Tear, who was born in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, started as a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge.
Fellow tenor Ian Bostridge said Tear had “cast iron technique” and “great intelligence as a singer”.
“I sang with him, particularly in The Rake’s Progress in Munich at the beginning of this century. He was incredibly compelling on stage. I was playing Tom Rake while he was playing the auctioneer and I’m quite glad we didn’t have a scene together because he had stolen that scene completely.”
Tear performed as a schoolboy in a Welsh National Opera performance of Cavalleria Rusticana in 1946 at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff. He made his operatic debut in 1966 for the English Opera Group when he performed the role of Quint in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.
He enjoyed a long association with the Royal Opera House in London.
His agent Martin Campbell-White said Tear, who was awarded a CBE in 1984, was marked out by a “variety of abilities”.
“He was a major, major European and world artist who had a fantastic varied career, starting as a chorister at King’s College Cambridge and quickly becoming one of Britain’s great oratoria singers, and moving into opera,” he said.
Despite his achievements, Tear was said to have been a down-to-earth character.
“He shunned the publicity and he was the first person to put himself down,” added Mr Campbell-White. “Incredibly witty, he could deflate pomposity with just one joke or one witty comment.”
Tear has made over 250 records for many major recording companies. Roles he has sung on disc range in diversity from Uriel in Haydn’s “Creation” to the painter in Alban Berg’s Lulu, and from Pitichinaccio in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann to Sir Harvey in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.
His many classical recordings include performances of Bach, Handel, Monteverdi, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, Stravinsky, Janáček and Messiaen. In the English canon, he has also recorded songs by Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Arthur Butterworth.