Opera is a piece of dramatic work which is performed by singers and musicians. This art form began in Italy at the end of the 16th century and eventually became famous throughout Europe.
Throughout its rich and diverse history, Opera has witnessed the birth of many legendary male and female singers. The likes of which were never heard before and could never be replicated or replaced.
These singers and their soulful performances have mesmerized people for centuries and shall continue to do so in the years to come.
These legendary singers continue to inspire aspiring singers, composers, and musicians to create further works of genius.
We have attempted to list some of the famous male opera singers of all time. These artists have been categorized according to their seniority.
Renowned Male Opera Singers
1. Senesino (31st October, 1686 - 27th November, 1758)
Senesino or Francesco Bernardi, was a renowned Italian castrato singer. He joined the cathedral choir in 1695 and as per the requirements of that time, was castrated at the age of thirteen. Castration was performed, so that the young singer's voice wouldn't break and would retain its contralto quality. Senesino made his operatic debut in 1707 at Venice and within a decade had amassed substantial fame. He was one of the few singers who could name his fee. Unlike his singing, Senesino's acting skills were never up to the mark and thus often attracted criticism.
Senesino is well-known for his collaboration with the composer George Frideric Handel, who hired him as the lead male singer for many of his operas. However, Senesino and Handel shared a turbulent professional relationship and disagreed on several matters. Nonetheless, together they developed and brought to life several sensational characters. They also left behind lasting operas such as Radamisto, Flavio, Ottone, Floridante, Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt), Tamerlano, Rodelinda, and many more.
During their first performance together, Senesino forgetting his role, embraced fellow castrato singer Farinelli in front of the audience, because he was swept away by the sheer beauty of Farnelli's voice.
2. Farinelli (24th January, 1705 - 16th September, 1782)
Carlo Broschi or Farinelli was the reigning castrato of the 18th century. Farinelli was born in Andria, Italy. His father Salvatore Broschi, used to work as a composer and was greatly admired by Duke of Andria. Having shown talent for singing, Farinelli began learning singing from the famous Nicola Porpora. However, his fathers unexpected death pushed the family into financial uncertainties. It was during this period, that Farinelli was castrated so that his singing could provide added financial aid to the family. His older brother Ricardo hadn't begun working as a composer by this time and was still under training.
Farinelli made his operatic debut at the age of fifteen in the serenata, Angelica e Medoro by Nicola Porpora and Pietro Trapassi. It wasn't too long before Farinelli was known throughout Italy as "the boy". He was greatly admired for the ease with which he sung the female soprano role of Luca Antonio Predieri's opera Sofonisba and en travestis (disguised as the opposite sex). During one such performance, Frainelli sang a duet with the famous castrato Antonio Bernacchi, who despite his age showed greater vocal skill, range, and refinement than Frainelli. On 25 August 1735, Frainelli was named the official chamber musician for the King Philip V of Spain. He served the royal family for nine years, never to perform in public again.In 1970, Frainelli was Knighted with the Order of Calatrava.
3. Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin (13th February, 1873 - 12th April, 1938)
Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin was born in Kazan, Russia and spent most of his childhood in the Ometyev settlements. He was a self-taught bass singer and began his operatic career in 1894 at the Imperial Opera house in St. Petersburg. In 1986, he was given his first invitation to perform at the Mamontov Private Opera, where he performed the role of the demon Mephistopheles from Faust. He continued to sing for the Mamontov Private Opera until 1899. He was taught how to read a music score by the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, who became a lifelong friend.
Soon after, Chaliapin was hired by the Bolshoi Theater and performed for them until 1914. He made his Metropolitan debut in 1907, but was not received with much enthusiasm because of his modernistic acting. However, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera in 1921 and enjoyed immense successes for the next eight seasons. Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin, is best known for his recordings of the songs Death of Boris from Boris Godunov, Ivan the Terrible from The Maid of Pskov, Don Quixote from Don Quichotte, Mephistopheles from Faust, and The Song of the Volga Boatmen.
In 1934, Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin was made a Commander of the French Legion of Honor.
