Even pushing the age of 50, Alfredo Kraus (left) could thrill a Covent Garden audience in Verdi’s La traviata. His secrets were a warm, effortless technique, immaculate diction, noble bearing and an intelligence informing every aspect of his art. Coming late to opera – after qualifying as an industrial engineer in his native Spain – he rose to stardom opposite Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, making a Metropolitan debut in 1966 as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto.
The elegance of his style made him ideal in Donizetti and Bellini, and later on he specialised in Massenet, particularly the role of Werther. But he was also superb as Ferrando in Karl Böhm’s classic recording of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and in the delights of Spanish zarzuela. Rather neglected now – and suffering from deletions among his catalogue of recordings – he remains a supreme tenor aristocrat.
In his own words: ‘A singer is more than a singer, he’s an artist, and he’s even more than an artist, he’s a maestro.’
Greatest recording: Verdi Rigoletto, Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra/Gianandrea Gavazzeni RCA Red Seal CD 74321 68779-2 (2 discs)