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Famous Opera Singers of All Time

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Famous Opera Singers
10 Jun, 2024

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The world of opera is a tapestry woven with the voices of many, each thread a melody that captivates audiences for centuries. Join us as we explore the artistry and allure of these famous opera singers of all time. Their voices have not only defined their roles but also shaped the course of classical music, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of listeners.

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10 Famous Opera Singers

1: Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti
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Date of birth: October 12, 1935, Modena, Italy

Date of death: September 6, 2007, Modena, Italy

Best songs:

  • O Holy Night
  • Nessun dorma
  • Verdi: Un Ballo In Maschera

Luciano Pavarotti was an Italian operatic lyric tenor, considered one of the most famous opera singers of the 20th century. His international debut, in 1965, took place in Miami, United States, marking the beginning of a remarkable career. After his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1968, he became a regular performer.

During his career journey, Pavarotti toured the world, captivating audiences with his remarkable voice. Whether performing solo or as part of the iconic “Three Tenors” alongside Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, he left an indelible mark on the world of opera.

Pavarotti garnered five Grammy Awards and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. His final performance on the operatic stage was in 2004, yet he continued to sing publicly until 2006.

2: Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming
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Date of birth: February 14, 1959, Indiana, Pennsylvania

Best songs:

  • Songs to the Moon
  • You’ll never know
  • O mio babbino caro

Renée Fleming is a celebrated American soprano acclaimed for her performances in opera, concerts, recordings, theater, film, and major public occasions. Her journey in music began early, and she excelled as a jazz vocalist during her college years.

Fleming’s professional debut was in Salzburg, Austria, in 1986, and her career quickly ascended after winning the Auditions at the Metropolitan Opera National Council, the George London Award, and the Richard Tucker Award.

She performed opera in multiple languages, including Italian, German, French, Czech, Russian, and her native English. In 2008, Fleming made history as the first woman to headline a season-opening night gala at the Metropolitan Opera solo.

Her contributions to opera music have been recognized with numerous awards, including the five Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and the honor of being named a Goodwill Ambassador for Arts and Health by the World Health Organization in 2023.

3: Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman
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Date of birth: September 15, 1945, Augusta, Georgia, U.S.

Date of death: September 30, 2019

Best songs:

  • Ave Maria
  • Love Is Here To Stay
  • Les chemins de l’amour

Jessye Norman was an American operatic soprano, one of the finest of her day. She was known for her vibrant soprano voice, vocal range, and flexibility. She debuted her opera in 1969 as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” in Berlin.

She made her first opera debut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, U.S., in 1982, when she portrayed Dido in Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” and Jocasta in Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex.”

She sang in leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, the Paris Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Royal Opera of London. By the mid-1980s, she solidified her place among the world’s most popular and highly regarded dramatic soprano singers.

Furthermore, Norman garnered the Grammy Lifetime Achievement, the National Medal of Arts, and the Légion d’honneur and was named a member of the British Royal Academy of Music.

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4: Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Dmitri Hvorostovsky
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Date of birth: October 16, 1962, Krasnoyarsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Date of death: November 22, 2017, London, U.K.

Best songs:

  • “Ombra mai fù” from Handel’s Xerxes
  • Evening Song – Leningrad
  • Wait for Me

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, born Dmitri Aleksandrovich Hvorostovsky, was a renowned Russian operatic baritone. In 1989, he achieved international prominence by winning the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, triumphing over the local favorite Bryn Terfel in the final round.

His operatic debut in the West was at the Nice Opera in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades 1989. In Italy, he debuted at La Fenice as Eugene Onegin. This success sealed his reputation, and finally, he debuted his American opera with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1993 in La Traviata.

He subsequently sang at every major opera house, including the Metropolitan Opera (debut 1995), the Berlin State Opera, the Royal Opera House, La Scala, and the Vienna State Opera. He was especially renowned for portraying the title character in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

5: Maria Callas

Maria Callas
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Date of birth: December 2, 1923, New York, U.S.

Date of death: September 16, 1977, Paris, France

Best songs:

  • Casta Diva
  • La mamma morta
  • Vissi d’arte

Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos, aka Maria Callas, was an American-born Greek soprano who was one of the most noteworthy of the 20th century.

Her career sprouted when she appeared in Verona in La Gioconda. Soon, with the tutor, conductor Tullio Serafin, she started making debuts in Italy, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.

Furthermore, she performed at various operas, including La Scala, Royal Opera Garden, Lyric Opera, and Metropolitan Opera. She won millions of hearts with her performances and cemented her spot as one of the most famous opera singers of the period.

