The name Richard Tucker most likely makes one think of the prestigious music foundation which fosters the new and upcoming talent, culminating with its elaborate end-of-year gala honoring the newest recipients of awards and grants. However, Richard Tucker was also a virtuoso tenor whose Metropolitan Opera career spanned three decades, both on the Met stage and on-tour. Born on this day in 1913, Tucker passed quite suddenly of a heart attack in 1975; however, his legacy lives on not only through the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, but through his celebrated career as one of the most iconic singers of the 20th century.
In honor of his birthday, here are Richard Tucker’s five most performed roles at the Metropolitan Opera:
Rodolfo ― “La bohème”
Of all the roles Tucker tackled during his tenure, perhaps his most beloved interpretation is as the sensitive poet Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La bohème.” From 1947 to 1973, he performed the role 54 times in New York and around the country, alongside sopranos Licia Albanese, Eleanor Steber and more.
Don José ― “Carmen”
Though most remember this Bizet opera for its seductive titular character, Tucker made audiences swoon as the Spanish corporal for two decades, beginning with his first performance in 1952. His last Don José with the Metropolitan Opera on January 4, 1972, alongside Ruza Baldani as Carmen.
Turiddu & Canio― “Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci”
Perhaps Tucker is most well-known for his interpretation of Mascagni’s most performed opera Cavalleria Rusticana, in its Met frequent double-bill of “Cav/Pag.” He first performed the role in 1948, before eventually graduating to his first Canio in 1970. He only performed the latter role a handful of times before his death, though his “Vesti la giubba” remains one of the finest gems of the 20th century.
Il Duca di Mantova ― “Rigoletto”
As Il Duca in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Tucker performed this role 48 times with the Met, both at the opera house and on-tour. Though he may not be as remembered for this role as others in the Italian repertoire, his cheeky interpretation as the promiscuous Duke lives on as one of his most facetious.
Cavaradossi ― “Tosca”
As the painter Cavaradossi in Puccini’s “Tosca,” Tucker’s last performance of this role occurred at Crocheron Park in Queens, New York with soprano Phyllis Curtin in 1973. He sang the role 40 times, alongside other cherished singers such as Grace Bumbry, Renata Tebaldi and Dorothy Kirsten.