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Opera is a form of art related to singing. Singers and musicians work in collaboration in a theatrical setting. Opera usually combines text (called a libretto) and a musical score. Opera incorporates acting, scenery and costumes and even dances. The performance is accompanied by an orchestra or a small musical ensemble. It is a part of the western classical music tradition and it started in Italy at the end of the 16th century. It spread across the entire Europe soon thereafter. Since that time, the Opera only grew in popularity. I consider it to be one of the most difficult forms of art and creativity. Over the time, there have been many Opera singers and you probably know a lot of them. This is list however, talks about the best of those singers.
10. ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF
She gave her first performance at the age of thirteen. It was called Orfeo ed Euridice and that was in Germany. She was unable to study medicine because her father was censored by the Nazis. Her beautiful voice however made her ideal for the classical operas such as Mozart, Johann Strauss Jr. and Jacque Offenbach. She also shared affinity with the works of Hugo Wolf and she was one of the greatest opera singers to ever live to the recording age.
9. NICOLAI GEDDA
This guy was a Swede. He was discovered when he performed Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. He was shot to fame after he performed “Mes amis, écoutez l’histoire” by Adolphe Adam. It reached the incredible high D. Other singers consider the top C as the limit of the tenor’s range. Nicolai recorded Idomeneo by Mozart and died in the year 2003. he continued to perform till very late in his life and if you consider the age, it is quite a feat.
8. LEONTYNE PRICE
She happens to be one of the first African-Americans to have been accepted as an actual opera singer. She is unfortunately still known for her performances in the American opera Porgy and Bess. Her voice is absolutely magical and it makes her highly appropriate for the brilliant sopranos of Verdi and Puccini. If you consider her opera career, her rendition of Summertime from Porgy and Bess is still a bright ray of light.
7. FRITZ WUNDERLICH
This guy has probably the sweetest voice if you consider male opera singers. He became a superstar quite early in his career considering the clarity and cleanliness of his voice. German taste used to be that of a heavy voice and his was way different from what the traditional taste asked for but the voice he had made him appropriate to Mozart and Verdi. Most of his recordings are German translations of their text. This was a very common practice back in those times. his work in Lied is perhaps the most noticeable.
6. KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD
Wagner’s operas are different from the Italian and French Operas and therefore are vastly considered as a separate genre. The singers required for that particular genre are different as well. The genre requires powerful and loud voices and drama as well. If you consider the sopranos, these qualities are not associated with them. Flagstad however pulled the Wagner’s opera off with a lot of grace and dignity.
5. LUCIANO PAVAROTTI
You all must know this guy. He became a global superstar and he cut across boundaries when it comes to Opera. He earned the title ‘King of the High Cs’ with his performance of pour mon ame. 1990 was the highlight of his entire career. The FIFA World Cup was held in Italy that year and his rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma!’ was chosen to be the theme song for the Cup. That particular song appealed to many non-music listeners. If you haven’t you should listen to his rendition of Figaro; amazing.
4. JOAN SUTHERLAND
She is responsible for bringing Pavarotti to fame and is one of the most important Sopranos ever. She was able to reach high tones fairly easily and that was the main reason of her success. She was easily able to insert lyricism into the coloratura arias if necessary. There were complaints about some of the words being unclear. That led her to study the Italian and German language in order to improve her pronunciation of the words. She earned the nickname ‘La Stupenda’ and rightly so, deserved it.
3. PLACIDO DOMINGO
He has performed more roles than any other tenor; about 136 as of July 2011. He is considered as a Godfather to many modern tenors. He sang the title role of Verd’s Otello. His management criticized his decision because they thought his voice was not powerful and dramatic enough but he managed to pull it off and the performance turned out to be one of the more legendary ones and is considered as one of the greatest hits of his career.
2. MARIA CALLAS
Her voice has a weird coarseness and impurity. Most of you would not consider that as a desirable quality when it comes to Opera. Her voice however, has this magical quality that has made many generations fall in love with her. Her vocal timbre can be described as grainy and strained. Her voice is unique. She has contributed loads to the pantheon of opera recordings when the classical CDs were in their early days. She was embroiled in many scandals in her time but she is remembered today by her beautiful voice and rightly so. She was referred to as (and still is) ‘La Divina’.
1. DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU
A lot of you would agree with this guy holding the number one position. His interpretations of all the roles and what he sang was mind blowing. If you listen to his recordings of Lied, you will know what I am talking about. His singing styles are still unparalleled in many aspects. He seems to have preferred the lighter roles like Mozart and Masses. If demanded however, his voice was capable to deliver the heaviness and that can be seen in his performances as Wolfram and Scarpia. His entire career is very impressive although, he is most known for his recordings of Lied.