40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers

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I hear all too often that there are “no good singers nowadays.” Wrong! There are so many wonderful young artists around but, given how little opera is covered in the media apart from waistlines and waste of money, audiences have little guidance. With the recording industry scarcely involved in documenting the work of young artists, and DVDs becoming passé, the next generation is mostly invisible to audiences clamoring for talent.

Although a few (Javier Camarena, Danielle DeNiese, Elina Garanca, Angela Meade, Luca Pisaroni) have managed to break through and establish major followings, there are many more who merit your attention and support through the purchase of tickets to performances they are in. I have selected 40 of them with an arbitrary age limit of 40. And, because they are young people, almost all of them have websites you can discover by clicking on the links after their names. This article is about male singers; the next will introduce you to some future divas.

Aleksandrs Antonenko, tenor from Latvia, a nation that has produced a remarkable crop of young artists, began with lyric parts but has quickly undertaken more dramatic repertory including Otello. If he picks his roles with care and marshals his resources, he should be a valuable presence for some time to come.


Paul Appleby, tenor, successfully anchored the Met premiere of Two Boys last autumn in the central role of Brian. He will be prominent at the Met next season, with Die Meistersinger and the lead in The Rake’s Progress.


Javier Camarena, tenor, had a “star-is-born” spring at the Met in La Sonnambula (with Diana Damrau) and La Cenerentola (with Joyce DiDonato), fully deserving the accolades and ovations he received. He sings a lot in Zurich and will surely be much in demand for a long time to come.

Javier Camarena delivers rare encore in La Centerentola at the Met (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

Fabio Capitanucci, baritone from Rome, has quickly established himself in major opera houses, especially La Scala, for works by Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini. At the Met, he gave one of the most heartfelt and beautifully sung performances as Marcello in La Bohéme I have been present at in a very long time.


Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor, shows the talent, focus, intelligence and refinement of someone much older than his 32 years, but also brings youthful energy and a wonderful stage personality to his brilliant singing. When he is not appearing in the world’s top theaters, he teaches at Princeton University!


Stephen Costello, tenor, is often paired onstage, and in media coverage, with his wife soprano Ailyn Pérez. They make a great team but are also notable artists on their own. Costello sings many of the Italian and French leading man roles and is a natural.


Michael Fabiano, tenor, turned 30 on May 8 and his stock is soaring. Not only does he have a beautiful voice but sings with an edgy imperative that reminds me of the young Carreras and Domingo. He is the most recent recipient of the Beverly Sills Artist Award given by the Met to talented singers under 40.


Andrew Garland, baritone, is a superb interpreter of opera from Monteverdi to the present day and one of the best recitalists of his generation. He is admired in the music business and deserves recognition among audiences. He appears in La Calisto this July in Cincinnati and in Ariadne auf Naxos at Seattle Opera in May 2015.


Bryan Hymel, tenor from New Orleans (below), saved the show in London and New York by stepping in for colleagues in the daunting role of Enée in Les Troyens and has never looked back. His sound is muscular and lyrical all at once. I enjoyed him recently as Puccini’s Edgar opposite Angela Meade in Frankfurt. He has an appealing mix of standard and unusual repertory in upcoming appearances and is one of the rare young artists to record a solo album for a major label.

Quinn Kelsey, baritone, has already proved a powerful Rigoletto in Zurich, was a memorable Paolo in Simon Boccanegra in Rome, directed by Riccardo Muti, and a splendidly sympathetic Sancho Panza opposite Ferruccio Furlanetto’s Don Quixote in Toronto. Furlanetto calls him “my baby” and sees Kelsey as one of the great talents of his generation.


John Osborn, tenor, is 41 but belongs on this list. While Lawrence Brownlee and Juan Diego Flórez (both just over 40 as well) and Javier Camarena had great success at the Met this spring and were dubbed the “Three Bel Canto Tenors,” the Iowa-born Osborn took Europe by storm in William Tell (Amsterdam, Turin), Norma (Salzburg) and other roles requiring bel canto flexibility and dramatic oomph. He and Flórez join Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona in the not-to-miss La Donna del Lago at the Met in February 2015.


Sean Pannikar, tenor, who has talent and good looks, will be in The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met this fall. He and Danielle DeNiese, both of Sri Lankan heritage, would provide dream casting in a production of The Pearl Fishers.


Luca Pisaroni, bass-baritone, is one of the finest artists of his generation for his intelligence, versatility, spontaneity, beautiful voice and expert musicianship. He grew up in Busseto, Verdi’s hometown, but sings Mozart, Haydn, Handel, is superb in German song literature and excelled in English as Caliban in The Enchanted Island at the Met. Everybody loves Luca.

Luca Pisaroni performed in The Greene Space at WQXR in 2011