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April 3, 2014

Richard Tucker remembered during centennial

If Richard Tucker were alive today, he would be celebrating his centennial birthday — and probably still singing.

The world’s greatest tenor enjoyed a modest, yet memorable career at the Metropolitan Opera Society with a presence that could light up the stage and mesmerize any audience.

He seemed to sound 20 years younger, with a flawless technique that kept his voice pliable and energized. I’ll never forget the brief interlude we shared.

We met one evening in 1971 following a concert he gave in Nashua, N.H. A cousin was associated with a group called Community Concerts and Richard Tucker was on their billboard. It was just a simple stage setting and not the Met. Didn’t matter to this opera star.

Beneath the veneer, he proved to be a simple man with simple tastes. I found that out after enjoying the pleasure of his company.

I was working for the Gazette at the time, five years into what would be a long journalism career there. Two of my three children were constantly exposed to classical music, along with a wife who tolerated Mozart and Bach. We were a happy, musically-oriented family.

“Let’s attend the concert,” I suggested.

“No way can we take two small children to an opera,” my wife shot back. “That would be suicide if they acted up.”

“We’ll get a baby sitter.”

Easier said than done. None to be found anywhere on such short notice. We decided to go anyway, children and all, ages 2 and 5.

We packed the bags with coloring books and sleeping gear, snacks and other deviants to keep them occupied.

I was in my glory. Richard Tucker took his place in my heart’s repertoire along with greats such as Caruso, Lanza, Pavarotti and Domingo. Nobody could sing “Pagliacci” better. I listened to everything he ever sang, buying his records and tapes as if they were collectibles.

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