It is now a historical commonplace that nineteenth-century operatic singing became generally louder and heavier over the course of the century. Early in the century, before the advent of singers such as Gilbert-Louis Duprez, tenors sang high notes with a light, mixed voice, sometimes even falsetto. Strikingly, while such singing was virtually eliminated from Italian opera by the end of the century, the vocal practice continued in certain cases in the French repertory, some of which were created with one particular tenor in mind, Jean-Alexandre Talazac (1851–1896). Talazac was praised for his unique ability to sing high notes both softly and loudly. This article investigates the physical practice of producing what pedagogues and critics have called voix mixte, an enigmatic timbre applied to moments of soft, high tenor singing. In exploring these moments of what I call ‘léger mode’, I suggest that, by singing high notes softly in a post-Duprez operatic world, tenors transcend stage gestures through their use of a formerly normative performance style to mark moments musically as representations of vocal and masculine vulnerability. The historical evidence also argues for a renewed focus on what soft tenor singing might do for opera today.