4. Enrico Caruso (25th February, 1873 - 2nd August, 1921)
Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, Italy. He was an internationally recognized Italian opera tenor. The limitations of hailing from a poor family never diminished Caruso's pursuit towards music. As a child, he used to sing in church choirs and performed in cafés for cash. He also took singing lessons with Guglielmo Vergine and Vincenzo Lombardi. He made his professional debut on March 15, 1895, in Naples.
The major roles created by Caruso included Loris from Giordano's Fedora and Maurizio from Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. Caruso was diagnosed with purulent pleurisy, because of which he experienced episodes of intense pain and underwent surgical procedures. He died in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, on August 2, 1921. His funeral took place in the Royal Basilica of the Church San Francisco and was attended by thousands of devout fans and colleagues. Caruso's record sales peaked higher than anyone else before him and thus made him one of the most famous opera singers of his era. Caruso received many honors during his lifetime and in 1987, was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
5. Beniamino Gigli (20th March, 1890 - 30th November, 1957)
Beniamino Gigli is considered as one of the leading tenors of operatic history. Gigli was an Italian opera singer who made his operatic debut in 1914 after having won an international singing competition, that gave him the chance to perform in an actual opera. In his first opera, he played the role of Enzo from La Gioconda, which was well-received by the audience. By the year 1920, Gigli had arrived at the Metropolitan Opera.
In the year 1921, the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso passed away, which made people appreciate the tenor voice of Gigli even more. His fans would fondly refer to him as 'Caruso Secondo', however he personally did not like being compared with other artists. Gigl's memorable roles include, Andrea Chénier which he would recorded later, Rodolfo from La Bohème, Edgardo from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor. He also acted in over twenty musical films such as Non Ti Scordar Di Me (1935), Ave Maria (1936, Marionette (1939), and Gigli: Ridi Pagliaccio (1941) to name a few.
As a child, Beniamino Gigli used to sing on the streets and in local cafés to make ends meet.
6. Ezio Pinza (18th May 1892 - 9th May, 1957)
Gifted with a wholesome bass voice, Ezio Pinza was not only an opera singer but was also a Hollywood actor and Broadway artist. Ezio was born in Rome and learned singing from the Conservatorio Martini in Bologna. He made his operatic debut in 1914 at Cremona, where he played the role of Oroveso from the opera Norma. After having completed his military service in 1919, Ezio returned to opera and was invited to sing for the grand La Scala opera house in 1922.
By the year 1926, Ezio has become popular enough to be invited to the Metropolitan opera where he played the role of Don Giovanni from the opera La vestale. He performed besides the famous American soprano, Rosa Ponselle in his debuting role, which proved to be a treat for the audience. During his operatic career, Ezio Pinza performed several memorable roles. In 1948, he retired from opera to start afresh in the world of Broadway.In 1950, he won the Tony Award for his performance in the musical, South Pacific and for the song, 'Some Enchanting Evening'.
7. Gottlob Frick (28th July, 1906 - 18th August, 1994)
Gottlob Frick was a German opera singer, who was renowned for his dark and powerful bass voice. He was the youngest of 13 children and began singing at the local church choir. He also received formal training from Wolfgang Windgassen, at the Stuttgart High School of Music. In 1927, Frick joined the Stuttgart Opera and made his operatic debut in 1934, where he sang Der fliegende Hollander. Soon, Gottlob began performing as a soloist and was eventually discovered in 1941 by the celebrated conductor, Karl August Böhm. Karl signed him with the Dresdeb State Opera.
He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the year 1961. Gottlob's repertoire included roles such as, Sarastro from The Magic Flute by Mozart, Rocco from Fidelio, Kecal from The Bartered Bride, Osmin from The Abduction from the Seraglio, Archangel Raphael from Creation, Commendatore from Don Giovanni, and Kaspar from Der Freischutz. Frick left behind substantial recorded legacy which he sang in his late sixties and which can still be heard today.
The famed German conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler once described Gottlob Frick's voice as "the blackest bass in Germany".
