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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
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.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried