14 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Male Opera Singers Of All Time

Last updated

There are few things as stirring and powerful as opera. And when it comes to opera, there are few things as stirring and powerful as a male voice. But, good male opera singers are a rare breed. They must have not only a powerful and beautiful voice but also the ability to act and convey emotion.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at 14 of the greatest and most famous male opera singers in history. Some of them are household names, while others are more unknown outside of the opera world. But all of them are amazing singers who have brought beauty and majesty to the operatic stage.

Let’s get started with possibly the greatest of all time, Luciano Pavarotti.

1. Luciano Pavarotti

One of the ‘Three Tenors’, Luciano Pavarotti is one of the most famous opera singers of all time. Born in Modena, Italy in 1935, Pavarotti grew up around music with his father being an amateur singer.

His career kicked off in the early 1960s around national opera houses in Italy with his first performance being Rodolfo in La Bohème. He then went on to make his international debut in La Traviata in Yugoslavia.

Over the next 40 years, he had a prolific performing career winning numerous awards, making appearances on countless television shows and specials, and selling over 100,000 records.

After a long career, he died of pancreatic cancer in 2007 at the age of 71.

2. Plácido Domingo

Possibly the most famous opera singer still alive today, Plácido Domingo was another one of the ‘Three Tenors’ who was born in Spain in 1941.

His parents knew he would be a musician from very young and he would regularly win singing contests as a child. He then went on to study piano in Mexico City where his family moved at aged 14.

It wasn’t until he turned 20 that he had his opera debut where he played Alfredo in La Traviata. He then went on to great success with a prolific performing career as well as recording over one hundred operas!

His success wasn’t limited only to the operatic world but also in the Latin, pop, and country genres where he’s sold millions of records.

3. Andrea Bocelli

Next on our list, we have operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli who was born in Italy in 1958.

Bocelli is one of the most famous blind singers as he lost his sight at only 5 months old due to congenital glaucoma.

But his lack of vision hasn’t stopped him from achieving monumental success in the music world.

Since his debut in 1992, he’s gone on to take the operatic and pop worlds by storm recording 15 studio albums and selling over 75 million records!

4. Enrico Caruso

Remembered as being one of the best tenors in opera history, Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, Italy in 1873.

His life started humbly but that didn’t stop him from achieving great fame and success. His operatic debut was at the age of 22 at a local theatre in Naples. But, it was getting booked by the Gramophone Company that really kicked off his career.

These early recordings were a huge hit and helped to spread his music around the world and resulted in him getting signed to a season performing at The Royal Opera House in London in 1902 and after that a spell at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1903.

Despite dying relatively young at aged 48, Caruso had an extensive career and is generally considered to be one of the first media celebrities.

5. Franco Corelli

Known as the ‘Prince of Tenors‘, operatic tenor Franco Corelli was born in Ancona, Italy in 1921.

He was a surprisingly late starter only beginning to sing at the late age of 23. This didn’t stop him from mastering his craft by listening to recordings of singers like Enrico Caruso.

His operatic debut was in 1951 when he played Don José in Carmen which lead to more bookings. The combination of his good looks and powerful voice meant he was often cast for roles as the hero.

Over his 25 year career, he played at most of the major opera houses until he retired in 1976 until his death in 2003 at the age of 82.

6. Mario Lanza

Next on our list, we have Mario Lanza who was a tenor and film star born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1921.

His career started young making his first operatic debut at aged 21 when he played Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

After an interruption due to World War II, he continued his career performing and studying all over the world.

As well a successful career as a singer, Lanza was also a Hollywood star appearing in 9 films including The Great Caruso, a biographical film about his hero Enrico Caruso who he played.

Sadly, Lanza had a relatively short career. He died at the young age of only 38 due to a pulmonary embolism. He was known for his addictions struggling with alcohol and food.

But, in that short time, he made a huge mark on the music world and was generally thought to be the most famous opera singer in the world.

7. Lawrence Brownlee

One of the best opera singers alive today, Lawrence Brownlee was born in Ohio in 1972. He was introduced to music at a young age learning multiple instruments and singing at church.

He went on to study music at Anderson University and completed his master’s at Indiana University.

