4 August 1929-11 July 2020
Alexander Campbell writes… The Rome-born soprano, who has died just short of her ninety-first birthday, seldom strayed far from the core Italian repertory that nurtured her. In the prime of her career she started encompassing some taxing spinto and dramatic roles. She was reportedly an accomplished actress, particularly in roles requiring an ability to project pathos with a disarming directness – her Mimi, Violetta and Desdemona were among her finest critically-acclaimed assumptions.
She studied in Rome and continued her studies with her future husband Leonardo Filoni. Her professional debut in 1951 was in Spoleto as Leonora in Verdi’s La forza del destino; her Alvaro none other than Beniamino Gigli. After a few years her international rise was sudden. She appeared as Mimi at La Scala in 1959 and at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden the following year as Aida and Tosca (the latter with Otokar Kraus as Scarpia), though she had appeared in London in 1959 as Mimi at the Adelphi Theatre. Her final appearance at Covent Garden was again as Tosca – this time with Gobbi as Scarpia – in 1970.
Her American debut was in San Francisco as Maddalena in Andrea Chenier, and she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 1960 as Madama Butterfly. She was popular there over the next decade singing Eurydice, Gounod’s Marguerite (Faust), the Leonoras of Forza and Il trovatore, Amelia (Simon Boccanegra), Violetta, Desdemona, Mimi, Aida and Donna Elvira. She also had some bel canto parts such as Elvira in I Puritani. If her name is perhaps less well known that it might be today it was probably owing to the dominance of the rather more opulent dramatic voices and glamour of Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Leontyne Price in particular – all artists who landed recording contracts of the emerging stereo markets wiping out most ‘competition’ or the opportunities for recordings of singers with alternative qualities.
Thus, despite a career that took her to Vienna, Berlin, Buenos Aires and beyond, Tucci’s recorded legacy is limited. Her finest full operatic role committed to disc is probably her nervy and unhappy Nedda, a striking foil to Mario del Monaco’s intense full-throttle Canio, conducted by Molinari-Pradelli with Rome forces. Her other fine recording is the technically agile 1964 Trovatore Leonora, which essentially shows her appreciable lyric qualities, albeit at the expense of the dramatic ones. She can be caught in some ‘off-the-air’ releases that clearly reveal her artistry and popularity with audiences.