Greatest Italian Tenors,

Italian Tenors

My love of opera, not necessarily Italian tenors, started at an incredibly young age. My grandfather (Pop) would play his 78rpm records (vinyl discs played on a Victrola) and I would sit with him and listen, especially to Enrico Caruso. The sound wasn’t really that good but nonetheless beautiful to hear.

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Junior High School aka Middle School

It was in Junior High School that my music appreciation grew as I was taught to play the Trombone. Our music teacher was Mr. Joseph Presti – a character if there ever was one, but he continued my love of opera and Italian tenors. He was tough and demanding but considered the best by all the other music teachers in the public school system. 

If by chance you played a wrong note, he would stop the class and have you come up to the front of the room. You would assume the position (toes to the wall and elbows in the chalk/eraser holder with your butt sticking out. He would take his hickory stick and snap it on your backside. If that weren’t bad enough, you would have to reply after every swat “Thank you Mr. Presti may I please have another.” The best part of music class – every Friday was opera day. We would listen to tenors singing arias and then we would critique each performance.

Growing Up

After JHS through high school and into my early 20s my appreciation of all things musical was continued by Elliott, my stepfather. He loved the opera, Broadway musicals, plays, and the ballet and hence, I got to enjoy them too. Needless to say, I grew to become quite critical of poor performances and artists. Today, I love listening to operatic arias on my music devices and, of course, my favorite tenors are Italian. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good tenors that are not Italian, but my favorites are most definitely – Italian.   

Research on Italian Tenors

To write this post I did my homework and pulled up lists of the best tenors. The ones I never heard of I would “Google” their names and listen to their performances. After, I couldn’t rate them if I didn’t know their work. I also looked at other sites to see who they thought were the best Italian tenors. So, without further ado here is my list of the top 10 Italian Tenors:

Italian Tenors:

1. Luciano Pavarotti, to me he had the purest voice and best range of any other tenor. He just made it look so easy and natural to hit all the notes perfectly. I think Pop would have agreed with me here.
2. Enrico Caruso,  even though his recordings were on discs and scratchy at best listening to him sing was a pure joy to me. If not for Pavarotti he would be my hands-down number one.
3. Andrea Bocelli, even though he isn’t considered a true opera performer I rate him this high up on my list. He is extremely easy to listen to and has an incredibly good range and a deep sounding voice.
4. Lauri Volpe, I must admit I had no idea who he was. He also has good range but tends to be better on the higher notes than the low notes.
5. Beniamino Gigli, another easy to listen to voice but more suited to the higher ranges.

And now for the rest…

6. Tito Schipa, I am grouping numbers 6,7, and 8 together as I thought were somewhat limited ranges but nonetheless quite easy to listen to
7. Franco Corelli
8. Carlo Bergonzi
9. Mario Lanza, my grandmother’s (Nanny’s) favorite was an American/Italian singer more famous as a crooner than an opera performer.
10. Placido Domingo, although considered the best by some of the music critics and writers, I tend to disagree. His voice is not as strong as most of the above tenors. His range was a bit limited to the mid ranges and his sound was a bit choppy to me. If you listen to and see the performance of the Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carerras) you will notice Domingo and Carreras looking at Luciano Pavarotti in awe of his voice.

Our Italy Opera Adventures:

We also enjoyed Rigoletto when we stayed 90 days in Rome at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

I would love to hear your favorite Italian tenors and your reasons why you like them to help broaden my perspective.
Greatest Italian Tenors,


  1. I am Italian and Irish ,my dad ,when 6 years of age came from Naples Italy ,my mom was from Cape Breton ,Nova Scotia Canada. my mom came on a visit ,met my dad and the rest is history. I love traditions from both side ,but lean more toward the italian side ,especially the music. I believe ,when God sent music to this earth ,He sent the best to Italy. I love the Italian language and it’s music .I love the Three Tenors ,although Pavarotti has passed away ,but we can still hear his voice.My favorite is Pavarotti and Bocelli .I love the way Pavarotti sings O Sole Mio

    1. What a wonderful comment, Rose! Thank you so much. Italian music does seem to to transport me elsewhere. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this post.

  2. I believe your rating needs to be grounded in greater musical knowledge especially of the voice. Rating the greats is difficult, though I would not include Bocelli even though he is pleasant to listen to and contributed to music appreciation of many who may not have been attracted to opera otherwise. I would certainly include Pavarotti, Caruso (though we never heard him perform live) Gili, Bergonzi, Corelli, and definitely Domingo who proved himself early in his career. I am still a devotee of Lanza having owned all his recordings and grieved for the loss of a huge talent at a young age. Although not Italian Jonas Kauman is a must to list as he has a most unique timbre. I am sure that there are more with who I am not familiar, but I love to listen to any great voice and even sing with them.

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