A tenor is a man with a high singing voice. When writing four-part choir music the tenor line will be the third line down, between alto and bass. It is usually written in the treble clef, but will sound an octave lower than written. Sometimes, it is written in the "C-clef", which is also called a tenor clef.
In opera the role of the young male is usually sung by a tenor. Depending on characteristics such as: volume, color and style, the tenor voice is classified in following groups:
- The light tenor. This is also called tenor leggero. An example is Peter Pears, who sang the tenor solos in Benjamin Britten’s operas.
- The lyric tenor. The lyric tenor is a tenor with a well timbered voice, such as "The Three Tenors" (Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Plácido Domingo).
- The spinto tenor. They have special abilities in the high tones, such as Franco Corelli and Enrico Caruso.
- The dramatic tenor. They have a high volume and a dark voice. An example is Mario Del Monaco.
A “Heldentenor” (German for “hero tenor”) is someone with a big tenor voice. This is suitable for heroic parts like the heroes in most of Wagner's operas. Lauritz Melchior, Max Lorenz and Jonas Kaufmann are famous heroic tenors.
The Mozart tenor with characteristics including all of the previous mentioned must be able to perform within the strict borders which are laid out by the Mozart style. Anton Dermota, Fritz Wunderlich and Francisco Araiza are the three leading people as Mozart tenor.
In barbershop singing, the tenor part is a harmony part sung predominantly higher than the melody.