Top Opera Music Singers of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of the best opera music singers of all time, including Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo.

Maria Callas

Greek soprano Maria Callas, born in 1923, was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. She had a rare combination of charisma, vocal power, and stage presence. After a struggle with weight issues and an tumultuous affair with billionaire Aristotle Onassis, Callas’s career entered a decline in the early 1960s. But her voice and artistry were so distinctive that she continued to be in demand as a live performer until her last year. In 1977, Callas died at age 53 of heart failure.

Luciano Pavarotti

One of the most popular opera singers of all time, Luciano Pavarotti was born in 1935 in Modena, Italy. He began his singing career in 1961 and quickly rose to fame, due in part to his large and powerful voice. He particularly excelled in the works of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. Throughout his career, Pavarotti performed at some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, including La Scala in Milan and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He also gave many memorable concerts, including a legendary performance at New York’s Central Park in 1993 that drew an audience of over 500,000 people. Pavarotti died in 2007 at the age of 71.

Placido Domingo

Plácido Domingo is a Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator who has sung 140 different roles in 1,400 performances. In addition to his work as an opera singer, he has also sung zarzuela and operetta roles, as well as popular songs, lieder, and arias. He has also made many recordings of his operatic and popular repertoire, and has won fourteen Grammy Awards.

Joan Sutherland

Joan Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE (7 November 1926 – 10 October 2010) was an Australian operatic soprano noted for her colouratura technique. She sang a wide variety of roles from the 17th century to the 20th, but is particularly associated with bel canto works.

Sutherland made her professional opera debut in 1946 as Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the New South Wales Opera Company. She soon rose to prominence in Australia, where she performed primarily with the Australian Opera (now Opera Australia) during the 1950s and 1960s, before undertaking an international career. She debuted at Covent Garden in 1959 as Lucia di Lammermoor, which led to further engagements there, including Geneviève in Darius Milhaud’s La dernière pomme and the title role of Handel’s Alcina. She also frequently performed with other European opera companies such as La Scala in Milan and the Vienna State Opera. After retiring from the opera stage in 1990, she continued to appear in recitals until 1994.

Sutherland is noted for her stage partnerships with Australian tenor Richard Bonynge; their marriage lasted from 1954 until his death in 1994. Together they established The Sutherland-Williamson International Academy of Voice from through which they trained many young singers over a period of more than 20 years. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 11 May 1979 for services to music, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) on 26 January 1983. In June 1991 she was awarded both The Queen’s Birthday Honour as a Dame Grand Cross (GCVO) and The Companion’s Award ‘for service to music’ byQueen Elizabeth II.”’

Renee Fleming

Fleming has won numerous awards throughout her career, including the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance four times. She is known as “The First Lady of Song” and has received wide acclaim for her interpretations of opera and lyric music.

Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel Jones, CBE is a Welsh bass-baritone opera singer. Terfel was initially associated with roles requiring athleticism and vigour, such as Pistola in Verdi’s Falstaff, but he has subsequently shifted his focus to Mozart roles such as Figaro and Don Giovanni,bede and Wotan in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Natalie Dessay

Natalie Dessay is a French opera singer who had a highly successful career both in France and internationally. She was born on April 19, 1965, in Lyon, France. After studying voice at the Conservatoire National deRegion de Bordeaux, she made her professional debut in 1988 in the role of Mimì in La Bohème at the Opéra de Nice.

Dessay’s first major success came in 1991 when she won first prize at the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg. This led to engagements at some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Vienna State Opera, Milan’s La Scala, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She became particularly well-known for her performances of the roles of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata and Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.

Dessay was also a highly acclaimed recording artist. She released several solo albums as well as several collaborative albums with other leading opera singers. Her recordings of French operatic arias were particularly praised. In 2013, she announced her retirement from the stage due to problems with her vocal cords.

Rolando Villazon

Rolando Villazon is a French tenor who first rose to international fame in the early 2000s. He was born in Mexico to a French mother and Mexican father, and began his singing career as a child. He has gone on to perform at some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Royal Opera House.

Villazon’s voice is light and lyrical, making him well-suited to roles in Italian and French opera. He has sung a wide range of roles, from excitable young lovers to tragic heroes. His interpretation of the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” was particularly praised, with one critic describing his performance as “powerfully moving.”

While Villazon has mainly focused on opera, he has also ventured into other genres of music. He released an album of popular Spanish songs in 2006, which was certified double platinum in Mexico. He has also recorded duets with some of the world’s most famous singers, including Sting, Placido Domingo, and Natalie Dessay.

Jonas Kaufmann

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed opera singers. He has won numerous awards and has sung at the most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Royal Opera House.

Kaufmann was born in Munich in 1969. He began his musical training at a young age, studying piano and clarinet. He later studied voice at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

Kaufmann made his professional debut in 1996, singing the role ofDon Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. He quickly rose to prominence, singing leading roles at some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses.

In 2010, Kaufmann sang the title role in Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera, becoming the first German singer to perform this role at the Met in over 50 years.

Kaufmann is known for his masterful vocal technique, beautiful tone, and compelling stage presence. He is equally comfortable singing both lyrical Italian roles and dramatic German roles.

Some of Kaufmann’s most famous roles include Faust (Gounod), Don Carlos (Verdi), Parsifal (Wagner), Siegmund (Wagner), and Andrea Chénier (Giordano).

Anna Netrebko

Anna Yuryevna Netrebko is a Russian operatic soprano. She now holds dual Russian and Austrian citizenship and resides in Vienna, Austria, where she currently works. Netrebko was born in Krasnodar, Russia, graduated from the Moscow State University of Culture and Arts in 1992, joined the Vienna State Opera’s company of artists in 1995. She made her solo debut as Natasha Rostov in War and Peace in 2002, soon afterwards appearing as Lyudmila in Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila. Her performance was so successful that she became a frequent soloist at the Vienna State Opera.

In 2003 she performed her first Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. She quickly won critical acclaim for her performances of Donna Anna, Amina in La sonnambula, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Violetta Valéry in La traviata, Zuckerbaby (Baby Doe) in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Lucy Advertising size-5 shoes-eee true skies limit 12 inches reading pa Brown (L’Histoire du soldat), Countess Almaviva The Marriage of Figaro), Helena Midsummer Night’s Dream), Despina Così fan tutte), Konstanze Die Entführung aus dem Serail) among others.

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