8. Hans Hotter (19th January, 1909 - 6th December, 2003)
Hans Hotter was a German opera singer who had a beautifully timbered bass-baritone voice. Even though he trained as a choirmaster and organist from Hochschule für Musik, he switched to singing. He made his operatic debut in 1930. His Covent Garden debut of Die Meistersinger, brought him substantial international repute in 1947. He performed in the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 1950, and played the role of The Flying Dutchman. He is best known for his bass-baritone Wagnerian performances such as, Julius Caesar, the Count from Figaro, Pizarro, Boris from Boris God-unov, and many more.
He performed mostly in vernacular and made several translation recordings of non-German operas. He was vehemently against the Nazi rule and refused to perform at festivals organized under the Third Reich. He spent the rest of his life teaching aspiring singer and traveled extensively to teach students who wished to learn from him.Hans Hotter was prone to hay fever, which in spite of causing mush discomfort never deterred him from singing.
9. Jussi Björling (5th February, 1911 - 9th September, 1960)
Johan Jonatan or 'Jussi Björling' was born in Borläge, Sweden. He learned singing from his father, David, who was an accomplished vocalist. He performed with the Björling Male Quartet when he was merely four years old! Björling made his debut as an opera singer in 1930, in which he played the role of a lamplighter in Manon Lescaut, at the Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm. Björling became one of the principal singers at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1940s and 1950s. He sang umpteen major tenor roles in the French and Italian repertoire. His major works included Il trovatore, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, and La bohème. One of his final recordings was done in June 1960 alongside Leontyne Price and Giorgio Tozzi. The recording was exceptional and proves that even in ill health he could give startling performances.
In 1960, Jussi Björling won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance and was posthumously entered into the Gramophone's Hall of Fame in 2012.
10. Ramón Vinay (31st August, 1911 - 4th January, 1996)
One of the most famous Chilean opera singers of all time, Ramón Vinay had a full and resonating tenor voice and excellent stage presence. He is well-known for his portrayal of the title role Otello by Giuseppe Verdi's. He started his opera career as a baritone in 1938 and by doing small roles in Mexico. However, realizing that his tenor was far more superior and better-received by the audience, he changed his style of singing. He gained more international success after the World War II ended. He made his Metropolitan debut in 1952 and was retained by the opera company for the next six seasons. His performance of Otello was broadcasted in 1947, wherein the NBC Orchestra conductor was none other than Arturo Toscanini.He was made the National Patron for the music fraternity Delta Omicron in Ohio.
11. Boris Christoff (18th May, 1914 - 28th June, 1993)
Boris Christoff was a Bulgarian bass and is counted amongst the greatest bass singers of all time. Even though his voice lacked the size, it compensated with its sheer color and sophistication. Boris was praised by the King of Bulgaria while performing as the soloist in the Gusla Choir in 1941. Impressed with Boris's singing, the King gave him a stipend to study singing from the bass singer, Riccardo Stracciari in Rome.
After having interned in an army camp for displaced individuals, Boris returned to Rome after the war. He made his operatic debut in 1947 and sang 'Boris Godunov', which became his signature role. Even though he was invited by the Metropolitan Opera, he could not perform in America because of visa problems. When he finally arrived in America in 1956, he refused to perform for the Metropolitan and instead chose the San Francisco Opera. After undergoing a surgery for brain tumor, his singing took a toll. He left behind memorable recordings of Verdi, Faust's Gounod, and Ivan Susanin from A Life for the Tsar.
In 1969, Boris Christoff was honored with, The Léonie Sonning Music Prize (Sonning Award) which is Denmark's highest musical award.
12. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (28th May, 1925- 18th May, 2012)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a German baritone and conductor, who is considered as one of the most iconic opera singers of the 20th Century. The Classic CD of UK, ranked Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the second 'Top Singer of the Century' in 1999. He was adept as singing in several foreign languages and left behind several recordings of the same. He was greatly admired for the way he sang the lieder composed by Franz Schubert. He made his operatic debut in 1947, by singing in place of an absent singer. By 1948, he was invited to sing for the Städtische Oper Berlin, where he performed as Posa from Don Carlos. At the young age of 29, he made his American debut in 1955 in Cincinnati, where he sang Kreuzstab cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach and A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms.In 2012, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was entered into the Gramophone's Hall of Fame.
