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Monday, January 25, 2010

Richard Tucker -- The Tenor from the Lower East Side

Tonight, January 25, 2010, marks the 65th anniversary of Richard Tucker's debut at the Metropolitan Opera. One of the most popular tenors in the company's history, Tucker had a career that spanned nearly thirty years and took him to stages around the world (as well as appearing on numerous recordings, radio broadcasts, and television shows).

However, Tucker's singing career began not with arias but with prayer -- he was a cantor at Tifereth Israel synagogue on Allen Street.

Born Rivin Ticker in Brooklyn in 1913, Tucker's musical aptitude was apparent from a young age and by the time he was six he was singing under the tutelage of Samuel Weisser at Tifereth Israel. (The synagogue -- now gone -- stood at 128 Allen Street, just north of Delancey.) Within a few years, young "Ruby," as he was then known, was singing solos and was much in demand at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Eventually, he worked his way up to a full-time gig at Temple Adath Israel in the Bronx. (The photo here shows Tucker dressed as a cantor.)

However, in 1936, Tucker married Sara Perelmuth, whose brother was up-and-coming operatic tenor Jan Peerce. Soon Tucker's own musical path had changed and on January 25, 1945, he sang the role of Enzo in La Giocando at the Met to rave reviews.

If you are on the Upper West Side today in the neighborhood of Lincoln Center (maybe going to see Placido Domingo in Simon Boccanegra?) check out Richard Tucker Square, the small triangle of land just south of 66th Street. In it sits a bust of Tucker by Milton Hebald; engraved on the base are the names of the 31 operas in which Tucker performed.

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Read more about the Metropolitan Opera and the creation of Lincoln Center in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City

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