The Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky — one of the most widely respected singers in the opera world today — died Wednesday morning in London of complications from brain cancer. He was 55 years old.

After Hvorostovsky won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989, his success was sealed. Hvorostovsky clinched the top prize — beating out Bryn Terfel, another singer who became a favorite with audiences around the world.

Born Oct. 16, 1962 in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Hvorostovsky was famed for his deep, burgundy tone, an extraordinary breath control that seduced audiences, and good looks that once landed the singer in People Magazine. ("The sex appeal is part of the package," the singer, who was often photographed either bare-chested or wearing tight T-shirts to show off his physique and tattoos, told New York Magazine in 2006. "My voice is sensual, too, and it is part of my image and my character and my personality.")

Besides Russian roles, his voice was tailor-made for Verdi, where his effortless top notes shined. He told NPR in 2004 that when words fail, the communicative power of singing takes over. "When the words are becoming speechless, hopeless and helpless," Hvorostovsky said "at that moment, singing starts."

The baritone announced that he was suffering from a brain tumor in June 2015, and in December 2016 Hvorostovsky shared that he would be withdrawing from all future staged operas. But he managed one last surprise appearance at New York's Metropolitan Opera, for a poignant performance of the "Cortigiani" aria from Verdi's Rigoletto at the house's annual gala in May 2017.

Hvorostovsky is survived by his wife, Florence, and their two children, 14-year-old Maxim and 10-year-old Nina; his twin children, 21-year-old Alexandra and Daniel, from a previous marriage; and his parents, Alexander and Lyudmila.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit