Richard Tucker: Orchestral Concerts
Arias and Songs by Donizetti (L’elisir d’amore), Verdi (Un ballo in maschera, Luisa Miller, Rigoletto), Puccini (Manon Lescaut), Cilea (L’arlesiana), Mascagni (Cavalleria rusticana), Leoncavallo (I pagliacci), Wagner (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Giordano (Andréa Chénier), and Falvo.
Richard Tucker, tenor, with various orchestras and conductors.
Available from www.premiereopera.com (M) (AAD) TT: (57:55)


This CD features two live orchestral recitals by Richard Tucker. The first half of the disc is a Dallas concert from 1972, the remainder a Philadelphia Robin Hood Dell program from the summer of 1971.

What makes this release of particular interest is inclusion of Walther's Prize Song from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. While Tucker did sing German roles at the Met—Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, and Lionel in Martha—he performed them in English translation. This disc from Premiere Opera is the only recording I have ever heard that features Tucker singing in the German language.

In an interview from the late '60s Tucker expressed interest in performing Walther, as well as Lohengrin—tantalizing projects that never came to fruition. I think Tucker could have been an excellent Florestan (Fidelio) and Max (Der Freischütz) as well. Wagner emphasized that his operas should be sung in a lyrical, Italianate style. These are precisely the qualities Tucker brings to the Meistersinger excerpt. His pure tone, exemplary legato, and clear diction are couched in an ardent delivery that never exceeds the bounds of musicality and good taste. It’s a marvelous performance, a testament to Richard Tucker’s versatility and abilities as a musician.
The remainder of the disc offers considerable pleasure as well. It is hard to believe that the recording documents the work of a tenor just a few years shy of his 60th birthday. The voice has the bloom and security of a singer in his absolute prime, shining all the way up to a glorious high B. Only on a few occasions—particularly in the treacherous Ballo aria—do clipped phrases reflect some decline from Tucker’s earlier years. On the other hand, one can only be amazed at the vocal security and passion Tucker brings to most of the music, including a remarkably intense “Pazzo son!” from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.

Both recitals include renditions of the L’arlesiana and Pagliacci arias. The performances, taped from the audience, offer reasonably good sound (particularly the Robin Hood Dell recital), with Tucker’s voice emerging with ample presence and clarity. Premiere Opera's typically Spartan packaging consists only of a paper CD envelope—there is no accompanying documentary information. This is a valuable document of a great singer in the glorious autumn of his career. The inclusion of the Prize Song makes it essential for Tucker fans.

K.M. (June 2003)