5 Opera Stars Who Successfully Made Crossovers into Pop Music

By Francisco Salazar

The opera world is known to be untouchable and sometimes elitist. Opera stars are known for just performing opera and not going out of this vein of music. However, this is simply a misconception of pop culture thought. Opera stars are very well versed in many styles of music and many of the most popular have explored new musical landscapes from pop, rock to Broadway and musicals. In celebration of Anna Netrebko’s latest crossover with Andrea Gablaier, OperaWire takes a look back at some of the famed stars who have successfully crossover.

Luciano Pavarotti

Pavarotti is known as the king of the High C’s and as one of the most beloved opera singers of all time. However, many forget that Pavarotti, alongside his wife Nicolletta Mantovani, established a set of concerts in the late 1990’s and early to 2000’s entitled “Pavarotti and Friends” for Humanitarian causes. The tenor was joined by some of the most popular stars in the world including Ricky Martin, the Spice Girls, Mariah Carey, Mana, Sting, Elton John, Celine Dion, Gloria Esteban and Laura Pausini. Many of the concerts were preserved on CD and DVD thanks to Decca Classics.

Placido Domingo

Domingo needs no introduction as he is a legend in the opera world as well as in Latin America. The tenor has sung more roles than anyone in the opera world and has successfully transitioned into baritone roles. But Domingo has also garnered success outside the opera world by collaborating with the likes of John Denver, Ana Gabriel, Alejandro Fernandez, Pandora, Il Volo and Julio Iglesias. He has also swapped his operatic costumes for a Mariachi outfit and recorded a number of Mexican rancheras in a CD celebrating 100 years of Mariachi tradition.  He has also been recognized by the Latin Grammy’s and featured numerous times on Univision.

Renee Fleming

The People’s Diva is perhaps best known for her musical outreach outside her performances in the operatic world. However, she has also made sure to crossover into different genres including a collaboration with Elvis Costello. She recently made her Broadway debut in a sold-out run of “Living on Love.” She also became the first opera singer to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl, giving opera a little more exposure. She also made an indie rock album entitled “Dark Hope.” The album included music of Muse, Leonard Cohen and The Mars Volta. In the album Fleming did not use her operatic voice, which came as a surprise to most of her fans.

Malena Ernman

Recognized mostly in Sweden and Europe Ernman first made a name for herself as an operatic singer performing with numerous great conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, William Christie and Daniel Harding. However, at the same time she has had a successful career in pop music and jazz. She participated in the Eurovision song contest with the song “La Voix,” which she would later record and make a huge hit. She has also recorded numerous pop albums and has made opera popular at her concerts for her unconventional singing. More unique is how Ernman can easily move from an operatic voice to a pop voice with facility.

Vittorio Grigolo

The tenor was first recognized in popular culture before becoming the superstar in opera he currently is. The tenor performed “Bedshaped” at the Miss Universe 2006 evening gown competition in the Los Angeles and also appeared alongside Lionel Richie at “Proms in the Park.” He also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Bachelor.” He also recorded a pop album entitled “In the Hands of Love.” Additionally, he recorded a Grammy-nominated album of “West Side Story.” He was recently featured in a Carnegie Hall Concert with Sting and Bruce Springsteen.

Best of the Rest

Other notables singers who have also been successful in other genres include Patricia Racette with her cabaret album “Diva on Detour” and Diana Damrau with her album “Forever” featuring music from “The Little Mermaid” and “The Sound of Music.” Of course there are artists like Katherine Jenkins and Andrea Bocelli, who trained operatically and perform operatic arias at their concerts and then there is Dmitri Hvorostovsky who is a superstar in Russia and participates annually in the New Wave concerts alongside Aida Garifullina and Sumi Jo. Rolando Villazon and Juan Diego Florez have also made performed and recorded traditional Latin American music.


Special Features