40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers

The First in a Two-Part Series

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 02:00 PM

Sean Panikkar, tenor Sean Panikkar, tenor (Kristina Sherk)

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


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Comments [42]

nicolehourcade@gmail.com from france

i Am quite surprised because Î don't find Michael Spyres and thecountertenor Fagioli, Cencic, Mehta!!

Jan. 15 2017 11:38 AM

Jonathan Antoine at 21 has more range than any on this list. What a travesty to not include him on this last st

Dec. 18 2016 02:57 AM
Bob Clark from Denver, CO

Might want to keep an eye on Jonathan Antoine from the UK. At 21, he seems to be
on track to be one of the greats.

Feb. 27 2016 08:04 PM
Carol Brinsko from Silver Springs Nv.

I am trying to find "who will sing for us now" Luciano passing was devastating; so I keep watching DVD's of La Boheme and Pavarotti and Friends with Luciano. I have no knowledge of anyone with the voice and warmth of the big man. Love Luciano.

Jul. 28 2015 08:07 AM

Hi I am going to La Donna del Lago with Juan diego Florez and joyce didonato and daniella barcellona and john osborn in my local movie theater

Oct. 13 2014 10:17 PM
Marina from New York

I'm surprised not to see baritone David Adam Moore on the list. Remarkable voice, and he's one of the finest singing actors out there.

Jun. 22 2014 04:15 PM
Iliana from Chicago

Rene Barbera should be on this list. An exceptionally talented tenor.

Jun. 20 2014 05:02 PM


Jun. 19 2014 06:09 PM
Rosanna from NYC

John Holiday, American countertenor, will eventually knock listeners' socks off. He sang the title role in Handel's "Radamisto" at Juilliard Opera last November.

Jun. 19 2014 02:15 AM
Fred Plotkin from New York

To Susan, I did think to include Brandon Jovanovich but he is over 40--to my surprise. But I think he is a great singer.

Jun. 18 2014 01:45 AM
Katie from Europe

'Singers we've heard of in America'. Still missing quite a few....Iestyn Davies, Matthew Rose,Philippe Jarousky,Allan Clayton...there's a big world of opera outside the Met! ;)

Jun. 17 2014 02:52 AM
Susan B. from nyc

Only 13 men? You're missing some good ones. Here are a few more not already mentioned: countertenor Iestyn Davies, tenors Michael Spyres, Brandon Jovanovich (how old IS he?), Daniel Brenna; baritones Stephane Degout, Michael Nagy, bass Štefan Kocán...lucky for us listeners, there is always fabulous talent emerging!

Jun. 16 2014 10:42 PM
Mindi Rayner from New York

Delighted to see that my client Michael Fabiano was mentioned. In addition to winning the Beverly Sills Artist Award for 2014, Michael is also the recipient of the 2014 Richard Tucker Award, making him the first person to win both awards in the same year.

Jun. 16 2014 07:50 PM
Camille from Maryland, USA

I recommend Joel Prieto, young Spanish-born tenor. http://joelprieto.com/

Jun. 16 2014 03:39 PM
richard hogan from mu city

what about cree alyse carrico a very good opera actress, now engaged for chataua festival for the lead ub "baby doe' and recd very good reviews for jennt in Mahagoney' from opera news at the manhattan school of music

Jun. 14 2014 11:42 AM

Arturo Chacon-Cruz. Young. Good looking. Amazing legato and musicality. Killer high notes. I've seen his Rodolfo in a couple of countries, and he may well be his generation's best. World class Duca di Mantova. Sings a hell of a Hoffmann, ta boot.

Jun. 14 2014 12:31 AM
Eliza O'Doherty from Greenville, NC

Mary-Jean O'Doherty is the 1st Prize Winner (Female) PARIS OPERA WARDS 2013. The jury composed of: Sherrill Milnes, Martina Arroyo and Daniel Lipton. http://youtu.be/4lHq7M_w3q0
Mary-Jean studied in Cardiff at the "Cardiff International Academy of Voice" under Dennis O'Neill CBE.
Opera singers are athletes and Mary-Jean has 10 years of dance training, including classical ballet.

Jun. 13 2014 08:41 PM
Pilar from Spain

You missed Philippe Jaroussky, obviously he is one of the greatest!

Jun. 13 2014 08:04 PM
Laura H. from New York

Sorry to see the young French countertenor Christophe Dumaux left off the list; he was brilliant as Tolomeo in the Met's recent production of "Giulio Cesare."

Jun. 13 2014 07:28 PM
Natalie from Auckland NZ

Some wonderful singers to add to your list: this is the golden age of the countertenr, and two excellent representatives are Franco Fagioli and Valer Sabadus. Both can be heard in the recent DVD or Vonci's Artaserse. Yijie Shi is a wonderful bel canto tenor. Alexander Tsymbalyuk has a beautiful resonant bass voice.

Jun. 13 2014 06:05 PM


40 Under 40: The Next Generation of Great Opera Singers

The First in a Two-Part Series

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 02:00 PM
By Fred Plotkin

Jun. 13 2014 04:21 PM
Shaun from Ny,ny

I'm surprised Joshua Benevento a brilliant tenor didn't make the list.

