The most notable and famous tenors in the world today

”The voice is something very mysterious. It’s difficult to say what is inside a voice that moves people” Andrea Bocelli

A tenor is a lyric singer whose vocal range is one of the highest of the male voice types. More specifically his natural voice extends to octaves higher than the baritone and lower than the counter-tenor. Until the 18th century, composers wrote about tenors mainly as secondary character roles, because the protagonists were the castrates (male performers, who were castrated in childhood so as to retain their ability to deliver very high notes). At the end of the 18th – beginning of the 19th century, a new generation of composers dominated using techniques ideal for tenors. Thus, from relative obscurity, the tenor voice began to play an increasing role in the vocal works of the late-Baroque and Classical composers. With regards to the etymology of the word ”tenor”, it derives from the Latin verb ”teneo”, which means ”to hold”. In fact, in the period of Renaissance polyphony, the tenor was the fundamental voice. It ”held” the harmonious basis. After this short introduction, I will refer to the most popular contemporary tenors. This is, of course, a very difficult decision, because there are many exceptional tenors who have remained in history and many other contemporaries who have astonished their audience with their talent. Inevitably, there will be a connection between the past and the future.

Admirable contemporary tenors

Plácido Domingo

”He remains an authoritative interpreter of this uniquely demanding assignment” – The Guardian

Plácido Domingo is one of the ”Three Tenors” (with José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti). He is one the finest tenors of the latter part of the 20th century. Moreover, Plácido Domingo is one of the most influential tenors in the history of opera. He is also a conductor and a major force as an opera administrator. His repertoire includes more than 150 roles, with over 400 career performances. Plácido Domingo made his operatic debut on 1961 (at the age of 20) in a leading role as Alfredo in ”La Traviata” at the Teatro Maria Tereza Montoya in Monterrey. Then, many other important appearances followed, in which he played demanding roles but his greatest and growing success came in the 1980s. Thereafter, Plácido made many appearances in the most famous opera houses of the world, receiving important recognition and many distinctions. More specifically, his more than 100 recordings of complete operas, compilations of arias and duets and crossover discs have earned him 12 Grammy Awards, including three Latin Grammys. He has also made more than 50 music videos and won 2 Emmy Awards. Undoubtedly, Plácido Domingo is one of the best and most award-winning tenors in the world.

Andrea Bocelli

”If God was an artist, His voice should sound like Andrea Bocelli’s”- Celine Dion

Undoubtedly, Andrea Bocelli’s voice is one of the most beautiful in the world. He is a widely popular singer with a substantial fan base worldwide. He was born in 1958 in Italy. Unfortunately, after an accident at a football game, Bocelli was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma and became completely blind at the age of 12. Fortunately, this didn’t stop him from continuing and achieving his goals. Music was always by his side to comfort him. From the age of 7, Bocelli could recognize the famous voices of the time and try to imitate the greatest artists. At the age of 14, he won the first song contest with the amazing song ”O sole mio”. However, the year 1992 was a milestone in his career. He was asked by Italian pop star Zucchero Fornaciari to record a demo of ”Miserere”, which was intended for the already famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti. The importance here was that Luciano Pavarotti was highly impressed with Bocelli’s voice and these two great tenors became friends. The next year, Bocelli signed a recording contract and his debut album with the name ”Il mare calmo della sera”, made him well-known throughout Europe. Despite the fact that he lived through difficult years, Andrea Bocceli wasn’t disappointed. He worked hard and his voice traveled and continues to travel around the world. He has appeared in the top concert halls in the world (Metropolitan Opera, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, London’s Royan Albert Hall) and he has won many important awards (26 in number) and distinctions. Many renowned artists have also referred to his unique voice. I will choose to close with the following words: ”More than anything, Andrea has something that is unique in that he brings this light that is always around him. And this purity of heart and beauty of sound just touches the listener. It can’t be described”- Anna Maria Martínez (soprano).

José Cura

”As a tenor, José Cura has a feeling and love for the climax of the music. This he brings to the conductor’s podium”- Falun Kuriken, 29 June 2002

José Cura is one of the foremost Argentine artists of the late 20th and early 21st century. He was the first artist to sing and at the same time conduct the orchestra. He was born in 1962 in Argentina. His first starring role came in 1993 in ”Signorina Julia” at the Teatro Lirico Gusieppe Verdi in Italy. In 1994 Cura won the first prize in Placibo Domingo’s Operalia competition. Then, many important appearances took place, but a defining moment for his career was in 1997 when Placibo Domingo anointed him as his successor when he conducted the orchestra so that the young Cura could uniquely interpret Puccini’s arias, among them the wonderful ”Nessun Dorma”. It is worth noting that the ”Times”of London named him the ”Fourth Tenor” after the three famous tenors of the 20th century: Placibo Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras. Audiences and critics, have described him as the best tenor of the 21st century. Cura has won many awards (27 in number), and whilst discography and filmography are his main repertoire, he also has many concert performances as well as conducting works. In conclusion, I quote a phrase that Cura has said: “Classical art will never die unless we kill it. If you put it under a crystal lamp, to prevent its pollution, the air under the lampshade will sooner or later be exhausted with the final result of the art being strangled if and our goal was to protect it. We all – artists, music lovers, journalists – are responsible for preserving classical art. Despite the differences, all united in one apparent thing – music – so with respect to it, let help keep her alive”.