13. Nicolai Gedda (11th July, 1925 - Present)
Nicolai Gedda is a Swedish tenor. His father was half-Russian and mother was Swedish. In 1938, Gedda's family returned to Stockholm, where he continued to sing at the Church. In between he continued to learn singing and began taking lessons from the famous Carl Martin Öhman. He was eventually auditioned by Walter Legge, who was spellbound by Gedda's voice and technique.
In 1950, Gedda came first in the Christine Nilsson Singing Competition. He made his operatic debut at the age of 26 at the Royal Swedish Opera, where he performed as Chapelou from the Le postillon de Lonjumeau. In 1953, he performed at La Scala, where he played the role of Don Ottavio from Don Giovanni. He joined the Paris Opera in 1954 and continued to perform for them for several years. He also performed for the Metropolitan Opera for 26 years! Gedda is one of the rare opera singers who continues to sing despite his age. He recorded the vocals for Emperor Altoum from Turandot in 2001, and in 2003 he recorded for the opera Idomeneo in which he sang as the High Priest.
In 2010, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy awarded Nicolai Gedda with the highest French decoration, the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honor).
14. Jon Vickers (29th October, 1926 - Present)
Jon Vickers is a Canadian heldentenor or heroic tenor. A scholarship was awarded to him in the year 1950, which gave him the opportunity to study opera at the Royal Conservatory of Music. By 1957, Vickers was performing for the Royal Opera House in London. In 1960, Vickers had arrived at the Metropolitan Opera, where he performed as Canio from Pagliacci. He performed for the Metropolitan for the next 22 seasons. He is credited with having a vast repertoire which include roles such as, Giasone from Medea; which he performed besides Maria Callas, Don Alvaro from La forza del destino, Radamès from Aida, Herod from Salome, Ratan-Sen from Padmavati, and Otello by Verdi, among several others. Jon Vickers performed several German, Italian, and French roles with tremendous ease.Jon Vickers was also honored with the Order of Canada. He retired from opera in 1988.
15. Alfredo Kraus Trujillo (24 November 1927 - 10th September, 1999)
Alfredo Kraus Trujillo was a renowned Spanish tenor. He was known for his bel canto roles and excellent acting skills. Trujillo began learning music at the age of four by playing the piano and would sing at the choir as well. He trained in Zarzuela and went onto make his operatic debut in 1956, where he performed as the Duke from Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto. By 1958, he performed with Maria Callas in the opera La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. The next year, Trujillo meteoric rise landed him in Covent Garden, where he performed as Edgardo from Lucia di Lammermoor.
At La Scala he performed as Elvino from La sonnambula by Vincenzo Bellini. He made his American debut in 1962 and performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1966 as Rigoletto. Trujillo is greatly admired for his lyric tenor and his portrayal of roles such as the title role Werther by Jules Massenet, Nemorino from L'elisir d'amore, Faust by Charles Gounod, and Arturo from I puritani by Vincenzo Bellini.
Alfredo Kraus did not perform for eight months after losing his wife in 1997. However, on returning to the stage he remarked, "I don't have the will for singing but I must do it, because, in a sense, it is a sign that I have overcome the tragedy. Singing is a form of admitting that I'm alive."
16. Hermann Prey (11th July, 1929 - 22nd July, 1998)
Hermann Prey was a German opera singer who was well-known for his lyric baritone, comic roles, and lieder performances. He studied singing in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik. In 1952, he won the Hessischer Rundfunk Contest. He made his operatic debut in 1953 and was immediately absorbed by The Hamburg State Opera after his performance. He remained with this opera company until 1960.
Between 1960-1970, Prey performed all over the world and gave several performances in the Metropolitan Opera. His repertoire included many works of Verdi, Mozart, and Johann Strauss II. His performances of operettas on German television were extremely popular. His recital in America in 1956, made him even more famous. After retiring from opera, Prey began teaching aspiring singers.Hermann Prey also wrote an autobiography, 'First Night Fever' which was translated in English.
