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Art of the Bel Canto Singing Voice by Gio    R.M.S. Titanic  
Tenors--The Kings of Opera by Gio Jeanette and Nelson--Two Singing Voices by Gio
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Golden Era of Bel Canto Music



Tenors, the Kings of Opera

by Gio

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    The kings of opera are tenors. Classified as lyrical, spinto, and dramatic, these three types of male singing voices are what comprise the thrilling art form of opera. The tenor voice, which is not a normal voice, has to be built. This is what makes it rare. Tenor voices are categorized by its Tessitura (the comfortable singing range), the color, and the weight in the voice.


    Taking a closer look at these three voices, the lyrical tenor’s voice is the lightest weight voice with great agility. The spinto tenor’s voice has more color and weight, and is stronger in texture and body. Completing the group is the remarkable dramatic tenor, which is the strongest voice, capable of singing the heaviest of operas. Although the voice may not always be as high as the lyric or spinto voices; nevertheless, the dramatic tenor has unbelievable staying power, and it is capable of singing for hours on end.


    How they differ is what determines the type of roles and operas they sing. Similar to a sparkling Chardonnay or Pinot Noir white wine, the lyrical voice, with its high range and airiness is softly suited for romantic operettas or comic grand operas. Famous singers in history were a young Caruso (in his early twenties), Gigli, Schippa, and Tauber. The color and weight of the spinto voice, like that of a robust Cabinet Sauvignon red wine, can perform some comic operas; but, it is ideally suited for the romantic, dramatic roles which require greater vocal strength. Names like Caruso (in his early thirties), Martinelli, Bergonzi, and Corelli are just some of the great spinto tenors who have excited the operatic world. Very rare is the dramatic voice. It is called upon to sing the most heaviest and enduring tenor roles. Due to the weight and color required to sing some dramatic tenor roles, a lyric baritone (a vocal range just beneath the tenor) has performed these dramatic operas. Great tenors like Lauritz Melchoir, a matured Caruso (in his forties), Mario Del Monico, Franco Corelli—or Jon Vickers, are part of an elite group of rare singers who have successfully sung these super-human roles.


    The opera composer can be a great indicator of what type of tenor voice a singer is. Mozart and many of the nineteenth century composers: Lalo, Bizet, Rossini, Massenet, Offenbach ... composed their operas for the light and lofty voice of the lyric tenor. Whereas, a young Verdi (in his thirties and forties), Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini ... had composed many of their robusto operas for the spinto tenor who loved, cried or died as he sang the high-C. The temperament and greater demands placed on this tenor has made him a special favorite with audiences for over one hundred and seventy-five years. The last group of composers—Beethoven, Wagner, and a very mature Verdi (in his sixties) is classified as "genius." Understanding the complexities they placed on the dramatic tenor, they expected—after the orchestra, chorus, and a superb supporting cast had all performed molto alto e forte (very loud and strong)—it would be the tenor’s voice heard soaring over everyone else.


    The great marvel about the human voice is its ability to mature. Where a tenor in his younger days may have sung strictly lyrical roles, by his mid-thirties he would have expanded his repertoire to include the more spirited, spinto roles. In all probability, he would finish his singing career performing both styles of operas. However, only a few tenors have been able to make the transition to the dramatic roles; and yet, still be able to maintain the lyrical and spinto operas in his repertoire. Heading this list or any other voice classification or group listing, is the great Enrico Caruso, without a doubt, the greatest voice the world has ever heard. He sang all three tenor roles. In addition, on one very rare occasion he did something at the Metropolitan Opera House that has never been duplicated. While singing the last act of La Boheme; knowing that the bass was under the weather, Caruso turned his back to the audience and sang the bass’s aria. The audience never knew what had occurred.

Yes, there are great singers ranging from the high coloratura sopranos to the deep basses—and then there are the rarest of all human voices—the Kings of Opera—the tenors!






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