"The fascinating biography of Richard Tucker has been well publicized. Somehow, his name keeps dropping out from the various "top ten" lists. Luckily, his vast recorded legacy combined with modern reengineering methods does not allow his name to fade into obscurity. The CD at hand combines two albums originally issues as LPs - "The Soul of Italy" and "The Art of Bel Canto". There are 12 songs from each album, allowing for generous helping of Neapolitan Songs from the former and 18th century Italian composers' songs from the latter. Most of the Neapolitan songs are well known to current public largely thanks to Luciano Pavarotti's two albums "O Sole Mio" and "Passione". While I respectfully disagree with a statement of my fellow reviewer that Pavarotti has "corrupted" the material, I must say that the execution of some of the songs on these albums appeared somewhat detached. Not the case with Tucker. He pours a lot of heart and soul into these songs, easily evoking images usually associated with them (Italian scenery, unrequited love, and big BIG passions). Had I not known that Tucker was born and raised in a Jewish household in Brooklyn NY, I would've surely thought, "this is an Italian singing". This only goes to say that true art knows no geographical boundaries. Tucker's Italian, in fact, is perfect, as several native speakers have told me, and he stresses all the right words. He isn't afraid to allow a bit of a sob or a sigh into his tone, and they do sound authentic, not overdone.
Turning to the Bel Canto part of the CD (tracks 13-24) one is in for a surprise - the singing here is entirely different. Here's why: most of these songs are vocal students' bread and butter, having been published in a well-known Schirmer compilation book "24 Italian Songs and Arias Of The 17th and 18th C." They require simple approach, but utmost care and control of the voice, especially a big voice such as Tucker's. I have no doubt that Tucker has studied these songs in his early years, and he consciously makes them as straightforward as possible, yet infuses each with subtle passion. It has now become somewhat of a trend to rediscover these songs once again. The latest offering is from a wonderful young tenor Ramon Vargas and it's a pleasure to hear that he, just like Tucker does not over-emote on any of these songs and just sings them through as they were meant to be sang. Tucker's tenor voice was exceptionally large. Therefore the singer had to exercise a great deal of control with this repertoire. The result -- quite possibly the best rendition of these songs on record. Regrettably, the well-known "Pieta Signore" is attributed to ... Rossini.
This CD is a must for any fan of good singing. The second half of it is also a good companion for the voice students. Along with "Richard Tucker sings Verdi" and "Welcoming the Sabbath", this disc is a testimony to the talent and personality of one of the greatest singers of the 20th century."
Tucker: an Italian tenor from Brooklyn.
Carlos Alfonso Edo | Mataro, Barcelona Spain | 04/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here you'll find Tucker at his best: Glorious voice, ringing, powerful and supple. Faultless singing technique, and an unerring sense of style in this popular, and not so popular, italian repertoire. He is fully idiomatic and musically deligthful. Really a great italian tenor that came from Brooklyn!"
Outstanding - a real treasure
Carlos Alfonso Edo | 11/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The fidelity is marvelous, the singing superb, everything about this recording is the best. It is a lovely, lovely album and it is difficult to believe that he isn't Italian."
Probably the most important solo album ever made
Rod Tierman | 06/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Tucker's Soul of Italy is a CD you simply MUST have. The Neapolitan songs on this album are excellently done, particularly "Ohie meneche", but the real history making part of this CD are tracks 13 through 24, which is all of Tucker's great "Art of Bel Canto" album. This album consisted of 12 arie antiche selections that are, to this day, definitive. It is very impressive indeed how Tucker controls his large voice on such ariettas as "Caro mio Ben", "Gia'il sole del Gange", "Che fiero Costume", the classic "Nina", and the like. Listening to the Bel Canto selections on this CD is like hearing history in the making. Tucker's interpretations on these selections has influenced some of the premier artists of today like Pavarotti, and have yet to be duplicated. This CD offers a double treat. The first half shows off those magnificent Tucker high notes and interpretive passion. The second half displays what true refined, well produced singing is all about. This collection is a must for anyone's collection. As the previous reviewer states, the sooner you purchase this CD the better. Tucker is literally a paragon of vocal virtue here. The album title is The Soul of Italy and Richard Tucker certainly has plenty of soul to offer. This CD is something that simply has to be experienced. A true gem"
A must -own
Pigmalione | New England, USA | 05/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't think the critics and public knew quite what to make of Richard Tucker's "The Art of Bel Canto," which was released in the 1960s, when the dramatic tenor was in his 50s. Why did this legendary Rodolfo (Luisa Miller) and Canio stop to record "Sebben crudele" and "Danza, danza fanciulla"? The singing, however, is stunning in every way. How many dramatic tenors could sing this repertoire with such utterly flawless technique? The heart is there, too, and the orchestrations are ingenious and colorful.
Even today the record execs don't know what to make of this legendary foray into the arie antiche. What were they thinking when they released these 12 exquisite tracks on a repulsive-looking CD entitled "The Soul of Italy"? The stereotypical cover makes Tucker look like a Mafia goon named Guido the Wrench. And the program notes must certainly be one of the most mindless ever to be published on a commercial CD.
No matter, this CD is a must own for all voice teachers and for anyone who THINKS they understand "the technique.""