Marcelo Álvarez

”Álvarez is a fully-grown lyric with brains, gorgeous tone, absolutely even production, secure, ringing high notes and a youthful approach to the music”- Robert Levine

Marcelo Raúl Álvarez is an Argentine lyric tenor. He was born in 1962 in Córdoba. He had several auditions, but got lucky when he met the legendary tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, who listened to him and urged him to go to Italy and even said of him: ”this young man sings with his heart, he will have a great career!”. In the beginning, Álvarez had some performances in small houses in Argentina. His debut on stage was as a late-replacement Count Almaviva in Rossini’s ”Il Barbiere di Siviglia” in Córdoba in 1994. In December, he starred in Donizzeti’s ”L’elisir d’amore” at the Tetaro Roma in Buenos Aires. From these experiences, he managed to cultivate his voice. But, more importantly, he received positive reviews from Luciano Pavarotti. Álvarez came to Europe in 1995 and made his debut with the Teatro La Fenice in Bellini’s ”La Sonnambula”. In 1997, after the great success of the opera ”Werther”, where he had the leading role, the record company ”Sony Classical” signed him to an exclusive recording contract. In 1999, Álvarez traveled to Buenos Aires for the production of the award-winning documentary ”Marcelo Álvarez in search of Gardel”. Many successes followed for Álvarez, as well as many awards. Today, Marcelo Álvarez is widely recognized as one of the most important tenors and has been appreciated by almost all the great opera houses of the world.

Roberto Alagna

”His voice has a rare tone. He is a musician with education and personality. He also has rich acting talents. He is a ”myth” of opera”- The Metropolitan Opera

Roberto Alagna was considered a consummate performer, with a strong physical stage presence. He was born in 1963 in Clichy-sous-Bois (a commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris). He was mainly influenced by the films of Mario Lanza and he learned from recordings of historic tenors. He was self-taught and was discovered by Gabriel Dussurget (French impresario and opera director). In 1988 he won the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition and in the same year, after an audition, Alagna performed Alfredo in Glyndebourne’s touring production of Vedi’s ”La Traviata”. In 1990 he reprised this role for La Scala in Milan. His career took off rapidly, performing leading roles in major opera houses (La Scala, Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera). He has also won many awards. Specifically, in 1994 Alagna was named ”Musical Personality of the Year” by the French Press. In 1995 he was awarded the ”Lawrence Olivier” prize of opera and in 1996, he was named ”Knight of the Order of Letters and Arts” by the French State. All of the above reflect the value and shine of Roberto Alagna.

Jonas Kaufmann

”Jonas Kaufmann has an extraordinary voice that can produce deep, burnished, baritonal tones in its lowest registers and yet also control the high Cs of ”Faust” and La Bohème”- The Guardian

Jonas Kaufmann has been described as the ”king of the tenors”. He was born in Munich in 1969. As a child, he received his first stimuli from his father, who took him to the opera. He also sang in boy’s choirs and took piano lessons. Jonas began his vocal training at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich. While he was studying, he sang some small roles at the Bavarian State Opera. He graduated from university in 1994, achieving distinctions in both opera and concert performances (as a pianist). He began his professional career in the Saarbrücken State Theater at the age of 25. His talent was recognized very soon, so he was invited to make debuts in German theaters such as Stuttgart Opera, as well as in important international stages such as the Opéra National de Paris, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Teatro alla Scala. Thus, Jonas began his international career, having now appeared in very important opera houses worldwide, such as the Royal Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, performing well-known and demanding roles. In addition, he has collaborated with the most famous conductors and directors of our time, whilst he has been awarded the highest distinction of the French Government and the insignia of the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Lawrence Brownlee

”One of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today”-NPR

Lawrence Brownlee is best known for his finesse in bel canto roles. He was born in 1972 in Youngstown city. At age 28 he was an audience favorite at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In 2002, Brownlee made his stage debut in Rossini’s ”The Barber of Seville” with Virginia Opera. In 2004, he earned positive critical receptions for his performance in Rossini’s ”La Donna del lago”. Then, there were numerous successes, distinctions and awards. Specifically, in 2017 he won the award ”Male singer of the year”. He also appeared in the most important opera houses including Teatro Alla Scala, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Graden, Royal Opera House and Opéra National de Paris. To end, I would like to reiterate a phrase that Brownlee had said in an interview: ”I wanted to use my art as a platform and say something meaningful”.

Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez has established himself as one of opera’s greatest talents with his expressive singing. He is one of today’s most celebrated and beloved tenors. Juan Diego Flórez was born in 1973 in Peru. In 1990 he gained a place at Peru’s National Conservatory of Music. From 1993 to 1996, Flórez studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadephia with a scholarship he received. In 1994 the Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio, who had a great influence on him, invited Flórez to Italy to work on a recording of the opera ”Il Tutore Burlato”. Ernesto offered great help to the young Juan Diego, supporting him at the beginning of his professional career. Flórez’s professional debut came in 1996 (at the age of 23) at the Rossini festival in Pesaro, with great success. In the same year, Flórez appeared for the first time in the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, under the direction of the remarkable conductor Ricardo Muti. This was one of the most important days of his career. In 2001, Flórez released his first solo album dedicated to ”Rossini Arias”. In 2002, he had the opportunity to meet the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who played a key role in his career. In the following years, Flórez made many other recordings and he also won numerous awards and distinctions. It is worth noting that Flórez gave the first encore in the Teatro alla Scala, something that had not occurred since 1933. Therefore, undoubtedly, he has earned a place in the list of the best tenors.

Alfie Boe

”Alfie performs in some of the world’s greatest classical venues, but he also has the rare ability to bring together all sorts of music lovers”

Alfie Boe was born in 1973 in England. He is mainly known for his appearances in musical theatre. Boe’s first performance was at the age of 14 at Fleetwood’s Marine Hall in a ”Songs from the Shows”. Afterward, Ben moved to London in order to study singing at the Royal College of Music, the National Opera Studio and the Royal Opera House. ” I just wanted to go for it to see if I could make it”, has characteristically said. In 2006, Boe was signed to Classic FM and his album ”Classic FM presents Alfie Boe” reached number three on UK classical chart. In the years that followed Boe had many successes. One of the most important moments in his career was in 2010, when Boe took the role of Jean Valjean in a concert performance of the popular musical ”Les Miserables”. It was a demanding role. This musical was presented many times in prestigious theatres. In 2011. Boe performed in ”La Bohème” and ”The Micado” for the English National Opera. Musical theatre is very demanding and admittedly not many can support it. That’s why Alfie Boe has been distinguished. In 2019, Boe was also awarded an OBE on the Queen’s Honours list. Important successful appearances and distinctions came in the years that followed. In 2020, Boe released the album ”Together at Christmas” with Michael Ball.

Vittorio Grigolo (”Il Pavarottino”)

”His voice is an attractive, ardent and supple instrument that he wielded to passionate effect”- New York Times

Vittorio Grigolo was born in Arezzo and, while still young, moved to Rome. When he was nine years old, he accompanied his mother to have her eyes tested. Suddenly, he heard someone singing from another room and began to perform ”Ave Maria” in his own way. The singer and the optician’s father who were impressed, urged the little Vittorio to have an audition with the Sistine Chaper Choir. Of course, not only did he get accepted into the Sistine Chaper Choir, but he was also chosen to become a soloist of the Choir. One of the greatest experiences was his first appearance, at age 13, when Vittorio played the Pastorello in a performance of Tosca at the Opera House in Rome, beside the prestigious Luciano Pavarotti, the ”king of high C”. It was here that he was given the nickname ”Il Pavarottino”. At the age of 17, he makes his debut as a tenor and at 18, he begins to make a name for himself abroad. In 2000, he was the youngest tenor (23 years old) to perform in Milan’s La Scala Theatre. Since then, Vittorio Grigolo became world-famous and appeared on the most important opera houses in the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and Sydney Opera House, under the direction of significant conductors, whilst he made important recordings, such as ”West Side Story”. Moreover, he has won many awards for his contribution and also in recognition of his successful career. Despite his success, he will never forget the last words that Luciano Pavarotti said to him a month before he died (as Vittorio was preparing for the opera ”La Bohème” in Washington) : ”Champ, you’re not a tenor, you’re a star tenor and star tenors we lack. Go to Washington and grab the success you deserve.”


It was very difficult to make the above selection, given that there are many remarkable and talented tenors carving out brilliant careers. However, I mentioned tenors who I believe have managed to follow their own path with authenticity, honesty and emotion. There is something in their voices that is so sweet, so strong. It is very difficult to produce this special sound which immediately touches the heart of the audience. It is a combination of sweetness and power. Ι have chosen to start with the older tenors and finish with the younger ones. It’s like a pyramid. The base consists of the most experienced tenors (such as Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli ), because they laid the foundations on which the younger tenors based and evolved. No one can forget the admirable and unique voice of Maestro Luciano Pavarotti. You can also find and hear Luciano Pavaroti on Radio Art’s channel ”Luciano Pavarotti” and rejoice in this wonderful voice. I will conclude with a quote from Pavarotti ”I’m not a politician, I’m a musician. I care about giving people a place where they can go to enjoy themselves and to begin to live again. To the man you have to give the spirit and when you give him the spirit, you have done everything”.

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