today’s top tenors

I put the task off until today. But since it’s the last day of Talented Tenors month, it was now or never.

(It being the list of top tenors singing today.)

Strangely, there’s lots of information on the best tenors of yesteryear. Just not the best tenors performing today. What’s the cause of that? Recordings, I suppose, are infinitely more accessible than live opera performance though I much prefer to see them and hear them.

These singers range in age from 38 (Juan Diego Flórez, the youngest) to age 70 (Plácido Domingo, the oldest). Apart from Domingo, there’s no more than ten years’ difference in the ages of the other tenors selected. This is important because it presumes a requisite level of experience and exposure that can only be gained over years of time, which is why there are no twenty-somethings on this list.

So, in alphabetical order here they are–the best tenors in the world–today.

Roberto Alagna

Roberto Alagna — born June 7, 1963, a French operatic tenor of Sicilian descent. He made his professional debut in 1988 as Alfredo Germont in ‘La Traviata’ with the Glyndebourne Opera touring company. His performances as Romeo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Covent Garden in 1994 catapulted him to international stardom.

Marcelo Álvarez

Marcelo Álvarez — born February 27, 1962, an Argentine lyric tenor. He achieved international success starting in the mid-1990s, his first role being Count Almaviva in “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini in Córdoba in June 1994. Four years later, he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera La Traviata in the role of Alfredo.

Plácido Domingo

Plácido Domingo — born January 21, 1941, a Spanish tenor and conductor.  His launch into international stardom occurred in February 1966, when he sang the title role in the U.S. premiere of Ginastera‘s Don Rodrigo for New York City Opera. In March 2008, he debuted in his 128th opera role, and as of July 2011 his 136 roles give Domingo more roles than any other tenor.

Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez — born January 13, 1973,  a Peruvian operatic tenor, particularly known for his roles in bel canto operas. Flórez’s first breakthrough and professional debut came in 1996, at the Rossini Festival in the Italian city of Pesaro, Rossini’s birthplace.

Jonas Kaufmann

Jonas Kaufmann — born July 10, 1969,  a German tenor, particularly known for his spinto roles. He was a prize-winner at the 1993 Nürnberg Meistersinger Competition. One of his breakout roles occurred with the 2003 Salzburg Festival for the role of Belmonte in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail.” Another significant step in his career came about in February of 2006 with his début as Alfredo in “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, at the invitation of James Levine.

Rolando Villazón

Rolando Villazón —  born February 22, 1972, a Mexican tenor. He came to international attention in 1999 when he won both first prizes awarded in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, an international competition for emerging opera singers – in opera and zarzuela. He made his European debut that same year as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon in Genoa. swiftly followed by further debuts at Opéra de Paris as Alfredo in La traviata; and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing both Álvarez and Flórez at the Met in the last year and seeing Domingo conduct a beautiful Butterfly at WNO. I sincerely hope to see Alagna, Kaufmann, and Villazón in the near future.

What say you? Would these singers be on your list of top tenors?


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Bel canto opera, Opera Awards, Performers, Sunday Best, tenors

9 responses to “today’s top tenors

  1. Interesting how Traviata was a breakthrough performance for most of them.

  2. Indeed. What a role–Alfredo! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I’d definitely put Joseph Calleja on my list. I confess I’m a bit surprised by the inclusion of Villazon. I’m glad to see that he is beginning to make a successful recovery from his vocal woes of the past few years, but is he on secure enough footing for such a list? (I confess I haven’t heard him live, precisely because these vocal woes resulted in multiple Met cancellations.) Alvarez… well, Alvarez is very good, and I’m probably just being picky; I just haven’t felt that his singing has the sort of strong individuality or visceral impact that would put him on my “top” list… admittedly a subjective choice. There are so many fine tenors working, though… I’d like a list for each fach!

    • I’d like to see a list for each fach. I think that would look great on Opera Obsession! Thanks, as always, for your input. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for putting up with my wordy comments! Another two cents: if you can fit a Kaufmann performance into one of your NYC trips, I’d be willing to place a bet that you wouldn’t regret it. 🙂 Thrilling voice and simply loads of charisma.

  4. I agree with most of the choices, except for maybe the inclusion of Villazon–I haven’t seen him make a secure enough comeback to reinstate him at the top. He’s done a good job for himself, however, talking about being a tenor! I’d love to see him actually SING (and sing well) more!

  5. This is a good list. For me Alvarez is the absolute winner as my nickname shows. 🙂 I miss Piotr Beczala, who is the great rival of Alvarez in the lyric tenor category. If there were additional places I would also include Johan Botha, Ben Heppner and Eric Cutler. Of course, all this is very subjective. 🙂

  6. It’s so difficult to come up with a definitive list. I’ve heard all the above including TWICE for Eric Cutler, not as well known……. once in I Puritani at the MET and At the Canadian Opera Company in MARIA STUARDA. He has stature, voice and as Anna Netrebko said: It doesn’t hurt to do Puritani with someone as gorgeous as Eric.

  7. Eric McKeever

    I would have included Lawrence Brownlee and possibly Matthew Polenzani