Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794-1854) was a legendary tenor and the first 19th-century non-castrati male singer to become an international star of opera. The previous two centuries had been the era of the castrati, with tenors and basses relegated to character and supporting roles in the operas of their time.
Rubini stood apart because he not only matched the castrati in coloratura and pathos, but he also had an extraordinarily high voice. With Rubini’s rise, and in his wake, several tenors came to sing roles written specifically for them by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and many other lesser-known bel canto composers. Signaling the end of the dominance of castrati on stage, this period would last some 40 years until the advent of Grand Opera, Wagner, and Verdi and the appearance of the first so-called High C from the chest by Gilbert-Louis Duprez in 1837. Since then, the accepted tenor sound has followed the tradition epitomised by Enrico Caruso and, in our own era, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.
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