Anything you can sing, they can sing higher

The only way is up for men at home in the treble clef

The highs are soaring higher and the lows are swooping lower among professional singers. But it is male voices that are heading for the stratosphere, while their female counterparts are diving ever deeper.

Across the UK and internationally, male voices in the counter-tenor range and even higher are enjoying fame and acclaim not seen since the saccharine falsetto of the Bee Gees.

Ben Cardew, news editor of Music Week, said: "Antony and the Johnsons are a good example of a strange male artist, singing in this wavering falsetto, who won the Mercury Prize and went on sell 100,000 copies of I Am a Bird Now. People are now generally more accepting of slightly odd things in pop music and that includes the really high voice."

The renaissance of the lofty male voice can be seen in the American neo-soul singer Maxwell, whose high-pitched vocals won him two Grammys for his latest album BLACKsummers'night. Then there's British artist Mika, Muse's lead vocalist Matthew Bellamy, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Wild Beasts' Hayden Thorpe, urban rap star Plan B and R&B singer R Kelly.

Edward Higginbottom, director of music at New College, Oxford, said: "In opera, the really exciting parts are sung by the soprano and it is the same in the pop market. It sounds exotic, rather sort of magical, and impressive that male singers can sing so high. It also has a slightly androgynous effect which is intriguing as a result."

The trend has been mirrored in opera where the public's taste for counter-tenors has been matched by the current vogue for Baroque opera.

Elaine Padmore, director of opera at the Royal Opera House, said: "There are a lot of counter-tenors around now who can sing a whole period of Handel's Baroque operas. It's a slightly eerie voice and people are often surprised that a man's voice can go that high. There's something slightly ethereal about it, something slightly strange and otherworldly."

Cee Lo Green

At this year's Grammy Awards and Brit Awards, Cee Lo Green walked away with the Best Urban/Alternative Performance and Best International Male gongs. Collaborating with DJ/producer Danger Mouse to form Gnarls Barkley, their first single, "Crazy", released in 2006, was an international success.

Sasha Regan's all-male Savoy Operas

Theatre director Sasha Regan's Union Theatre all-male opera company spans the octaves effortlessly. Turning Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe on its head, all the female roles in this political fairy tale are sung by male sopranos, in comically makeshift finery. The production, at Wilton's Music Hall, east London, until 7 May, follows Pirates of Penzance, pictured.

Plan B

When London rapper Plan B (aka Ben Drew), ditched his hoodie for a slick suit, he took on the alter ego persona of Strickland Banks. By switching to falsetto vocals in bittersweet love songs, the rapper made the Top 10 UK charts and was given A-listed accreditation by Radio 1.

Tim Mead

From 2 July at Glyndebourne, East Sussex, counter-tenor Mead will take on the role of Eustazio in Rinaldo, the first opera Handel wrote for the London stage. After winning scholarships to the Royal College of Music, Mead has starred in operas around the globe. Rinaldo is a new production for 2011.

'Jersey Boys' (Ryan Molloy)

Since March 2008, Ryan Molloy has belted out hits by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the West End, as Frankie in Jersey Boys. The musical, first staged on Broadway, opened to great acclaim upon its arrival in the West End in 2008, when it was nominated for five Olivier Awards and took home the gong for Best New Musical. Still running at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Matthew Morrison

As optimistic, high-school teacher Will Schuester in the award-winning Fox comedy musical series Glee, Morrison made it all right for guys to sing high with his renditions of "Don't Stand So Close to Me", "Gold Digger" and "I Wanna Sex You Up". He releases a debut solo album on Mercury Records on 10 May.

Everything Everything (Jonathan Higgs)

This four-piece from Manchester walked away with the South Bank Sky Arts Breakthrough award earlier this year. Fronted by Jonathan Higgs, who sings the falsetto vocals, the band was also nominated for the NME Best New Band gong. Their debut album, Man Alive, was released last year to critical acclaim.

Iestyn Davies

Rising star in every sense, counter-tenor Iestyn Davies sings Oberon in English National Opera's staging of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream from 19 May. The production will be set in a 1960s school, Davies taking the role written for Alfred Deller, who first reintroduced the high male voice to an astonished British public.

Bruno Mars

Despite losing out to Justin Bieber at the Brit Awards (competing for the International Breakthrough Act gong), Bruno Mars was nominated for seven Grammys in February, and took home the award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Just the Way You Are".

Highs and lows: The women whose voices got deeper

Kate Royal recently performed in The Magic Flute at Royal Opera House and is described by critics as having an extraordinary voice of ethereal beauty. But after giving birth to her son in 2009, she described how the hormonal change in her body subtly lowered her voice. "I accepted that if you work and you are a mother you cannot do everything 100 per cent – something has to give."

Anna Netrebko approaches her 40th birthday in September as mother of a two-year-old. She remains a soprano, but commentators have observed her voice has lowered and "darkened". Last week at the Vienna Staatsoper, she took on a new role as the Donizetti heroine in the title role of the 1830 opera Anna Bolena ("Anne Boleyn"). The role is regarded as the litmus test for the bel canto soprano.

Katherine Jenkins last year discussed her decision to move from full-time soprano to crossover material in the mezzo- soprano range. "It was a singing teacher that thought it would be best for my voice. Then I moved into crossover. And if that makes the music accessible to more people, then great."

The change has paid off for the Welsh singer, with four million album sales, performances for the Pope and the Queen, and a lucrative TV career. She starred in CBS's Dancing with the Stars last Monday with an orchestra and violinist David Garrett, singing "Con te partirò" and "O mio babbino caro".

Jenkins, who has, unusually, carved a singing career outside the opera house, was the first to sing "The Power of Four" at the Six Nations rugby tournament and regularly performs the Welsh national anthem at Welsh rugby union matches.

Andrew McCorkell

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week