Best Opera Singers of All Time

After making a list of the best operas, I found myself curious about the best opera singers, so I collected over 25 lists and compiled them into one meta-list of singers from the recorded era.  The list below includes every singer on three or more of the original source lists, arranged by rank, with the most-listed singer on top.  The bolded, underlined numbers indicate the number of lists that the singer was on.  In addition, I have provided country of origin, years of birth and death, vocal range (soprano, tenor, etc.) and a few of the singer’s signature opera roles.

24
Plácido Domingo (Spain, 1941- ) Tenor.
Signature role: Cassio in Otello (Verdi).

22
Luciano Pavarotti (Italy, 1935-2007) Tenor.
Signature roles: Tonio in La fille du régiment (Donizetti); Rodolfo in La bohème (Puccini).

17

Joan Sutherland (Australia, 1926-2010) Soprano.
Signature role: Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti).

15
Maria Callas (US/Greece, 1923-1977) Soprano.
Signature roles: Norma in Norma (Bellini); Violetta in La traviata (Verdi); Floria Tosca in Tosca (Puccini).

12
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
(Germany, 1915-2006) Soprano.
Signature roles: Countess Rosina Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Mozart); The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss).

11
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bulgaria, 1929-2004) Bass.
Signature roles: Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart); King Philip in Don Carlos (Verdi); Boris in Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky).

Mirella Freni (Italy, 1935- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Micaëla in Carmen; Mimi in La bohème (Puccini).

10
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(Germany, 1925- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Papageno in The Magic Flute (Mozart); Rigoletto in Rigoletto (Verdi); Faust in Doktor Faust (Busoni).

9
Jussi Björling (Sweden, 1911-1960) Tenor.
Signature role: Rudolfo in La bohème (Puccini).

Nicolai Gedda (Sweden, 1925- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Lensky in Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky); Chevalier des Grieux in Manon (Massenet).

Sherrill Milnes (US, 1935- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Miller in Luisa Miller (Verdi); Rigoletto in Rigoletto (Verdi); Scarpia in Tosca (Puccini).

Samuel Ramey (US, 1942- ) Bass.
Signature roles: Méphistophélès in Faust (Gounod); Mefistofele in Mefistofele (Boito); Olin Blitch in Susannah (Floyd).

8
Enrico Caruso (Italy, 1873-1921) Tenor.
Signature roles: Radamès in Aida (Verdi); Canio in I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo).

Birgit Nilsson
(Sweden, 1918-2005) Soprano.
Signature roles: Isolde in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Elektra in Elektra (Strauss).

Renata Tebaldi (Italy, 1922-2004) Soprano.
Signature roles: Desdemona in Otello (Verdi); Floria Tosca in Tosca (Puccini).

Leontyne Price (US, 1927- ) Soprano.
Signature role: Aida in Aida (Verdi).

Christa Ludwig (Germany, 1928- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Dorabella in Così fan tutte (Mozart), Leonore/Fidelio in Fidelio (Beethoven); Kundry in Parsifal (Wagner).

7
Beniamino Gigli (Italy, 1890-1957) Tenor.
Signature roles: Canio in I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo); Chevalier des Grieux in Manon Lescaut (Puccini).

Kirsten Flagstad
(Norway, 1895-1962) Soprano.
Signature roles: Isolde in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Sieglinde in Die Walküre (Wagner).

Tito Gobbi (Italy, 1913-1984) Baritone.
Signature roles: Countess Rosina Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Gianni Schicchi in Gianni Schicchi (Verdi); Scarpia in Tosca (Puccini).

Fritz Wunderlich (Germany, 1930-1966) Tenor.
Signature role: Tamino in The Magic Flute (Mozart).

Montserrat Caballé (Spain, 1933- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Norma in Norma (Bellini); Lucrezia Borgia in Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti); Floria Tosca in Tosca (Puccini); Turandot in Turandot (Puccini).

Cecilia Bartoli (Italy, 1966- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Cenerentola in Cenerentola (Rossini); Desdemona in Otello (Verdi).

