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Who will replace 'the three tenors'?

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As the Three Tenors - Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti - make fewer onstage appearances (only Domingo seems to be still omnipresent), fans may be wondering: Who will replace them?

The concept of three tenors has ingrained itself on the public. An Internet search finds trios like The Irish Tenors, The Ten Tenors, The German Tenors - and comedy acts like Three Mo' Tenors and The Tatty Tenors, three Australians who explain: "We are a bunch of fun-loving, loud, moderately talented, poorly dressed tenors who love to sing." Clearly, the concept is going to outlive the current trio.

Recording companies are energetically promoting their favorite candidates, like EMI's Roberto Alagna and Warner's Jose Cura, both handsome and accomplished performers. But some opera fans have their doubts, like Wayne Koestenbaum, author of "Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems" (Persea Books). "I find very distracting the marketing of tenors around physical attractiveness," Mr. Koestenbaum says. "How a tenor looks shouldn't matter - there are some astonishing dumpy-looking tenors."

James Jorden, publisher of "Parterre Box," an opinionated and raucously accurate website (www.parterre.com) about opera, says his favorite candidates for superstardom begin with Mexican Ramon Vargas.

Vargas offers "very elegant singing - he makes all his effects within a very strict bel canto line, singing everything beautifully without exaggerating anything for dramatic effect," Jorden says. He also likes Marcello Giordani, a Sicilian who is "a class act, smooth and aristocratic onstage, a sympathetic figure - a really good tenor actor with a kind of elegance and glamour."

New York audiences will soon hear Giordani sing two performances with the Opera Orchestra of New York. Jorden is also excited by Argentine tenor Dario Volonte, who "really looks to have not only a big, dramatic voice, but also apparently a big star quality."

Volonte will sing the lead role of Calaf in "Turandot" in Pittsburgh next season and reportedly will record it for the Decca label.

In addition to these singers in their 30s, there's an even younger and gifted performer: Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez. "He's still a baby, around 27 years old," Jorden says, "he ... has a real tenor voice, with the technical ability to ornament, but is very natural and honest when he does it. He is also a charming actor."

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