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Five Famous Male Opera Singers in the First Half of the 20th Century

Updated on April 10, 2016

Famous Male Opera Singers

Have you ever thought that any past time was better? that the people of the past were giants dwarfing us? Me? I have never believed to be a sentimentalist, more often than not the opposite is true and I believe in the progress of humanity. However, In the opera world in particular, and when I compare the Opera singers of the past with the present ones, I can't stop thinking about that golden times really existed, as cheesy as it sounds, and sadly they will never be again.

Fortunately, we have recordings of those times to help us to remember part of that glorious past. In this Hub I am going to list five of my favorite male opera singers of the past, that any opera lover should listen at least once.

Famous Tenor Enrico Caruso
Famous Tenor Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso

Of course, the first spot in this list is for Caruso. He has developed into a legend in the opera world with the perfect voice to sing the new spinto roles of the beginning of the century. If you listen to the early recordings you can instantaneously noticed that the tenors of the older generation had problems with these roles. Caruso showed the way to sing these operas and practically changed the way in which an Opera was sung after him "inspiring" the next generations of tenors with his singing. And that without mention that he was one of the pillars of the recording industry of that time with more than one million records sold.

Feodor Chaliapin
Feodor Chaliapin

Feodor Chaliapin

When you are speaking about fame in the opera world and in the male opera singers’s continent in particular, you are speaking about tenors, nothing more. So, what is doing a bass here, you may be wondering? The truth is that Chaliapin was one of the most famous and greatest opera singers, not only of the beginning of the twentieth century, but of all time and only other true great artist as Caruso can compete with him. Chaliapin had a power in his voice, an extraordinary range and flexibility, and such expressiveness that almost makes you forget that the Opera remembers him for making the drama and the acting equal with the music. His recording of the Volga boatmen was one of the most important hits from an opera singer in the beginning of the century.

Famous male opera singers: Miguel Fleta
Famous male opera singers: Miguel Fleta

Miguel Fleta

No singer in the history of the opera became so famous in so short amount of time as Miguel Fleta did. A true shooting star in the opera world. His reign sadly didn't last long, but for his listeners was glorious nonetheless. He was a Spanish tenor who started to sing at the beginning of the twenties. A beautiful and potent voice with a warm color made him one of the most acclaim tenors of his generation. He sang with a voice full of expression and sensual warmth, but with a well-developed technique that permitted him to show all the qualities of his amazing registry. The audience practically stirred into a craze when he sang. A pity that he haven’t left us more records to enjoy his art.

Tito Schipa
Tito Schipa

Tito Schipa

Poise, style, grace, clarity and purity, are the words that attempt to describe the singing and voice of Tito Schipa. For me the best way to describe him is saying that he was unique, a one of a kind singer that you recognize instantaneously. I think that never an opera singer achieved so much with so little. Don’t misunderstand me, he had a beautiful light voice that can ring within a certain range, but his technique enabled him to produce his light voice to carry it in the world’s largest houses, like the Teatro Colon or the Metropolitan. From his debut in 1910 to his last concert in 1962 he was certainly one of the famous opera singers of the twentieth century.

Beniamino Gigli
Beniamino Gigli

Beniamino Gigli

The best way to describe Beniamino Gigli is saying that he was a popular singer. He was generous with his art and the people loved him for this. There are uncountable anecdotes about him singing in the street or climbed up a car and singing on top of it because the public refused to leave without listening one more time. However if we only center in his singing ability. We can say that he has a style of singing that on one hand lack of certain refinement, but on the other hand can truly move his audience. But whatever his stylistic shortcoming could have been they were more than compensated by his voice, considered the most beautiful tenor voice of the century. And it is certainly true that opera fans could be moved by many things in their appreciation of the Opera as an art, but they certainly are moved by nothing quite so much as by beauty.


Some time ago I was listening L'ultima canzone by Tosti sung by Georges Thill and did a search in the Internet to read the lyrics of the song. To my surprise most of the google first page was full with the version of Andrea Bocelli, and I could not stop thinking that If the Internet had existed in the first half of the past century, the Gigli version surely would have been first. That was almost too much for my faith in the progress.

L'ultima Canzone by Beniamino Gigli


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  • rjsadowski profile image

    rjsadowski 6 years ago

    An iteresting collection of singers. I was not familiar with Fleta or Chaliapin. You don't run into their recordings very often.

  • Billrrrr profile image

    Bill Russo 6 years ago from Cape Cod

    The recording success of the artists you mention was perhaps due more to the loudness and power of their voices than to their technical skills. They recorded in the acoustic/pre-electric days, when disc quality was in direct proportion to vocal strength. Microphones had not been invented. The performer sang into a cone device connected to a diaphragm which was hoooked directly to the instrument that cut the grooves into the disc. This is also the reason that few women had success in recording prior to microphones being introduced around 1925. The notable exception was the great Alma Gluck who was able to make spectacular recordings. Her "Ave Maria" produced over 100 years ago is available on Youtube as well as in an article on Hubpages.

    I think Mario Lanza is the finest recorded tenor of all time.

  • John Sarkis profile image

    John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

    Nice hub. Thanks for sharing

  • vtotheyouknow profile image

    vtotheyouknow 7 years ago

    Nice List!

  • profile image

    erdrick 8 years ago

    well.. I think you're overlooking one of the three greatest tenors of all time Jussi Bjoerling(along with Caruso and Gigli).I'm quite surprised he didn't make your list.