6
Feodor Chaliapin (Russia, 1873-1938) Bass.
Signature role: Boris in Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky).

Peter Pears (UK, 1910-1986) Tenor.
Signature roles: Peter Grimes in Peter Grimes (Britten); Billy Budd in Billy Budd (Britten); Aschenbach in Death in Venice (Britten).

Carlo Bergonzi (Italy, 1924- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Rodolfo in Luisa Miller (Verdi); Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera (Verdi); Rodolfo in La bohème (Puccini).

Lucia Popp (Slovakia, 1939-1993) Soprano.
Signature roles: Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (Mozart).

Kiri Te Kanawa
(New Zealand, 1944- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Countess Rosina Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss).

José Carreras
 (Spain, 1946- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Don José in Carmen (Bizet); Andrea Chénier in Andrea Chénier (Giordano).

5
Victoria de los Ángeles
 (Spain, 1923-2005) Soprano.
Signature roles: Carmen in Carmen (Bizet); Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly (Puccini).

Piero Cappuccilli
(Italy, 1926-2005) Baritone.
Signature role: Rigoletto in Rigoletto (Verdi).

Galina Vishnevskaya (USSR, 1926-2012) Soprano.
Signature roles: Tatyana in Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky); Lisa in The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky).

Jon Vickers (Canada, 1926- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Tristan in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Siegmund in Die Walküre (Wagner); Otello in Otello (Verdi); Peter Grimes in Peter Grimes (Britten).

Elisabeth Söderström (Sweden, 1927-2009) Soprano.
Signature roles: Jenůfa in Jenůfa (Janáček); Káťa Kabanová in Káťa Kabanová (Janáček); Emilia Marty in The Makropoulos Affair (Janáček).

Hermann Prey (Germany, 1929-1998) Baritone.
Signature roles: Figaro and The Count in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Papageno in The Magic Flute (Mozart); Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini); Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner).

Teresa Stratas (Canada, 1938- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Jenny Smith in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Weill); Lulu in Lulu (Berg).

Philip Langridge (UK, 1939-2010) Tenor.
Signature roles: The Witch in Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck); Aron in Moses und Aron (Schoenberg); Captain Vere in Billy Budd (Britten); Peter Grimes in Peter Grimes (Britten).

Jessye Norman (US, 1945- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Aida in Aida (Verdi); Cassandra in Les Troyens (Berlioz); Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle (Bartók); Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss); Emile Marty in The Makropoulos Case (Janáček).

Peter Dvorský (Czechoslovakia, 1951- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Lensky in Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky); Jenik in The Bartered Bride (Smetana); Števa in Jenůfa (Janáček).

4
Lauritz Melchior (Denmark/US, 1890-1973) Tenor.
Signature roles: Tristan in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Lohengrin in Lohengrin (Wagner); Siegmund in Die Walküre (Wagner).

Rosa Ponselle (US, 1897-1981) Soprano.
Signature roles: Norma in Norma (Bellini); Aida in Aida (Verdi); La Gioconda in La Gioconda (Ponchielli); Carmen in Carmen (Bizet).

Franco Corelli (Italy, 1921-2003) Tenor.
Signature roles: Andrea Chénier in Andrea Chénier (Giordano); Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni); Manrico in Il trovatore (Verdi); Calaf in Turandot (Puccini).

Gianni Raimondi (Italy, 1923-2008) Tenor.
Signature role: Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca (Puccini).

Josephine Veasey (UK, 1930- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Didon and Cassandre in Les Troyens (Berlioz); Marguerite in La damnation de Faust (Berlioz); Dido in Dido and Aeneas (Purcell); Charlotte in Werther (Massenet).

Renata Scotto (Italy, 1934- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Amina in La sonnambula (Bellini); Violetta in La traviata (Verdi); Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Verdi); Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly (Puccini).

Marilyn Horne (US, 1934- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Rinaldo in Rinaldo (Handel); Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri (Rossini); Adalgisa in Norma (Bellini); Carmen in Carmen (Bizet).

Martti Talvela (Finland, 1935-1989) Bass.
Signature roles: The Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos (Verdi); Boris in Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky); King Marke in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Fasolt the Giant in Das Rheingold (Wagner).