17. Nicolai Ghiaurov (13th September, 1929 - 2nd June, 2004)
Nicolai Ghiaurov was a Bulgarian bass singer. He is still remembered for the portrayal of King Philip from Don Carlo by Verdi. However, his signature role was of Boris Godounov by Moussorgsky. Nicolai got admission in the Bulgarian State Conservatory in 1949 for learning singing. He also studied at the Moscow Conservatory between 1950-1955. During this period, he also won the Paris International Vocal Competition. He made his operatic debut in 1955, wherein he played the role of Don Basilio from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Thereafter he performed for the opera house, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, from 1957.
He made his La Scala debut in 1959, wherein he was greatly appreciated for his daring rendition of the Varlaam from the masterpiece Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky. In 1962, he debuted at the Covent Garden as Padre Guardiano from Forza del Destino by Verdi. He made his American debut in 1963 by performing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he played Faust by Gounod. He performed over eighty times at the Metropolitan Opera between 1965-1996.
He married the soprano, Mirella Freni in 1978. Conductor Vladimir Ghiaurov and actress Elena Ghiaurov are Nicolai Ghiaurov's children from his first marriage.
18. Ingvar Wixell (7th May, 1931 - 8th October, 2011)
Ingvar Wixell was a Swedish opera singer who was greatly appreciated for his baritone. His repertoire included roles such as, Rigoletto, Amonasro from Aida, baritone roles of Mozart such as Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro's Count Almaviva, Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, and Germont from La Traviata.
He made his operatic debut at the Swedish Royal Opera in 1955, wherein he performed as Papageno from The Magic Flute by Mozart. He made his debut at the London, Royal Opera in 1960 and played the title role of Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi. He performed in America in 1967 at the San Francisco Opera and performed as Belcore from L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti. In the same year, he was engaged by The Deutsche Oper Berlin where he continued to perform for the next three decades. In 1973, he had arrived at the Metropolitan Opera, where he performed the tile role of Rigoletto by Verdi. He performed for six seasons with the Metropolitan Opera.There is a dish named in honor of Ingvar Wixell at the LA Traviata restaurant, where he used to be a regular!
19. Luciano Pavarotti (12th October, 1935 - 6th September, 2007)
Luciano Pavarotti was born in the outskirts of Modena in northern Italy. At the age of nine, he embarked on singing with his father in a small local church choir. After graduation, he taught in an elementary school for two years, before he seriously began studying music with Arrigo Pola in 1954. He began his professional career in 1961, in Italy. Pavarotti continued his musical journey and sang in opera houses in Netherlands, Vienna, London, Budapest, and Barcelona. He was also invited to Australia in 1965 by Joan Sutherland.
He debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme, in 1968. Pavarotti gained worldwide fame for the brilliance and beauty of his tone. He has given his best performances in bel canto operas, pre-Aida Verdi roles, and Puccini works such as La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, and established himself as one of the great classical singers of his era. At the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, he entertained the audience with performances of Puccini's Nessun Dorma, from Turandot. On that occasion, he sang with the fellow The Three Tenor stars, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras. His final performance was at the Metropolitan in March 2004. Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer in 2007.
Luciano Pavarotti was made the United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998. In 2001, the UN High Commission for Refugees awarded him the Nansen Medal for his humanitarian efforts of raising money for this cause.
20. Renato Bruson (13th January, 1936 - Present)
Renato Bruson is a renowned Italian baritone. He is known for his signature portrayal of Verdi's baritone roles and his exquisite bel canto. Renato used to sing at the church choir as a child. A timely scholarship gave him the opportunity to study music at the Padua Conservatory. He did not belong to a well-to-do family and was often discouraged from pursuing singing as a career. Renato Bruson made his operatic debut in 1960 and performed as the Conte di Luna from Il trovatore.
He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1969, wherein he performed as Enrico from Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. In 1970, he collaborated with the conductor Riccardo Muti. In 1972, he made his debut at the famous La Scala as Antonio from Linda di Chamounix by Donizetti. In 1975, he substituted Piero Cappuccilli for the role of Renato.In 1978, the Austrian theater awarded him with the prestigious Kammersänger title for his outstanding performance in Macbeth at the Vienna State Opera.
