Sunday Morning Opera: My Met Top 50


We opera fans are a strange bunch of fanatical and very insane individuals.  We’re as bad as baseball fanatics.  Quite often we are one in the same.  In other words – we argue and compare.  There are times when it is just plain insane, rather like comparing Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio during the historic 56 game period in 1941.  Any abjectly rabid baseball fan knows Williams hit for a higher average.  Who do I think were the greatest operatic voices at the Met these past 50 years?

Here is my list.  Shockingly, it took me maybe a hour.  It is entirely subjective, emotional, and totally bitchy!  With the exception of a handful, including the amazing Richard Tucker, who, in my humble opinion is the greatest tenor of them all, our favorite Barihunk, and a handful of others I have seen every single one of these performers at the Met.  (Yes, I saw Sutherland, but left her off the list.  Couldn’t stand her voice.)

  1. Sherrill Milnes
  2. Beverly Sills
  3. Dmitri Hvorostovsky*
  4. Leontyne Price – (saw in rehearsal)
  5. Richard Tucker*
  6. Luciano Pavarotti
  7. Robert Merrill (saw several times at Richard Tucker gala)
  8. Placido Domingo
  9. Cornell MacNeil
  10. Jerome Hines
  11. Thomas Hampson
  12. Marilyn Horne
  13. Richard Cassilly
  14. James Morris
  15. Titiana Troyanos
  16. Jessye Norman
  17. Renée Fleming*
  18. Grace Bumbry
  19. Fiorenza Cossotto
  20. Simon Estes
  21. Kiri Te Kanawa
  22. Bryn Terfel*
  23. Hildegard Behrens
  24. Peter Hofmann
  25. Simon Keenlyside
  26. Frederica von Stade
  27. Håkan Hagegård
  28. Siegfried Jerusalem
  29. Nicolai Ghiaurov
  30. Eric Owens*
  31. Samuel Ramey
  32. Shirley Verrett
  33. Ruggero Raimondi
  34. Jon Vickers
  35. Gerald Finley*
  36. Jerry Hadley
  37. Roberta Peter
  38. Paul Plishka
  39. Montserrat Caballé
  40. Jose Carreras
  41. Erwin Schrott*
  42. Nicolai Gedda
  43. Carlo Bergonzi
  44. Renatto Scotto
  45. Ilena Contrubas
  46. Mirella Freni
  47. Doloras Zajick*
  48. Leona Mitchell
  49. Leo Nucci
  50. Theresa Stratos

Who is on your list?  Can you come up with a Top Ten?  I do think we’re going to be needing to add Jamie Barton,  Stephen Costello, and a handful of young baritones and bases to the list.  The greatest thing I ever heard was a duet between Sherrill Milnes and Titiana Troyanos from Don Carlo, from a broadcast on February 21,1980. It is available from Met on Demand.

What I regret the most is never having seen the Sherrill Milnes – Beverly Sills version of Thais. The Met on Demand has a broadcast from January 28, 1978.

My very,very,very favorite – Sherrill Milnes as Don Giovanni!

Unfortunately, while composing this post, I ended up listening to the Milnes/Sills Thais.