Fiorenza Cossotto (Italy, 1935- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Azucena in Il trovatore (Verdi); Amneris in Aida (Verdi).

Gundula Janowitz (Austria, 1937- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Countess Rosina Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Mozart); Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte (Mozart); Arabella in Arabella (Strauss); Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss).

Elena Obraztsova (USSR, 1939- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Carmen in Carmen (Bizet); Princess Eboli in Don Carlos (Verdi); Amneris in Aida (Verdi); Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni); Azucena in Il trovatore (Verdi).

Thomas Allen (UK, 1944- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart); Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte (Mozart); Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini); Billy Budd in Billy Budd (Britten).

Anne Sofie von Otter (Sweden, 1955- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss).

Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Russia, 1962- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Rigoletto in Rigoletto (Verdi); Rodrigo in Don Carlos (Verdi); Eugene Onegin in Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky).

Bryn Terfel (UK, 1965- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); The Dutchman in Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner); Falstaff in Falstaff (Verdi).

3
Ezio Pinza
(Italy, 1892-1957) Bass.
Signature role: Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart).

Hans Hotter (Germany, 1909-2003) Bass-baritone.
Signature roles: Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen (Wagner); Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner); Amfortas in Parsifal (Wagner).

Boris Christoff (Bulgaria, 1914-1992) Bass.
Signature roles: Boris Godunov in Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky); Ivan Susanin in A Life for the Tsar (Glinka).

Gabriel Bacquier (France, 1924- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: The Count in Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart); Scarpia in Tosca (Puccini).

Leonie Rysanek (Austria, 1926-1998) Soprano.
Signature roles: Senta in Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner); Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Verdi); The Kaiserin in Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Strauss); Helena in Aegyptische Helena (Strauss); The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss).

Heather Harper (N. Ireland, 1930- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Elsa in Lohengrin (Wagner); Arabella in Arabella (Strauss); Ellen Oxford in Peter Grimes (Britten); The Governess in The Turn of the Screw (Britten).

Jane Berbié (France, 1931- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature role: Concepción in L’heure espagnole (Ravel).

Janet Baker (UK, 1933- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature role: Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck).

Teresa Berganza (Spain, 1935- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Dorabella in Così fan tutte (Mozart); Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini).

Eva Randová (Germany, 1936- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature role: Kundry in Parsifal (Wagner).

René Kollo (Germany, 1937- ) Tenor.
Signature roles: Tristan in Tristan und Isolde (Wagner); Lohengrin in Lohengrin (Wagner).

Grace Bumbry (US, 1937- ) Soprano/Mezzo-soprano.
Signature roles: Carmen in Carmen (Bizet); Princess Eboli in Don Carlos (Verdi).

Ruggero Raimondi (Italy, 1941- ) Bass-baritone.
Signature roles: Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart); Scarpia in Tosca (Puccini).

Bernd Weikl (Austria, 1942- ) Baritone.
Signature role: Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner).

Aage Haugland (Denmark, 1944-2000) Bass.
Signature role: Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier (Strauss).

Frederica von Stade
(US, 1945- ) Mezzo-soprano.
Signature role: Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart).

Katia Ricciarelli (Italy, 1946- ) Soprano.
Signature role: Mimi in La bohème (Puccini).

John Tomlinson (UK, 1946- ) Bass.
Signature role: Wotan in Des Ring der Nibelungen (Wagner).

Simon Keenlyside
(UK, 1959- ) Baritone.
Signature roles: Papageno in The Magic Flute (Mozart); Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni (Mozart); Wozzeck in Wozzeck (Berg).

Renée Fleming (US, 1959- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Countess Rosina Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart); Desdemona in Otello (Verdi); Violetta in La traviata (Verdi); Rusalka in Rusalka (Dvořák); Arabella in Arabella (Strauss); Manon in Manon (Massenet).

Angela Gheorghiu (Romania, 1965- ) Soprano.
Signature roles: Violetta in La traviata (Verdi); Magda in La rondine (Puccini).

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