Simon Keenlyside
British b. 1959

Keenlyside became as famous at one time for his gleaming torso – naked or clad in black leather – on an opera house ad campaign as for his intensely realised stage roles. The one-time choir boy is an ideal Papageno, a searing Billy Budd, a formidable Posa, and ‘one of the most inspired Wozzecks ever’ for some.

He won awards for creating the role of Prospero in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest. A passionately committed singer who has taken his career slowly but surely, admired for the fire and virility in his warm, clear baritone.

Listen to:
Schumann: Dichterliebe
Sony 88697566892

Gerald Finley
Canadian b. 1960

Finley is the baritone of choice for many composers: he’s created indelible roles in Mark Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie, the love-lorn Jaufré in Saariaho’s L’amour de loin and made a tour de force of John Adams’s Dr Atomic with his tortured Robert Oppenheimer.

He’s equally good in recital, as his fine collection of song discs on Hyperion shows; one is always aware of a penetrating intelligence at work; a singer for whom the text is pre-eminent. ‘Gerald Finley's Oppenheimer – ruthless in attack, pellucid in delivery – remains one of the truly great opera-house performances of the past decade'. Opera News

Listen to:
Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky & Ives
Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE0025

Matthias Goerne
German b. 1967

Goerne was a member of Dresden Opera and has played a memorable Wozzeck, but is mainly revered for his peerless Lieder singing. A pupil of the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, he has a uniquely rich and dark-hued voice and has brought new depths to Schwanegesang and Winterreise. ‘Few male singers, even Fischer-Dieskau, have such a rich palette of colours as Goerne does,’ says The Sunday Times

Listen to:
Schubert: Winterreise with Alfred Brendel
Decca 467 0922

Christian Gerhaher
German b. 1969

Another outstanding recitalist, Gerhaher’s Schumann disc Melancholie won the BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award in 2008. Exquisite diction and sheer beauty of sound, along with a dizzying range of articulation mark Gerhaher out.

He was a ‘sensation’ as Papageno at Würzburg Opera and in the title role of Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Frankfurt. He shines in Harnoncourt’s recent recording of Haydn’s The Seasons. Expect to hear more from this modest Munich-based musician.

Listen to:
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande with the London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
LSO 0790

Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Russian 1962-2017

The glamorous, silver-haired Siberian was launched as a heart-throb following his 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World win. Years later, the Financial Times critic was warning people not to sit in the front row ‘in case they get their ears singed.’

In fact, Hvorostovsky was best in the brooding roles, an ideal Eugene Onegin, Simon Boccanegra, Giorgio Germont in La traviata and Prince Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades. His upper register had a tenor-like ring, his tone beautifully rounded and his breath control renowned. He regularly toured Russia to stadium-size audiences.

Listen to:
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Phillips 475 7017 (2 discs)

Bryn Terfel
Welsh b. 1965

Terfel needs no introduction. He arrived with the Lieder prize in the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World, and has won hearts with Welsh hymns, Broadway, Vaughan Williams, as a chilling Jochanaan in Salome, an ideal Flying Dutchman, and a deeply moving and uproarious Falstaff.

But he can also do the really big stuff. Following John Tomlinson’s long and distinguished reign, Terfel is the new British Wotan. ‘One of the most important and charismatic singers performing today.’ Opera Magazine

Listen to:
Vaughan Williams: Silent Noon
Deutsche Grammophon DG 477 5336