6: Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel
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Date of birth: November 9, 1965, near Pant Glas, Wales

Best songs:

  • Bold Riley
  • Simple Gifts
  • Bryn Terfel – Volume I

Bryn Terfel Jones is a renowned Welsh opera singer known for his bass-baritone voice and performances in operas by Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Richard Wagner.

In 1990, Terfel made his debut at the Welsh National Opera. Later, he performed at the English National Opera, singing the title role in The Marriage of Figaro in 1991.

In the early 1990s, he continued to showcase his talent on international platforms, such as the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Santa Fe Opera, and Covent Garden.

Subsequently, he sang at every major opera house, including the Metropolitan Opera (debut 1995), La Scala, the Berlin State Opera, and the Vienna State Opera.

7: Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez
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Date of birth: January 13, 1973, Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Best works:

  • Cantatas Vol.2
  • Messa Solenne
  • Stabat Mater

Juan Diego Flórez is a renowned Peruvian operatic tenor, primarily acclaimed for his roles in bel canto operas. His first breakthrough was in 1996 at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy.

In his illustrious operatic singing career, Flórez performed at many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Berlin State Opera, La Scala, and the Vienna State Opera. He garnered widespread acclaim for his versatile performances across a wide range of roles.

On June 4, 2007, he was honored with the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Sun of Peru.

8: Lise Davidsen

Lise Davidsen
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Date of birth: February 8, 1987, Stokke, Norway

Best songs:

  • Es gibt ein Reich
  • Silent Night

Lise Davidsen is celebrated for her exceptional dramatic, lyrical soprano voice. Her musical journey began at the age of 15 when she started playing guitar and singing. Davidsen honed her craft by working with esteemed singers such as Hilde Haraldsen Sveen and Bettina Smith.

She pursued formal training as an operatic soprano at the Royal Opera Academy in Copenhagen, which refined her vocal technique and artistry.

She debuted at Glyndebourne in 2017 by singing the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Furthermore, she performed at the BBC Proms, Royal Opera House, Zürich Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Aix-en-Provence Festival, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Colón, and the Bavarian State Opera.

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9: Joan Sutherland

Joan Sutherland
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Date of birth: November 7, 1926, Sydney, Australia

Date of death: October 10, 2010, Montreux, Switzerland

Best songs:

  • When You Wish Upon A Star
  • Mira, o Norma
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Joan Sutherland, also known as Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, was an Australian soprano. Revered as one of the leading coloraturas of the 20th century, Sutherland’s remarkable vocal prowess cemented her position amongst the famous opera singers.

It took four auditions before she was accepted into the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, London. Her first appearance was in the role of First Lady in “The Magic Flute,” composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

She played this role twice, at Covent Garden (1959) and Metropolitan Opera (1961) respectively. Afterward, Sutherland went on to sing at numerous operas, including those in Venice, Vienna, Dallas, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, San Francisco, and her native Sydney. She retired in 1990.

Throughout her career, Sutherland received numerous accolades, including being named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1978 and receiving a Kennedy Center Honor in 2004.

10: Franco Corelli

Franco Corelli
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Date of birth: April 8, 1921, Ancona, Italy

Date of death: October 29, 2003, Milan, Italy

Best songs:

  • Don José in Bizet’s Carmen
  • “Nessun Dorma!” from Puccini’s Turandot

Franco Corelli was a fine Italian tenor who had a successful international opera career. He was celebrated worldwide for his powerful voice, electrifying top notes, clear timbre, emotive singing, and outstanding performances.

Corelli studied singing in Italy and quickly became known for his powerful and expressive voice. His career took flight when he won the prestigious Voci Verdiane singing competition in 1951, landing him leading roles in various opera productions.

He had a long-term partnership with the Metropolitan Opera (New York City) between 1961 and 1975. He performed on the stages of major European opera houses and with opera companies throughout North America.

FAQs

Who is the most famous opera singer?

Luciano Pavarotti, an Italian operatic lyric tenor, tops the list of most famous opera singers.

Who is the most famous American opera?

Renée Fleming is the most famous American opera singer. She performed opera in multiple languages, including Italian, German, French, Czech, Russian, and her native English.

Who is the best female opera singer today?

Some of the best female opera singers today include:

  • Renée Fleming
  • Joyce DiDonato
  • Barbara Bonney

Who is the king of opera music?

Giuseppe Verdi, the Italian composer known for his operas, is the king of opera music.

Who is the father of opera?

Claudio Monteverdi, the Italian composer is the father of opera as he is one of the prominent figures in the development of opera as a musical form.

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