In music, tenor is the name given to a male singer with a high voice (although not as high as a countertenor). In four part chorale-style harmony, it is the second lowest voice, above the bass and below the soprano and alto. A typical tenor will have a range extending roughly from the C an octave below middle C to the A above middle C.
Many of the most famous opera singers have been tenors. Examples are Roberto Alagna, Jussi Bjorling, Jose Carreras, José Cura, Enrico Caruso, Placido Domingo, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Nicolai Gedda, Beniamino Gigli, Lauritz Melchior, Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, Helge Rosvaenge, Wolfgang Windgassen, Fritz Wunderlich, and Jon Vickers.
There have also been some tenors who have been well known for other types of music, who have concentrated on concert performances either with orchestras, or in chamber music, such as lieder or song recitals. These performers may be better known for this kind of work than for opera. Examples might include performers such as John Heddle-Nash, Richard Lewis, John McCormack, Peter Pears, Robert Tear, Alexander Young. It would be wrong to say that tenors only sing in opera, or that they only sing in lieder, but some have spent more of their efforts in certain types of singing than in others.
It is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. For instance the tenor saxophone.
The name "tenor" comes from the Latin word tenere, which means "to hold". In medieval music, the tenor voice was always assigned the cantus firmus, the main melody. The other voices added harmony and counterpoint to the tenor.