Among often-heard platitudes that denigrate musical "crossover" is an argument that the Three Tenors did not convince their fans to listen to opera. But now there's living, singing proof that they did. James Valenti, the fast-rising star tenor, says that he might not be where he is now – taking on leading roles at the Royal Opera House – had it not been for their inspiration.
"I began singing in high school, and I was cast as the lead in South Pacific when I was 16," says the 33-year-old American. "But then I heard the Three Tenors and I was just dazzled by them, especially Pavarotti. The expressiveness, the power, the range! That was when I started to listen to more opera and to study singing more seriously."
He seems ideally cut out for his leading role as Lieutenant Pinkerton in the ROH production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, which is being filmed in 3D for international cinecast and a DVD. Pinkerton, an American naval lieutenant, abandons his youthful Japanese wife, only to be faced finally with the horror of her suicide. "He's not all bad," Valenti insists. "He develops real feelings for Butterfly and he's genuinely remorseful at the end. He's just a bit naive. A typical American abroad."
'Madama Butterfly' at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020-7304 4000) 25 June to 16 July