Saturday, May 30, 2015

Richard Tucker – A Treasury of French Opera Arias

   Any success in artistic culture depends on so many elements, dedication and specialization are elements of a natural tendency. Exceptions to this rule are the more interesting they are rare and unusual. Nonetheless there were many examples of such combining many talents and different kinds of activity. One of famous artists who didn’t entirely devote to a one direction career was Richard Tucker, great opera tenor and famous cantor from New York recording religious and secular music. He was one of greatest tenor during three postwar decades. Singing in Metropolitan Opera during the last period of opulence era, when operatic world was lead by the bunch of best tenors ever recorded, he became one of brightest stars of opera stage, popular thanks to recording studio and live albums, giving radio performances and recitals.
   Richard Tucker (originally Rivn Ticker) was born August 28th, 1913 in Brooklyn. In period of school years he was successful in athletics as well as in singing. Later he was working as salesman and casually as a wedding singer, but also started to work in religious community. He raised a family but still was not sure what path to follow, he was hired as part time cantor in Passaic, New Jersey, and selling silk, until he was promoted to full time cantor in Temple Adath Israel in Bronx and Brooklyn Jewish Center. This made him to decide about being a singer. His brother-in-law was Jan Peerce, famous operatic tenor and favorite singer of Toscanini with NBC Symphony Orchestra recordings. Older and well recognized Peerce was openly skeptical about opera ambitions of Richard Tucker. Later Tucker’s successes led to a lasting rift in the family. 

Richard Tucker – A Treasury of French Opera Arias (1966)

   January 25th, 1945 Richard Tucker had debuted as operatic singer in Metropolitan Opera as Enzo in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda with such brilliant success, he stayed on stage for next three decades. Four years after he was already one of most recognized opera singers. In 1949 he performed in complete Columbia recording of Madama Butterfly under Max Rudolf and singing the part of Radames in complete NBC radio performance of Aida with Arturo Toscanini. In 1956 he recorded Aida again, this time for EMI in Teatro Alla Scala with Maria Callas, Fedora Barbieri and Tito Gobbi under Tullio Serafin. He recorded dozens of records, as well individual as complete opera productions. He recorded big part of basic opera repertoire, big choice of synagogue cantorial music and lots of popular and folk songs. Most popular arias from his repertoire were presented in various collections, but most popular part of his discography was a series of thematic albums with popular songs and arias.
   In 1966 Richard Tucker with The Vienna State Opera Orchestra and conductor Pierre Dervaux recorded for Columbia album A Treasury of French Opera Arias (MS 6231).  The choice is clear – most emotional arias from romantic French opera show the variety of the genre. First side opens George Bizet’s Flower Song famous air from opera Carmen. Then he sings airs from Jules Massenet’s Werther, Étienne Méhul’s Joseph, Giacomo Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine and famous father’s air Rachel! Quand du Seigneur from La Juive, opera by Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy, usually known as Fromental Halévy. Second side opens with Romance “Je crois entendre” from Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) but next four arias are highlights from Massenet’s Manon, Werther, Hérodiade and Le Cid. Richard Tucker was here in his best. His clear and powerful voice, interpretative experience and comprehensive skills with strong emotional factor made this program a perfect recital. Four stars plus a half for the idea of celebrating Paris opera in Vienna.

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