Richard Tucker (1913-1975) is considered one of America's greatest tenors. He sang 724 performances with the Metropolitan Opera plus was broadly recorded. He was profoundly civic and religious minded and devoted himself to helping others both in the music world and general community assistance.
After his death in 1975, The Richard Tucker Music Foundation was founded as a "non-profit cultural organization dedicated to perpetuating the artistic legacy of the great American tenor through the support and advancement of the careers of talented American opera singers by bringing opera into the community." The Foundation offers free performances in New York Metropolitan area and supports music education programs.
Each year the Richard Tucker Music Foundation annually awards cash prizes to individual U.S. born singers. There is no application process, only nomination. Prestigous in name and in association to previous winner, it is monetarily generous and acts to further highten the winning artist's career, usually one who is already on the brink of success. The first winner, in 1978, was Rockwell Blake. Other winners were Brandon Jovanovich, Lawrence Brownlee, Eric Cutler, Matthew Polenzani, John Relyea, Joyce DiDonato, Christine Goerke, Gregory Turay, Stephanie Blythe, Patricia Racette, David Daniels, Dwayne Croft, Paul Groves, Jennifer Larmore, Ruth Ann Swenson, Deborah Voigt, Renée Fleming, Margaret Jane Wray, Richard Leech, Harry Dworchak, Dolora Zajick, Aprile Millo, Roger Roloff, Susan Dunn, J. Patrick Raftery, Barry McCauley and Diana Soviero.
The foundation also awards the Richard Tucker Career Grant (notably Susan Graham) and the Sara Tucker Study Grant. I have been fortunate to have seen many of recipients of each of these awards perform in recital or concerts in and around New York and in operas at the Met, the Chicago Lyric and the WNO. Each year the Foundation presents a concert of past winners and current winners. This year's winner is Stephen Costello, tenor.
The program was excellent. The singers seemed to enjoy the event as much as the audience. It was sheer fun. This year's Fashion Award went to Maria Guleghina, who rocked it in a purple gown, adorned with sparkles. Over this, she wore a white fur stole/jacket!*** The audience ooooohed when she took the stage as Lady Macbeth. She's such a rock star! Stephen Costello was fantastic - a young, high tenor with much passion in his voice. Susan Graham had some fun with her Vilja, conducting the audience in a bit of an encore and then cutting us off so she could have the final notes. She wore an elegant green gown. Stephanie Blythe blew the roof off with her Condotta ell'era in ceppi from Il Trovatore. Oh my God, she is so fabulous. I thought this is the most beautiful screaming in the world. Zeljko Lucic growls and leers with intensity and just knocks me dead. I just love him!
It was a treat to hear the sweet, clear voice of Hei-kyng Hong. It's clear that she's an audience favorite and looked lovely in a strapless, bedazzled light pink gown. Anna Netrebko was fabulous - her high notes were clear and gorgeous. She wore a strangely cut gown, but wore gorgeous sparkly shoes (that's an A+). The rest of the guys were fantastic - Aleksandrs Antonenko was a big hit, James Morris was solid as always and it's hard not to like Sam Ramey's Te Deum. Matthew Polenzani stepped in for ailing Joseph Colleja plus sang his own planned songs - he is just so enjoyable to watch and hear.
Barry Tucker opened the show as usual, noting that once again flower bouquets adorning the stage were foregone in deference to the economy. He also got a chuckle out of me when he announced that honored guest Peter Gelb could attend due to a tennis accident. Tennis elbow, do you think? There was no announcement that tonight's performance was taped for future radio broacast and there were no visible cameras either.
As tradition, the entire company returned to the stage for the encore of The Brindisi, from La Traviata (The Drinking Song!). This group of sopranos couldn't have had more fun. Now, only 12 more months until the next Tucker Gala!
*Verdi, Overture to Nabucco, Members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
*Verdi, Ella mi fu rapita!...Parmi veder le lagrime" from Rigoletto, Stephen Costello
*Musorgsky, Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov, Samuel Ramey, Adam Klein, The New York Choral Society
*Arditi, Il Bacio, Anna Netrebko
*Wagner, Die Frist ist Um from Der fliegende Hollander, James Morris
*Lehar, Vilja from The Merry Widow, Susan Graham
*Puccini, E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, Aleklsandrs Antonenko, Jordan Bisch
Verdi, Final of Act I of Macbeth, Maria Guleghina, Marjorie Owens, Adam Kelin, Zeljko Lucic, Jordan Bisch, Philip Webb, The New York Choral Society
*Catalani, Ebben? Ne andro lontana from La Wally, Hei-kyung Hong
*Massenet Pourquoi me reveller from Werther, Matthew Polenzani
*Verdi, Cortigiani, vil razza dannata from Rigoletto, Zeljko Lucic
Tchaikovsky, Prostite vi, kholmi from Maid of Orleans, Maria Guleghina
*Puccini, Te Deum from Tosca, Samuel Ramey, Keith Jameson, The New York Choral Society
*Verdi, Condotta ell'era in ceppi from Il trovatore, Stephanie Blythe
*Puccini, O soave fanciulla from La Boheme, Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani
*Verdi, Si pel ciel from Otello, Aleksandrs Antonenko, James Morris
*Gounod, Final trio from Faust, Kei-kyung Hong, Matthew Polenzani, Samuel Ramey
*Verdi, Act II, sc ii finale from La Traviata, Anna Netrebko, Jennifer Johnson, Stephen Costello, Keith Jameson, Zeljko Lucic, Christopher Magiera, Jordan Bisch, The New York Choral Society
*Verdi, The Brindisi from La Traviata, The Entire Company (except Suzi G. who split early in order to catch a train to D.C. to perform at a recital for the Supreme Court, arranged by the Tucker Foundation!)
***(The old woman sitting next to Sally was not at all pleased with our exhuberance over Gug's fur. She started screaming at us about her wearing a dead animal on her shoulders. She then threatened to slap Sally! Whoa! Rumble in the third tier!)