21. Benjamin Luxon (24th March, 1937 - Present)
Benjamin Luxon is a British baritone. He studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He came third in the ARD International Music Competition of 1961 in Munich. After completing his education, he collaborated with the composer Benjamin Britten and his English Opera Group, which allowed Luxon to go on tours and perform all over Europe. Between 1963-1971, Luxon sang for several operas composed by Benjamin Britten. He also performed for the opera Owen Wingrave, which was aired on television in two parts.
In 1972, he made his debut at the Royal Opera House and performed as The Jester from Taverner by Maxwell Davies. In 1974, Luxon began working with the English National Opera. In 1980, he made his Metropolitan debut as Eugene Onegin, which was well-received by the audience. After a long tenure and tremendous international success, Luxon retired in 2000 and now teaches aspiring singers. He also works as a poetry reader and narrator.
Benjamin Luxon was made the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1986.
22. Simon Estes (2nd March, 1938 - Present)
Simon Estes is an acclaimed African-American bass-baritone. Estes was born in Iowa and was introduced to singing at the Baptist church. While in the University of Iowa, Estes changed his major several times, until he decided upon singing under the guidance of his teacher Charles Kellis. While studying singing, he was introduced to opera. With the help of raised funds, Estes was able to pursue his higher studies at the Juilliard School. Thereafter, Estes move to Europe in order to begin his career.
He made his operatic debut in 1965 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Ramfis from Aida by Verdi, where his performance was appreciated. In 1966, he won a bronze medal at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The same year, he was invited by the President Lyndon Johnson to perform at the White House. Despite his success throughout Europe, Estes was getting small and unfavorable roles at home turf and wasn't invited by the Metropolitan Opera until 1981. He finally made his Metropolitan debut with the role of Hermann from Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience and critics alike. He went onto perform for the next six seasons. He is still remembered for his role as Amonasro in Aida, which was aired ion television in 1985. Simon Estes currently works as the professor of Music at the Wartburg College in Iowa.Simon Estes also works with humanitarian and not-for-profit organizations, to spread awareness about fighting against HIV/AIDS among African-Americans. He has also taken up the cause of tackling and minimizing the spread of malaria in South Africa.
23. Kurt Moll (11th April, 1938 - Present)
Kurt Moll is a German bass. He won the Grammy Award for his recorded rendition of the opera Das Rheingold. Initially wanting to become a cellist, Moll decided to pursue singing after having been encouraged by the choir conductor. He studied singing from Köln Hochschule für Musik and made his operatic debut when he was barely 20 years old. He joined the Cologne Opera in 1958 and sang for them for the next four years. He also sang in the smaller opera houses in Mainz and Wuppertal during the 1960s.
In 1969, he was offered a contract with the Hamburg State Opera which allowed him to perform in the bigger Opera houses in Europe. His made his American debut in 1974 at the San Francisco Opera and performed as Gurnemanz from Parsifal by Richard Wagner. He was invited to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978, wherein he performed the roles of Hermann from Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner, Sparafucile in Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, and Rocco from Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven. He retired from opera in 2006 and currently takes master classes for aspiring opera singers.
Kurt Moll is considered as one of the finest lieder recitalists and performers of Wagner's bass roles.
24. Jose van Dam (25th August, 1940 - Present)
The Belgian opera singer, Baron Jose van Dam is well-known for his bass-baritone. He began studying at the Brussels Royal Conservatory in 1957. Soon after graduating, he won four awards for singing in various competitions, which included the International Music Competition in Geneva. In 1961, he made his operatic debut at the Paris Opera, as Don Basilio from Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Gioachino Rossini.
At the Paris Opera, Jose van Dam performed as Escamillo from Carmen by Georges Bizet, which was greatly appreciated. Conductor Lorin Maazel asked Jose van Dam to record L'Heure Espagnole by Maurice Ravel for Deutsche Grammophon. He eventually was invited to sing for the Deutsche Oper. Thereafter, he was invited to perform all over the world.In 1974, Jose van Dam was conferred the title of Kammersänger by Berlin, and given the German Music Critics' award. In 1998, he was also given the title of Baron by His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium.
