantastic natural voice of beautiful quality and inordinate flexibility, and a terrific showman!
Thanks for posting my recent comment.Apoligy for first line of comment-do not know exactly where that came from-was meaningless.
Since I have just read over the other several comments, I would thank those writers as all appear to be serious and knowledgeable.I woud however, reading a comment about the size of Bjoerlings voice, like to add that I had the opportunity to take Mr. Bjorling to his last recital in Atlanta (Glenn Memorial Auditorium) where I was surprised and bowled over by the power of that voice, not one to belittle.