The greatest tenor?

After the sad demise of Pavarotti, most opera lovers would probably rank Placido Domingo as the top living tenor. Me too.

BBC Music Magazine polled a panel of 16 critics a few months ago and Domingo outranked Pavarotti (and even Caruso) to take top spot.

But I’d be just as happy to queue to see an exciting younger talent who always thrills the house on his regular visits to Covent Garden – the Argentinian Marcelo Alvarez.

The top five tenors in the BBC Music poll were:

1. Domingo
2. Caruso
3. Pavarotti
4. Wunderlich
5. Bjorling

I hardly know the recordings of Wunderlich or Bjorling, so I must investigate: joy to come!

Gerry Smith


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8 Responses to “The greatest tenor?”

  1. Christine Says:

    Bjoerling WAS wonderful and so were the others but Marcelo Alvarez IS great, NOW!!!

    If you like, see my website for Marcelo, all posts are in English.


  2. Sonetto Says:

    Domingo deserves the top spot. I differ on the subject of Caruso, unless some credit is being given for his enormous influence in making the tenor voice popular. Wunderlich should be given second place, Caruso third, Bjorling fourth, Pavarotti fifth. (The best comparison I’ve read for Pavarotti and Domingo can be found at My personal choices are made on the basis of beauty of voice and musicianship.

    Had Wunderlich lived longer, he might have eclipsed Domingo. Both were superb musicians, Wunderlich on French horn and Domingo on piano and as an orchestra conductor. Bjorling is the least well known in the US, but his CDs are well worth acquiring. Wunderlich died at age 35 and Bjoring age 49. Try the Bach B minor Mass and the Mahler Das Lied von der Erde for Wunderlich, and the Verdi Requiem for Bjorling. Hardly anything Domingo did was sub-par and thus far he has done more than 100 recordings and at age 69 is still adding to his repertoire.

    There is much to enjoy about all five BBC choices and thankfully their legacies have been left to us on recordings.

  3. real tenor Says:

    Bjorling sang very slowly and only with neck which does not require much technique.
    Caruso was also lack of technique.

  4. Domagoj Says:

    I can’t find one role in which Domingo was the best of all tenors. What probably gave him the most credit in this panel is the number of roles he performed and that should be an index of his quality. It probably is but I repeat the first statement : Which role did Domingo perform the best of all tenors ? To be honest I believe he is an overrated tenor and the number of his roles could also be an index of Domingo being a pretentious and non-realistic tenor unlike many others who new what they should and could sing. However, I think that the time will be the best judge because it will probably take 30 or 50 years to objectively evaluate singers like Pavarotti, Domingo or Florez. Their impact on record industry and what one may call show-business is still highly present and I believe that panels like this are seriously conditioned by this fact. You can also find other and even more distinguished persons who have different opinions then this panel presents, it is enough to surf the net. I repeat, the quantity can’t compensate the quality and I believe that Domingo’s quality is far behind the quantity of his roles. In the best scenario he would always be my second choice.

  5. aron Says:

    I don’t understand why Caruso has always been in the top list of great tenors. Some even say that Bjoerling would probably be the best had caruso not been born. Many other tenors sing much better then they do. Carreras, Fisichella, Alagna and Lanza for instance. They definetely sing much better then Caruso. Caruso sings like a baritone approaching the high C. Which is not good at all..

  6. Josh Says:

    Who of you can judge about Caruso? We only have low quality recordings of him. But all people who ever saw him live on stage were overwhelmed by his voice. Even his duett partners forgot to sing their parts at times, because he was so sensational.

  7. Ken Says:

    Without doubt the greatest tenor of all time was Jussi Björling (1911-1960).

  8. Devs Says:

    Listened to them all many times & Bjorling for me followed by Gigli.

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