25. Plácido Domingo (21st January, 1941 - Present)
Plácido Domingo is one of the most renowned tenors and conductors of modern opera. Plácido was born in Spain and moved with his family to Mexico in order to establish a zarzuela company. He learned singing and acting from observing the zarzuela members. He joined the Mexico, National Conservatory of Music to study music. He performed in several plays while working for his parent's company and did many small roles. In 1959, he auditioned as a baritone for the Mexico National Opera, but was asked to sing in tenor. Plácido Domingo not only successfully passed the audition, but was also made the tenor comprimario and tutor for the Opera. Before making his operatic debut, Plácido acted in theaters, played the piano for television shows, and studied conducting. He made his operatic debut in 1961, where he played the leading role of Alfredo from La traviata at the Maria Teresa Montoya theater.
He performed with the Dallas Civic Opera in the same year, wherein he played the part of Arturo from Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. He sang for the Israel National Opera for two and a half years and performed for the New York City Opera in 1965. He made his Metropolitan debut in 1968 as a substitute for Franco Corelli, in the opera Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea. Plácido Domingo achieved tremendous international recognition in 1981, when he made the song "Perhaps Love" along with John Denver. He became a part of 'The Three Tenors' concert for the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final and performed with tenors; Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras. The international success of the 'The Three Tenors', led to the trio performing several times more.
In 1971, Plácido Domingo won his first Grammy Award and has since, won a total of eight Grammy Awards in his entire career. He was made a Kammersänger by the Vienna State Opera and in 2002 was made a Knight Commander of the Order for the British Empire.
26. Ruggero Raimondi (3rd October, 1941 - Present)
The charming and charismatic Ruggero Raimondi, is an Italian opera singer. His bass-baritone and admirable stage presence allowed him to act in films and television. He was encouraged to pursue opera by the renowned conductor Francesco Molinari-Pradelli. He studied singing with Ettore Campogalliani and thereafter studied music at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory. He won the Adriano Belli Singing Competition in 1964 and soon after made his operatic debut as Colline from La bohème at the Spoleto Sperimentale. He made his debut at the Rome Opera the same year, where he performed as Procida from Vespri Siciliani by Verdi. Thereafter, he got a five year contract for lead roles with the Teatro La Fenice after being auditioned by Mario Labroca. His colleagues Leone Magiera and Piero Faggioni, helped him develop his acting skills and add more coloration to his performances.
He made his La Scale debut in 1968 as Timur from Turandot, which was well-received by the audience. In 1970, he made his Metropolitan debut and went on to perform at the Glyndebourne Festival, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Salzburg Festival, among others. His repertoire included signature roles such as Silva from Ernani, Fiesco from Simon Boccanegra, Don Alfonso from Così fan tutte, Figaro, and King Philip from Don Carlo. He also ventured into directing and made the film, Six characters in search of a singer. In 2008, he acted as an Italian opera singer in a French television series 'Les Sanglot des Anges'.In 1990, Ruggero Raimondi was made an honorary Commander of the Order of Cultural Merit by the Monaco government.
27. Sir Thomas Allen (10th September, 1944 - Present)
Sir Thomas Allen is an English baritone who is considered by many as the greatest lyric baritone of modern opera. Some of his signature roles include Count Almaviva from The Marriage of Figaro, Guglielmo from Così fan tutte by Mozart, Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Marquis of Posa from Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi. Born in Florence, Sir Thomas Allen was taught singing by his school physics teacher Denis Weatherley, who was baritone as well. In 1964, Sir Thomas Allen was accepted by the Royal College of Music. While pursuing his studies, he won the Queen's Prize because of which he was offered a contract with the Welsh National Opera by James Lockhart, who was the musical director at that time.
Soon after graduating, he joined the chorus for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera for a brief period and thereafter joined the Welsh National Opera. Sir Thomas Allen made his operatic debut in 1969, as Marquis d'Obigny from La traviata by Verdi. He made his Covent Garden debut in 1971 as Donald from Billy Budd. He went on to give several legendary performances at the Covent Garden. In 1978, he became the first British Baritone to play the title role of Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy at the Covent Garden. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1981, wherein he performed as Papageno from The Magic Flute. Since then, he has performed all over the world and has made several recording.
