It is unfortunate that many pop music lovers still think of opera singers as homely fat divas whose idea of acting consists of standing rooted to one spot while belting out really loud high notes. Well, that may have been the relative norm of stellar opera singers from around a century ago, but time has changed. The operatic world today is densely populated by svelte singers who would not look out of place on fashion magazine covers. This list contains just ten or the many czgowchwz operatic leading men (the women will require an article of their own) guys should never leave their gals alone with. Not for anything these tuneful heart-throbs would do, mind you, but quite the other way around!
1. Jonas Kaufmann: This born and bred Bavarian can easily pass for a darkly masculine Greek god. But even if he doesn’t (pass as a Greek god), Jonas Kaufmann is perhaps the most versatile of operatic leading tenors operating in many decades. Name the operatic sub-genre and chances are good that he has excelled in it. Anything from Monteverdi to Mozart, Wagner, Schubert, Verdi, Puccini, and even to contemporary composer (click here for a sample video of him). As Lohengrin, Don Jose, Don Carlo, and many other operatic heroes, Kaufmann on the stage exudes such animal magnetism that he can hold his audiences’ undivided attention even when silent and surrounded by a stage-ful of shirtless baritones. Somehow managing to juggle a very successful opera career with his blossoming marriage (complete with three happy kids), the handsome singing thespian was recently named ECHO Klassik’s 2010 Singer of the Year.
2. Charles Castronovo: A rock music lover New Yorker boy next door turned operatic heart throb, Charles Castronovo is the current lyric tenor of choice in roles like Nadir (in Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”), Belmonte, or Nemorino (in Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love”). Tall and lanky with well-sunned complexion (he is half Sicilian and half Ecuadorian), Castronovo was lured into investigating classical singing by the promise of being vastly outnumbered by girls. It must have worked out well since he ran into his equally talented (and very pleasing to behold) wife, the Russian soprano Ekaterina Siurina when they joined the same cast in Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” at the Berlin State Opera five years ago. A dream couple if there ever was one!
3. Juan Diego Florez: Peru seems a world away from the operatic mainstream, but when it comes to opera, the little country on the Andes has produced more than its fair share of red hot singing virtuosos. Juan Diego Florez, the 37 years young current operatic King of the High C’s, is the latest Peruvian tenor to regularly rock the operatic stage with his vocal prowess and lady-killing Latino good look. He burst onto the world stage at the Pesaro Rossini Festival in 1996 and has since cornered the market on virtuoso bel canto leading tenor roles such as Alvino in “La Sonnambula”, Almaviva in “The Barber of Seville”, Tonio from “The Daughter of the Regiment”, etc). To add to his hipness, Florez is among the many classically trained singers whose musical appreciation reaches far beyond the tux and gown boundary. He even likes jazz!
4. Vittorio Grigolo: Dubbed by the press as “Il Pavarottino” after Pavarotti himself the young star a compliment this baby-face charming ex-choir boy from Tuscany had the spine to walked away from Simon Cowell’s Il Divo to earn world opera stardom on his own vocal strength and willingness to give on the stage. His meteoric rise coincided with the opera world’s search for the next ‘great tenor’, Grigolo made a big splash at his Metropolitan Opera debut as Rodolfo in “La Boheme” last month and is looking extremely busy for the foreseeable future. A true representative of the less snobbish generation of opera enthusiasts, Grigolo enjoys singing pop music just as much as he does opera!
5. Stephen Costello: This young American tenor had a good operatic debut in 2006 and has continued his rise to the top of the operatic leading men list ever since. The winner of many prestigious singing prize including the 2009 Richard Tucker Award, Costello is known for his gorgeous lyric tenor voice and absolute security on his top notes. He is beloved in romantic roles like Gounod’s Romeo, Rodolfo, and Percy in Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena”, and often performs with his equally gorgeous wife, Ailyn Perez.
6. Philippe Jaroussky: Being a sopranist countertenor, Jaroussky’s appeal is perhaps more potent among the less sexually rigid opera fans than the other artists on this list. This suave French star specializes in the Baroque opera roles that were written for the soprano castrato, where he entrances his audience with his angelic voice on top of his witty stage presence. According to an interview with Cleveland Classical’s Cree Carrico, Jaroussky studied the violin and the piano before taking up singing… as a baritone! I’m sure many fans of the Baroque opera are quite happy that he abandoned that vocal Fach for the higher voice, however. There aren’t enough virtuoso countertenors to go around, and he is one of the best.
7. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo: Enough with the high-voiced men! The operatic world today would be considerably less sexy without the presence of the (preferably shirtless) barihunks. And, arguably, the hunkiest of the bunch is this gentle bass-baritonal Adonis from coastal Pescara, Italy. Dark, tall, and way too handsome Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is indeed the arch-angel in charismatic deep-voiced bel canto roles like Mozart’s Figaro, Leporello, and the bull-fighting Escamillo in Bizet’s “Carmen”. Truth be told, though, he is no slouch in the rapid fire music from the Baroque period either.
8. Dmitri Hvorostovsky: Known among opera-loving females as the Operatic Richard Gere, this charismatic Siberian gray wolf boasts both an imposing physique and an even more arrestingly rich baritone voice. His smooth as silk acoustic gold floods the hall and indiscriminately floors the audience. Straight men want to be his drinking buddies, gay ones and their female companions would love to call him honey. Alas, like most of the other well chiseled men on this list, gorgeous Dima is already claimed and domesticated – except for when he is on the stage and encouraging his beholders to use their imagination, that is.
9. Erwin Schrott: Up until a couple of years ago this statuesque Uruguayan bass-baritone was known more as the husband of Anna Netrebko, opera’s favorite dark-voiced goddess next door. Since shedding his excess poundage a few years ago, however, Mr. Schrott is proving as head-turning as his wife is, especially in his decidedly bewitching turn as Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
10. Nathan Gunn: “A (sic) Opera is like a hamburger — a really good hamburger, though. You know, people think of opera as being really sophisticated, and it is sometimes. But I think opera — it’s a hamburger, or a great steak. It’s a steak that you eat when you’re really in the mood. You go out to get a certain cut, and you eat it, and it has tons of nutrients in it, and you feel satisfied afterward.” So said American baritone Nathan Gunn during an interview with Richard Sheinin for the Mercury News this past September. Truth be told, many opera goers can certainly relate this hunky father of five to a juicy organic hamburger serenading at them from the (hopefully) well lit stage. He was one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive in 2008 and has appeared on cross-culturally popular the Colbert Report, Gunn is in demand as Papageno, Guglielmo, Billy Budd, and Prince Tarquinius (in Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia”.
There are so many more opera leading men whose sizzling physique and vocal presence merit a place on this list, of course. I don’t regret not being able to fit them all into this meager list. We opera fans must, after all, keep some delicious secrets to our hunky-hungry selves. If you would like to investigate further into just how much sex appeal opera is hiding up its modern sleeves, all you have to do is check out the opera theater nearby or try to catch the next Met HD Broadcast to the cinema theaters!
– Charlene Baldridge. Married Opera Singers Reunite For The Pearl Fishers. North County Times. 30 April 2008.
– Michael White. The Great Tenor Hope (Just Ask Him). New York Times. 14 October 2010.
– Cree Carrico. An Interview With Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Cleveland Classical. 25 January 2010.
– Richard Sheinin. Baritone Nathan Gunn Will Help Symphony Silicon Valley Open New Season. Mercury News.