3. Eroica?

Here – (again) give or take a semitone or two either way – is the range of the operatic tenor. Note that tenor parts are written an octave higher than they actually sound – a transposition that’s signified by the small eight on the tail of the treble clef.

There is a tenor clef (below), which, while you may see it in older scores (together with the, now, even rarer soprano clef), is very infrequently used these days for singers (though instrumentalists like cellists and bassoonists still use it for their upper registers). This clef problem arises because much of the tenor’s range is either too high for the bass clef or too low for the treble. But – being the lazy sensible creatures that we are – having a clef just for tenors made for difficulty in reading; hence the (very common) treble clef with the addition of the little 8.

And here are a few examples:

The buffo/comic tenor...

Die Zauberflöte

 Monostatos – Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden
[Everything feels the joys of love]

Marriage of Figaro

Don Basilio – In quegl’anni [In those years…]

Lyric tenors…

Così fan tutte

Ferrando – Un’aura amorosa [A loving breath]

Die Zauberflöte

Tamino – Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön
[This portrait is enchantingly lovely]

Full lyric tenors (aka Italian tenors)...


Des Grieux – Ah fuyez douce images
[Ah, vanish sweet memory]

Spinto tenor (sharing both lyric and dramatic qualities)…


Radamès –  Celeste Aida
[Heavenly Aida]


Cavaradossi – E lucevan le stelle

The dramatic tenor/Heldentenor…


Florestan – Gott! Welch dunkel hier!
[God! How dark it is here!]


Siegfried & Mime – the reforging of Nothung, the sword

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