Hailing from a musical family (both his grandmother and mother sang, and his father played several instruments) at the age of fifteen Nucci commenced studies with Mario Bigazzi, vocalising daily, and between 1959 and 1968 worked with Giuseppe Marchesi. Having won several singing competitions in 1965 and 1966, in 1967 he not only made his operatic stage debut (as Figaro / Il barbiere di Siviglia), but also won the Adriano Belli Competition for young opera singers, both at Spoleto.
In 1969 Nucci joined the chorus of La Scala, Milan where he remained until 1976. While at La Scala, he studied the title role in Rigoletto with Ottaviano Bizzarri and won the Viotti International Music Competition of Vercelli in 1973. He also enjoyed great success when singing Figaro again, in Padua during 1975 and then at La Scala in 1976.
At the Royal Opera House, London in 1978 Nucci substituted at short notice for Ingvar Wixell as Miller in a new production of Luisa Miller, singing alongside Katia Ricciarelli and Luciano Pavarotti with Lorin Maazel conducting. He enjoyed a great personal triumph, with Pavarotti commenting: ‘What you did tonight usually takes us five years to achieve.’ Offers poured in and his international career was launched.
Nucci was re-engaged to sing Miller and Sharpless / Madama Butterfly at Covent Garden and made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1979, as Figaro. It was as Renato / Un ballo in maschera that he made his debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, New York (1980), at the Paris Opera (1981) and at the Salzburg Festival (1989). He returned frequently to the Met, singing at least seventeen major roles in total up to 2004; and has sung with the San Francisco Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera (in North America); at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires and in Santiago, Chile (in South America) and at La Scala, the Florence Maggio Musicale, Trieste, Turin, Venice, the summer opera at the Caracalla Baths, Zürich, Brussels, Hamburg, Cologne and Wiesbaden (in Europe).
Identified above all with the great Verdi baritone roles including Amonasro / Aida, Ezio / Attila, Posa / Don Carlo, Carlo / Ernani, Doge Foscari / I due Foscari, both Falstaff and Ford / Falstaff, Don Carlo La forza del destino, Iago / Otello, Germont père / La traviata, di Luna / Il trovatore, Guido di Monforte / I vespri siciliani and the title roles of Macbeth and Nabucco, Nucci has also sung many other roles with distinction. These include Sharpless, Belcore / L’elisir d’amore, Enrico / Lucia di Lammermoor, Tonio / Pagliacci and the title roles of Eugene Onegin and Gianni Schicchi and are indicative of his considerable musico-dramatic range.
Of his close relationship with Verdi, Nucci commented in interview with Dominic McHugh: ‘Verdi gives me something special: my values of life, the values with which I was born, the values of my grandfather.’ His career has been notable for its longevity, with major appearances continuing well past his seventieth birthday. Nucci possesses both a rich, generous, baritone voice and an immediately sincere and convincing dramatic presence, as his numerous sound and video recordings amply testify.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).