The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







In music, a tenor is a male singer with a high voice (although not as high as a countertenor). In four part chorale-style harmony, it is the second lowest voice, above the bass and below the soprano and alto. A typical tenor will have a range extending roughly from the C an octave below middle C to the A above middle C. In a mixed-gender choir, females may also sing as tenors.

In opera, distinctions are made between different types of tenor:

  • Tenore drammatico, di forza or robusto: a powerful, heroic tenor (Verdi's Otello)
  • Heldentenor: the German equivalent of the tenore drammatico, however with a more baritonal quality; the typical Wagnerian protagonist (Lohengrin, Siegfried, Siegmund, Parsifal)
  • Tenore leggiero: a light, flexible tenor, often specialized in comic roles (in which case one speaks of a tenore buffo)
  • Tenore lirico or di grazia: a graceful, lyric tenor (the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto)
  • Tenore (lirico) spinto: a lyric tenor with more "punch" (Radamès in Aida)
  • Trial: a high, thin, nasal tenor, used for character roles. Named after Antoine Trial (1736-1792), a singer at the Opéra Comique.

Many of the most famous opera singers have been tenors, such as:

There have also been some tenors who have been well known for other types of music, who have concentrated on concert performances either with orchestras, or in chamber music, such as lieder or song recitals. These performers may be better known for this kind of work than for opera. Famous tenors of this repertory include

The name "tenor" comes from the Latin word tenere, which means "to hold". In medieval music, the tenor voice was always assigned the cantus firmus, the main melody. The other voices added harmony and counterpoint to the tenor.

In the Barbershop harmony musical style, the name "tenor" is used for the highest part. The four parts are known (lowest to highest) as bass, baritone, lead, and tenor. The tenor generally sings in falsetto voice (thus the term tenor used in barbershop terminology most closely corresponds to the term countertenor as used in classical music), and harmonizes above the lead, who sings the melody. The barbershop tenor range is, as notated, Bb-below-middle C to D-above-high-C (and sung an octave lower).

It is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. For instance the tenor saxophone.

See also

Other meanings

the true purport and effect of a deed or instrument; the character or usual pattern of something; the drift or general meaning of a statement or discourse; the concept, object, or person meant in a metaphor.

Last updated: 05-10-2005 15:13:04
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04