CD Review: Ten Top Tenors


Ten Top Tenors is a double CD set which brings together the voices of some of the most prodigiously talented singers of our times. A compilation from Decca, it’s an entertaining collection that places these voices next to each allowing contrasts and comparisons. The recordings, taken from  each of the decades since the 1960s, also allow a look back at how these singers sounded in earlier years tracing how styles have altered with time.

Ten Top Tenors does not claim to be a comprehensive collection of star tenors, but it has gathered onto a handy double album a substantial and appealing assortment of elite singers – accompanied by notable orchestras and conductors – performing some of their signature repertoire.

Eight of the featured artists are still professionally active – Jonas Kaufmann, Josè Carreras, Andrea Bocelli, Placido Domingo, Roberto Alagna, Juan Diego Flórez, Joseph Calleja and Rolando Villazón. Luciano Pavarotti (d 2007) and Fritz Wunderlich (d 1966) make up the ten.

There are 48 tracks in the collection. The first CD features 24 operatic arias and the second, 24 popular songs and themes. The opening track on CD 1 is one of the most iconic operatic performances of the 20th century – Pavarotti singing Nessun dorma with Zubin Mehta conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Pavarotti also sings O soave fanciulla from La bohème, Brindisi from La traviata and La donna è mobile from Rigoletto. Kaufmann sings the great romantic arias from Carmen and Tosca – roles that he had been singing for some years. More interesting is his performance of Mein lieber Schwan! from Lohengrin, recorded in 2009 with the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge, just three years after he took his first steps in singing Wagner with Parsifal in 2006.

From the Baroque repertorie, Rolando Villazón sings Handel; Wunderlich sings Mozart and light opera by Kálmán. The bel canto arias are taken on by Josè Carreras and Juan Diego Flórez who performs Ah! mes amis from La Fille du règiment, with its improbable nine top Cs; Joseph Calleja, the youngest in the assemblage (b 1978) and thus with a discography that is not yet as extensive as his colleagues’ has just one entry on the opera CD with Addio, fiorito asil from Madama Butterfly.

The second disc contains film themes, Neopolitan songs, Sicilian songs, art song, sacred music and others. Highlights include Pavarotti singing O sole mio and Placido Domingo singing No puede sor by Sorozábal from the Spanish Zarzuela tradition and Dein ist mein ganzes Herz by Lehár.

Performing with the tenors on both CDs are an array of stars – there is a surreptitious appearance by bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as he joins Andrea Bocelli in the duet Au fond du temple saint from The Pearlfishers by Bizet; violinist Nicola Benedetti slips in under the radar to join Joseph Calleja in a delightful rendition of Leoncavallo’s Mattinata; a troupe of Latin American musicians play their native instruments accompanying Carreras in the Kyrie from Ramírez’s Missa Criolla with the composer himself playing the piano and harpsichord; Karajan conducts the Berlin Philharmoniker, Abbado and Paul McCreesh are present with their respective creations – the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Gabrieli Players; Riccardo Chailly, Marco Armiliato and Sir Antonio Pappano are all amongst the illustrious conductors on the recording.

The booklet accompanying the double album has images of all the tenors, brief biographical notes, quotes from them and trivia. The tenors are depicted in amusing style like sporting stars on collectable cards.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©






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