Following this, in 2002 he made his professional debut in Rossini’s Il barbière di Siviglia and wowed the stage with his voice.

Since then he’s gone on to perform extensively in opera houses around the world with a number of recordings and winning awards for his voice.

8. Alfie Boe

Born in 1973, Alfie Boe is a British tenor who has achieved success in both classical and popular music genres.

His music career started with studying at the Royal College Of Music and the National Opera Studio. He then went on to join the Royal Opera House Young Artists Programme where he was picked for a leading role in Baz Luhrmann’s production of La bohème on Broadway

Having played opera houses all over the world he’s probably most known for playing Jean Valjean in the theatre production of Les Misérables. He was also was booked to sing at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2012.

9. Jonas Kaufmann

Described as the most important, versatile tenor of his generation,” German operatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann was born in Munich in 1969.

After singing in choirs at school and learning the piano as a child, his career began to kick off in 1994 with a number of opera houses in Germany and Europe.

His breakthrough came in 2006 when he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera playing Alfredo in La Traviata by Verdi. This led to a lot more appearances at the world greatest opera houses and a number of recordings.

He was most known for a few performances, notably, his playing of Don José in Carmen and Cavaradossi in Tosca.

10. Jose Carreras  

There are some voices in the world of classical music that are instantly recognizable. Jose Carreras is one of those singers.

Born in Barcelona, Spain in 1946, Carreras first sang on an opera stage at the young age of 11.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that his career started to get going and Carreras quickly rose to fame as an in-demand tenor.

Along with Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, Carreras was a member of the ‘Three Tenors‘ who performed extensively from 1990 to 2003.

11. John Holiday

The operatic countertenor John Holiday was born in Texas in 1985 in a musical family – His mother was a singer and clarinetist and his grandmother was a church pianist.

As a singer, Holiday is incredibly versatile performing in many different genres from baroque choral music to gospel and jazz.

He’s sung modern works by great opera composers like Stravinsky and Handel and worked with a number of high-profile orchestras like the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.

His latest project was on season 19 of NBC’s singing competition, The Voice, where he competed against several talented singers from all over America coming in 5th place.

12. Alfredo Kraus

Another important male opera singer to know is Alfredo Kraus who was a Spanish tenor from the Canary Islands.

Born in 1927 in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, he began studying the piano at the young age of 4 and joined the school choir when he was only 8.

It wasn’t until he was 29 that he made his operatic debut playing The Duke in Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, then going on to have his debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and The Royal Opera House in Convent Garden over the next 10 years.

Typically, opera singers put their voices through a lot of strain and work so they aren’t able to sing for much more than a couple of decades. But, Kraus performed even into his early 70s which is thought to be from his great technique.

He last performed in 1994 and he died five years late in 1999.

13. Morris Robinson

Former college football player and operatic bass singer Morris Robinson was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1959.

He grew up playing football and singing which resulted in a scholarship to The Citadel. He built quite a reputation for breaking into song so much so that his fellow cadets lovingly referred to him as the ‘The Singing Knob’.

After graduating he moved to Washington D.C where he continued to stay music but also had his operatic debut at the  Boston Lyric Opera where he played the King of Egypt in Verdi’s Aida.

Following this, he went on to perform at many of the biggest opera houses in the world including The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Sydney Opera House.

14. Wynne Evans

While you might not know the name, if you live in the UK you’ve almost certainly heard welsh tenor Wynne Evans sing.

He’s the opera singer of GoCompare, the car insurance comparison website which is known by every brit.

He began singing as a child and went on to study at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio.

After graduating, he’s gone on to great success in the operatic world playing numerous parts with the Welsh National Opera, the Opera de Lyon, the Royal Opera House and many others around the UK and the world.

Summing up our List of Great Male Opera Singers

That wraps up our article on the best male operatic singer. We hope you learned either learned something new or discovered some new singers to check out.

If not, we hope this article has at least made the world of opera a little less intimidating. It’s an impressive art form with great history and incredible artists around the globe so don’t be afraid to explore it for yourself.

We’ll be adding to this list too so let us know which singers we should add next.

Photo of author
Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.