Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato & Other Richard Tucker Winners On How the Award Helped Their Career

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Fay Fox/Andrew Eccles/Simon Pauly/ Bree Anne Clowdus)

The Richard Tucker Award is considered one of the most prestigious awards for American opera singers. Each year the Tucker foundation awards an American singer who is on the cusp of becoming a national and international star, with the hopes that the award acts as a well-timed catalyst to elevate the artist’s career to even greater heights.

Since 1978, the prize has been bestowed to major singers who have gone on to have some of the most successful operatic careers in recent history.

In preparation for the 2019 gala which will be headlined by this year’s winner Lisette Oropesa, OperaWire got an opportunity to speak with a number of past winners on what the award meant to them.

Christian Van Horn

“What I am certain of is that being placed on the list of previous winners gave me the confidence that I could operate at ANY level in this business. The Tucker Award is world renowned and being recognized as the winner has put my name in the ears of everyone in this industry.”

Jamie Barton

“Winning the Richard Tucker Award was a major personal victory – one I’d dreamt of for years! Having the name of the Richard Tucker Foundation behind me absolutely helped advance my career trajectory. Once a singer is recognized by such an important organization, doors seem to open in a way that they hadn’t before. Being the recipient of a Tucker award is a highly regarded stamp of approval, signaling to classical music presenters that they should take notice.

“I am absolutely certain that being recognized as the 2015 Richard Tucker Foundation Award recipient made my path as an artist easier. The secret bonus? Now I’m a part of the Tucker Foundation family, and that is a win in and of itself!”

Stephen Costello

“The Tucker award helps tremendously. Not only does it bring you more attention, but it also gives you assurance and confidence. When you are awarded the Richard Tucker Award, you are voted on by a panel of administrators from all of the major opera houses in the United States.

“When something like that happens it makes you realize that you have a place in this career and you have an incredible backing by people that are well respected and hold you at the highest level. It makes you want to work harder, and become the artist that they believe you can and should become.

“Richard Tucker was also, in my opinion, the greatest American artist. Having that name attached to you is something you cannot and should never take for granted. It also gives you a family and support system that is the Richard Tucker Foundation. Sometimes this business can throw you curveballs and decisions that can make or break your career. With the foundation behind you, they can help you make those decisions and are very open to advising you when you are not really sure which decision is the correct one. The prize money is great, but the support they give is not something money can buy. It has really been a blessing in my life.”



Matthew Polenzani

“Winning the Richard Tucker Award impacted my life and career in a myriad of ways.

“First and foremost, winning the Award gave me, and my career a credibility that it hadn’t had before. It was like an announcement that I was a tenor that bore watching, and was someone to trust and believe in when it came to our beautiful art form. And when I looked at the list of previous winners – a veritable who’s who in opera – having my name added to that list gave me a confidence in myself, and what I was doing, and how I was doing it.

“Beyond that, the financial award gave me funds with which to continue to study and hone my craft. It’s easy to forget that in order to become master technicians and quality musicians, we have to work at every aspect of our art form, and that work doesn’t stop when you make it to the Metropolitan Opera. In fact, making it to that level means that work has to continue.

“That means voice lessons and coaching with pianists to get new roles learned in a way that will give us a foundation to build upon as our voices grow and change, to get with language coaches to make sure our languages are more than just pronounced correctly, but that they sound and flow as if we were native speakers. That work costs money, and the financial side of the award helped me tremendously in that effort.

“Winning the Richard Tucker Award was so much more than just a windfall of cash, or a new thing to proclaim on a resumé. It was an affirmation that didn’t just add value to my career in other people’s eyes. It added to the view I had of myself, and how I was caring for my voice, and running my career. I’m pretty sure that value is truly priceless!”

Joyce DiDonato:

“There are numerous ways that winning the Richard Tucker Award influenced my life: of course, the generous financial gift allowed me to invest significantly in the business side of my career (Website, Photos, etc), but perhaps the most significant – and priceless – impact was the confidence that it offered me.

“We young opera singers often suffer from imposter syndrome, never feeling that we’ve quite arrived. But if one is fortunate enough to receive this award, you join a pantheon of titans in the field, and the gift of confidence this brought to me truly infused my psyche with a next-level-assurance that buoyed me and prompted me to rise to every occasion in front of me.”

Christine Goerke

“Every one of us knows how incredibly important the Richard Tucker Foundation is to young singers.  I was lucky enough to have been supported by the Foundation from the very beginning, having won a Sara Tucker Study Grant, a Richard Tucker Career Grant, and finally (and incredibly) the Richard Tucker Award.

“Having the Foundation’s support when it was most needed allowed me to further my education, working with the best coaches and teachers, and aside from the financial support? Once you are a ‘Tucker Winner,’ you are part of the ‘Tucker family’ forever.  Having THAT kind of support, that is something you can never put a price on. That is the true prize.”

Renée Fleming

“Building a career in opera is a long, challenging path. The years of dedicated work needed to master technique, languages, style, repertoire, and stagecraft extend far beyond the period of conservatory training, and the distance between leaving school and arriving at a successful international career can seem like an ocean, impossible to cross. That’s certainly how it felt for me.

“This is where the Richard Tucker Music Foundation offers crucial support to young singers. Because of the Foundation’s prestige and of course the legacy of the great American tenor who is its namesake, the vital financial assistance comes with major recognition, often at a time when the road to an opera career may seem too daunting. I am so grateful that the Tucker Foundation was there for me when I was starting out, and that they continue to help develop fledgling artists into the stars that opera needs in order to thrive.”


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