Opera is basically an art form where the singers and musicians come together to perform a drama in a theatre. It was emanated in 16th century in Florence and rapidly reached the rest of the Europe. The words of an opera are known as the libretto meaning ‘little book’. It is not confined to pure singing but the voice in opera is divided into sop raves, tenors, baritones and basses. In the 17th century it was difficult for the opera artists to make a living out of it but as it was evolved commercially during mid-17th century, the professionals came up and produced some of the most notable opera artists in modern history. Here are the top 10 opera artists in modern history.
10. Mario Lanza (January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959):
Alfredo Arnold Cocozza adapted name Mario Lanza which was identical to his mother’s name, Maria Lanza. He was an American tenor and Hollywood Movie star and was known as a “rebellious, tough and ambitious” opera artist. Louis B. Mayer was fascinated when he saw Mario’s performance and his style of singing. He started his opera career in the year 1942 at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood when he was just 21 years old. He received a lot of appreciation and accolades for his work and his performances were popular everywhere from the United States to Canada and to Mexico. Mario was also praised by Claudia Cassidy for his “superbly natural tenor”.
9. Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921):
Enrico Caruso was an Italian tenor and performed in ample array from the Italian lyric to the French dramatic. His recordings are nearly 290 consisting of mostly his stage career. His recording ‘Vesti la guibba’ was a major hit of about millions of records sold. He was famous and also an example of a global media celebrity and his popularity was without any technological foundation. He made more than 260 recordings in America and was also heard live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910. Enrico was balloted into Gramophone Magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
8. Dmitri Hvorostovsky (October 16, 1962 – present):
Dmitri Aleksandrovich Hvorostovsky is a premier baritone opera singer from Russia. His beginning was at Krasnoyarsk Opera House and won first prize for Russian Glinka Competition in 1987 and the Toulouse Singing Competition in 1988. He is so popular that he has sung for nearly all the Major Opera Houses, including the Metropolitan Opera in 1995. He is an honorary director of Russian baritones and his stage performances consolidated Verdi operas.
7. Fritz Wunderlich (September 26, 1930 – September 17, 1966):
Another big name in the opera fame is of Friedrich Karl Otto Wunderlich known as Fritz Wunderlich. He was a German lyric famous for his singing of the Mozart, Italian and German opera. When he was young, he worked in a bakery but people witnessed his beautiful voice and they insisted him to take up music as his career. He gave some very popular and acclaimed performances and one of which was as Prince Tamino. One of his brilliant recordings of Schumann’s Dichterliebe is an example of superior classical style which reflects purity and cleanliness of his voice.
6. Nicolai Gedda (July 11, 1925 – present):
Nicolai Gedda is a very famous Swedish Operatic tenor. He has around 200 recordings in his basket and is declared to be a capacious body in the history of opera. Gedda’s music sense is considered to be beautiful, controlled and having a solid conception. He started his career as a local bank teller in Stockholm and his early opera career was endeavoured by Walter Legge. He made his first appearance at the Royal Swedish Opera. His entire career wasn’t a typical one but it was amongst the most challenging and immense range of opera. He managed to perform even at the age of 78; in 2003 he recorded for Mozart’s Idomeneo.
5. Maria Callas (December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977):
Maria was an American-born Greek eminent opera singer and one of the highest singing voices in women of 20th century. Callas had a smooth, cantabile style of singing and a commodious dramatic ability. She faced a lot of conflicts and aspersions during her career and this overshadowed her talent. But her accolades were so many that Leonard Bernstein called her “The Bible of Opera”. Her voice was such that it disturbed few and made others fall in love with her because she had an ability to breathe life into the characters she illustrated.
4. Luciano Pavarotti (12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007):
Luciano was a very popular and a well known Italian opera artist. He was a brilliant and commercially successful tenor. He began his career in 1961 at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia and appeared to be a very exalted artist. His career started from a very initial level and he made his international presence in Yugoslavia. Luciano debuted at the Vienna State Opera on February 23, 1963. In 1990, the FIFA World Cup was held in Italy and his performance of Nessun Dorma was the theme song making his music type a popular one.
3. Kirsten Flagstad (12 July 1895 – 7 December 1962):
Kirsten Malfrid Flagstad was a Norwegian opera singer and a highly regarded Wagnerian dramatic artist who was also called “the voice of the century”. She debuted in 1935 creating an impression amongst audiences with a different variety of voice. She had a roughness of dramatics with a beauty and dignity of diva. During 1958 to 1960, she was the first Director of The Norwegian National Opera. Flagstad had a remarkable ability of learning quickly and she completely understood her work. There is a Kirsten Flagstad Museum in Norway which contains a private collection of opera artefacts.
2. Dietrich Fischer -Dieskau (28 May 1925 – 18 May 2012):
Dietrich Fischer – Dieskau was a German lyric male voice and a very well known performer of the 20th century. He was recorded amongst admired opera artist and the Classic CD polled him as ‘Top Singers of the Century’. He was famous due to his explanatory music comprehension and a master of an impressive voice. Although he preferred light roles but he was made for a heavy baritones and was a versatile artist of his time. He was ranked as the second greatest singer of the century and dominated both the opera and concert performances for over 30 years.
1. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (9 December 1915 – 3 August 2006):
Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was amongst the most notable and acclaimed German-born Austrian/British opera singer. Elisabeth was interested in music from an early age and she performed her first opera in 1928 in Germany when she was merely 13 years old. Elisabeth made her first official debut at Royal Opera House on January 16, 1948. She had a beautiful mesmerising voice and her act was much acknowledged as Classical operas such as Mozart, Schubert, Strauss and Wolf. One very distinctive feature she carried in history was to sing under two names in a single performance.