Jun. 13 2014 04:09 PM
Rolliana Scheckler from Wisconsin

Looking forward to hearing about the women singers. Take a look at up and coming mezzo Megan O'Leary.

Jun. 13 2014 03:28 PM

Bravo Fred. We need young talent. Thanks

Jun. 13 2014 03:22 PM
Graham Hurley from UK

Stephen Costello has a great sense of character and theatre,is a talented actor and is true "skin changer" inwardly whilst looking himself on stage. I think his voice has exceptional beauty; vis; " Salud Demeure" at the Tucker Gala. I cannot hold my tears at the beauty of sound at times in this. Perhaps at some other times he forces and drys the quality and pushes sharp, but a voice of huge character which will be a joy for the next 30 years. I always know I will hear something of quality.

Jun. 13 2014 02:24 PM
Fred Plotkin from New York

Gentle reminder to readers: I indicated above that this is the first of a two-part series. This one is about 13 male singers. The next will be about 27 female singers for a total of 40!

Jun. 13 2014 01:28 PM
Joe from New York, NY

Luca Pisaroni was awful as Alidoro in La Cenerentola at the Met this past season. His sound was pushed, forced, and very unpleasant. He needs to stick to smaller houses if he is going to make it to 40.

Jun. 13 2014 11:49 AM
Roswitha from Zurich

I count only 13 names. Who are the others? I'd have a few names to add....

Jun. 13 2014 11:36 AM
Suncatcher from Massachusetts

This is a splendid class this year but the one who stands out in my mind is the amazing lyric tenor, Sean Panikkar! He has been grabbing headlines in the industry all year now with that glorious voice and acting ability. It doesn't hurt either that he is as handsome a he is - I see movies in his future... Word has it, he is as nice as he is a rising star! He is currently in the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute at Opera St Louis, brilliantly directed & designed by the amazing Isaac Mizrahi! Mr. Panikkar is also a very active promoter of Opera across the land. Bravo.

Jun. 13 2014 11:12 AM

Ah! The subtitle doesn't appear here. Looking forward to part 2.

Jun. 13 2014 12:43 AM

This is only 13. Wondering where the other 27 might be…...

Jun. 13 2014 12:42 AM

An auspicious list, Fred. Looking to the future is just what is needed amid the recent opera doom & gloom & sturm und drang. I, too, enjoyed John Osborn at the Met in Armida (also appreciate being able to hear rarer operas there). I loved your excellent interviews with Anthony Roth Costanzo and Luca Pisaroni & look forward to seeing the continuation of your list..... Best wishes to all of the singers for a bright and successful future and thanks for the important and timely reminder that "after all, tomorrow is another day."

Jun. 12 2014 08:09 PM
Gary from New York

This is an excellent list. But I'd also suggest Geraldine Chauvet, who sings all too infrequently in New York. The mezzo's Adriano (Rienzi) was sensational here two years ago. Other than a few appearances at the Metropolitan, her only other New York performance was in the recent Roberto Devereux with Mariella Devia at Carnegie Hall. We should hear more from her.

Jun. 12 2014 06:23 PM

Oh oops! I just realized this was only males. No wonder I was so confused. Disregard my first comment!

Jun. 12 2014 06:21 PM
Dru Daniels

Don't forget about Rebecca Pedersen. She's only 22 and has already won some prestigious competitions (and has some other big things in the works, too)! I bet she'll be bigger than most of the people on this list, though many are great talents, too.

Jun. 12 2014 06:18 PM
Kathleen from San Francisco

Very nice article! I've seen Sean Panniker and Stephen Costello in performance, and they are both excellent. Stephen Costello was an terrific Greenhorn in Moby-Dick, and I am looking forward to seeing him as Alfredo in La Traviata very soon.

Jun. 12 2014 04:10 PM
Fred Plotkin from New York

Sandy, I have no idea... Just honored to be doing the class

Jun. 12 2014 03:29 PM
Sandy from Peterborough, NH

Fred, how come your master class for Martina Arroyo's Role Preparation program on June 27 is not marked for streaming? I would really like to see it.

Jun. 12 2014 03:20 PM
Osborn from Laguna Niguel, CA

Thanks Fred!

Jun. 12 2014 03:19 PM
Sandy from Peterborough, NH

I have heard all but two and agree that they are all wonderful. Will, don't write Stephen Costello off just yet. He sounds as if he is in a bad head space right now, but hopefully he will snap out of it.

Jun. 12 2014 03:14 PM
Will from New Hampshire

Unfortunately, Stephen Costello may not belong on this list to judge by his very poor performance and performing demeanor at a recent Opera Orchestra of New York engagement. That is together with so-so reviews from engagements elsewhere. Mr Antonenko, whom I have heard as Otello, Luigi (Tabarro) and Pollione (Norma) does seem to be in a very good place these days, along with Messers Fabiano, Hymel and an astonishingly good group of "bel canto" tenors. Things are looking up in the tenor category, definitely.

Jun. 12 2014 02:50 PM

It's nice to see John Osborn on this list. He was stunning in the Met Live in HD broadcast of Armida a few years ago. I've been looking forward to seeing more from him ever since.

Jun. 12 2014 01:57 PM

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Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream and devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns, Amanda Angel and others. The music stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings.

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