Tenor Boy

aka: The Male Ingenue Must Be A Tenor

It's musical theatre law. The frequently good-looking, almost always lovestruck, and without a doubt naive young man central to the story must sing with lyrical, boyish grace. In other words: he's a tenor. In a large portion of opera (particularly Verdi and Puccini), The Protagonist is a tenor no matter what his age or personality.

Contrast Badass Baritone and Evil Sounds Deep.

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    Straight Examples 
  • Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera. Notable for being hated by most of the fans. Ironically The Phantom himself is usually a tenor.
  • Marius Pontmercy in Les Misérables is rather tricky to place. He is often played by tenors, but has a slightly lower tessitura. However, he does fit the stereotype perfectly as the lovestruck and boyish innocent.
  • Any prince worthy of getting the girl and lines of song in Disney films is a tenor, but the Prince in Snow White might be the tenorest of the tenors: he has only a few lines altogether, but dang if some of those aren't used to establish his bright and youthful timbre to complete a duet with Snow White's own Ingenue soprano. To Opera Savvy viewers the more gruesome accusations about his motives and character simply don't make any sense.
  • Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame stage version and the Movie. While his form is ugly his voice is beautiful; while he looks like a monster his personality is closer to an angel. It carries into the Disney film as well.
  • The title character of Pippin can be cast as either a tenor or a baritone. Tenors may be able to sing instead of shout the last note of "Extraordinary," whereas baritones have to go into falsetto for the high C in the "Corner of the Sky" fadeout.
  • Tony in West Side Story. He is, after all, based on Romeo, who by stereotype is incapable of being anything but a tenor.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan have quite a few straight examples such as Nanki-Poo and Frederic from The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance, respectively. They are complete innocents, but it's meant for laughs, as Gilbert and Sullivan are parodying sterotypical opera characters.
  • Christian from Moulin Rouge! has both the range and the standard personality.
  • Lensky from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin: Innocent. Naive. Poet. Tenor.
  • Rodolfo from La Bohème is a poor poet with a heart of gold and a voice of gold.
  • Hoffmann in Les Contes d'Offmann. A wandering poet who has to use his tenor voice on no less than four different ladies throughout the opera.
  • The Des Grieux from both Puccini's and Massenet's Manon operas are about as naive as a tenor can be.
  • Tamino, Belmonte, Ferrando and Ottavio - all those gorgeous-singing Mozart tenors.
  • The tenor roles in Donizetti's three opere buffe: Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore, Tonio in La fille du régiment and Ernesto in Don Pasquale. All are tenors, and in classic comedic style, total innocents.
  • Parsifal, Stolzing, and Siegfried - the more "boyish" Wagner tenors. There's a point in one of the operas where Siegfried has to impersonate another character, a baritone. It's notorious difficult to pull off on stage. Some recordings of the opera get around it by having Siegfried sing the part in his normal voice and then editing it into a baritone. It's also been done on stage by having the actual baritone sing and act the part, then leave stage and "re-enter" as tenor Siegfried, which works since he's also supposed to be in magical disguise.
  • Macheath in The Threepenny Opera is sometimes played like this ironically, and many performances have him singing the "Epitaph" in a sincere tenor, just to accentuate what a two-faced bastard he is.
  • Viceroy Bánk the eponymous hero of Erkel's opera. Although he's far from being boyish.
  • Behind The Candelabra: While we don't hear him sing, Scott Thorson's younger and hotter romantic rival for in-all-but-name husband Liberace is summed up by Scott:
    There you are, you cock-sucking tenor shit!
  • In the Handel oratorio Semele, the male lead is the god Jupiter (aka Zeus)—chief of the Roman pantheon, womanizer extraordinaire, and of course the god of thunder. But since he's portrayed as a lover in this story, he's a tenor.
  • Candide in Leonard Bernstein's operetta adaption.
  • Gabe and his father Dan from Next To Normal are both expected to hit some very high notes. Fitting with the intense Rock Opera style of music and their boyish Nice Guy characterization.
  • In Milk and Honey, the boyishly patriotic David is a tenor, though his baritone father-in-law Phil has the more demanding singing part.
  • In Down in the Valley, Brack Weaver is a tenor or high baritone, while his older romantic rival Thomas Bouché sings bass.


  • The particularly boyish Arpad in She Loves Me is a lyric baritone.
  • In Bock and Harnick's, Fiddler on the Roof, Perchik—though only arguably classified as an ingenue—is also a lyric baritone.
  • Jean-Michel of Jerry Herman's La Cage aux folles wavers somewhere between baritone and tenor.
  • Freddy in My Fair Lady also wavers somewhere between baritone and tenor.
  • Film example: In Disney's Aladdin, protagonist Aladdin is a baritone. Justified since his role doesn't follow the straitlaced archetype in the first place, instead he's an affable rogue. Yet still, he is the heroic young male lead and he does get the girl. Interestingly enough, Brad Kane, who provided the singing voice for Aladdin, also played Arpad in the 1992 revival of She Loves Me.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan with Grosvenor and Strephon in Patience and Iolanthe, both being lyric baritones (though Strephon originally played by bass Richard Temple). Somewhat averted in Ruddigore: Dick Dauntless doesn't turn into an evil baronet and he has the romantic-style music, but he's also, well, a dick, and doesn't get the girl. Also lampshaded like hell in the Act II opener of Utopia Limited, with Captain Fitzbattleaxe's song about how you can't sing in those high ranges if you're actually overcome with emotion instead of just acting.
  • Porgy, an ingenue in love if not in age, is a bass-baritone; the bad guy Sportin' Life is a tenor.
  • Gabe Goodman in Next To Normal is a tenor, but is actually a (sorta) villainous ghost-child.
  • Jean Valjean, the lead in Les Misérables, is a dramatic tenor, but he's an ex-convict rather than an ingenue, and is traditionally played by a middle-aged man.
  • Verdi's opera Rigoletto subverts the trope. The Duke is a good-looking tenor that all the girls fall for, but he's the opposite of an innocent - he's a Manipulative Bastard who doesn't care what happens to the women he seduces and abandons.
    • Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly is a heartless bastard, very similar to the Duke.
    • And in Janacek's Jenufa, we have two tenors: Steva is a jerk who knocks up poor heroine and then leaves her, Laca is a neurotic who cuts her face in a fit of jealousy (that's why Steva leaves her, What Measure Is a Non-Cute?).
  • Inverted with Peter Grimes - the titular character is the furthest thing from an ingenue. Britten did this all the time. Living with a tenor who was definitely not an ingenue might have something to do with it.
    • Aschenbach from Death In Venice is an aging writer with a fondness for Bishōnen.
    • The Madwoman in Curlew River is a drag role.
    • Captain Vere from Billy Budd is a father figure in the flashback part and very old (or possibly even undead) in the Prologue/Epilogue. Further inverted in that the boyishly handsome title character is a baritone.
    • Another baritone is the titular young idealistic hero in Owen Wingrave

Alternative Title(s):

The Male Ingenue Must Be A Tenor