In 1989, Sir Thomas Allen was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1999, he was given the title of Knight Bachelor for his contribution to opera.
28. Thomas Quasthoff (9th November, 1959 - Present)
Thomas Quasthoff is a German opera singer, who is considered as one of the best lieder singers of the 20th century. Thomas Quasthoff was born with severe birth defects, which made is difficult for him to get admission in the music conservatory of Hanover, because of his inability to play the piano. Quasthoff thus chose to study singing privately. Before making his debut in opera, he worked as a voice-over artist for television and worked as a radio announcer for six years. He made his debut as a singer in 1988, when he won the ADR International Music Competition. His voice was appreciated by the legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He was invited by the conductor Helmuth Rilling to perform at the Oregon Bach Festival in 1995. In 1998, he sang for the recording of Credo by Krzysztof Penderecki, which won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Recording.
Thomas Quasthoff made his operatic debut in 2003 at the Salzburg Festival, wherein he performed as Don Fernando from Fidelio by Beethoven. The next year he debuted at the San Francisco Symphony. In the year 2000, Thomas Quasthoff won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance, for the composition Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn) by Gustav Mahler. He also won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 2004 and 2006. Quasthoff retired from opera in 2012 and is currently a professor of voice at the Hanns Eisler School of Music.In 2009, Thomas Quasthoff was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize by the Opera House Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and a Gold Medal for Outstanding Musicianship by the Royal Philharmonic Society.
29. Bryn Terfel Jones (9th November, 1965 - Present)
Bryn Terfel Jones is a well-known bass-baritone. Born in North Wales, Bryn Terfel Jones grew up used singing Welsh songs. In 1984, he was accepted by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He graduated in 1989 with a Gold Medal and was awarded the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award. He also won the Lieder Prize at the BBC Singer of the World Competition in the year 1989. Bryn Terfel made his operatic debut in 1990 at the Welsh National Opera, wherein he performed as Guglielmo from Mozart's Così fan tutte. The very next year, he made his debut at the English National Opera as Figaro by Mozart. He also made his international debut in Brussels at the Théâtre de la Monnaie with The Magic Flute and also performed at the Santa Fe Opera for the first time. He debuted as Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House in 1992, and performed at the Salzburg Easter Festival as Spirit Messenger from 'The Woman without a Shadow' by Richard Strauss. He achieved tremendous international acclaim for his performance of Jochanaan in Salome by Richard Strauss. He also got a contract from Deutsche Grammophon the same year. He made his Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, and Teatro Nacional de São Carlos debut in 1994, wherein he sang Figaro.
In 2003, Bryn Terfel was given the honorary title of Commander for the Order of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales. In 2006, he was honored with the Queen's Medal for Music. In 2013, he won the Grammy Award for the Best Opera Recording, which was in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera for the recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) by Richard Wagner.
30. José Carreras (5th December, 1946 - Present)
José Carreras is a tenor of intentional repute. From his childhood, he exhibited exceptional talent for singing. He gave his first public performance at the age of 8, in which he sang La donna è Mobile accompanied by Magda Prunera, on the piano. The program was broadcasted on the Spanish National Radio. He made his debut as Trujamán at the age of 11. He continued to study music and took private voice lessons from Francisco Puig and Juan Ruax.
During the 1970s Carrera got to perform besides Montserrat Caballé, as Gennaro from Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti. In 1971, he performed once again with Montserrat Caballé, in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Royal Festival Hall. Together, Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras performed in more than fifteen operas. In 1971, he won the Voci Verdiane competition. This accolade earned him a debut role as Rodolfo in La bohème at the Teatro Regio di Parma, in 1972. The same year, he made his debut at the New York City Opera and performed as Pinkerton from Madama Butterfly. He achieved tremendous international acclaim after having joined 'The Three Tenors' for the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals. José Carreras has received several awards and honorary titles for his contribution to the world of opera and continues to thrill us with his enchanting voice!
In 1987, José Carreras was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, however, he fought the disease and returned to stage the very next year.
These male opera singers have redefined the realm of opera with their intense musicianship. With time, they have modernized their approach while retaining the integrity and soul of the composer's creativity.