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Great Artists: The Magnificent Richard Tucker


The Early Years

"For a life that ended so suddenly, so unexpectedly, Richard Tucker's began simply enough in a tenement in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. He was  born there in 1913, the sixth and last child of Israel and Fannie Ticker--immigrant Jewish parents who, like hundreds of thousands of others, had crossed the Atlantic in steerage, leaving behind the oppression and intolerance of Eastern Europe, choosing instead the boundless optimism of life in America. They and the other threadbare European Jews who crowded the decks of the ferryboats that steamed past Liberty Island were soon shunted from the Ellis Island processing center to the swollen streets, decaying tenements, and tinderbox sweatshops of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The Tickers made their way into the maelstrom of lower Manhattan with no money, no place to live, and four children to feed. A farmhand and for a time a peddler in Sucharan, a shtetl in the Carpathian Mountains near the Russian border of northern Rumania, Israel Ticker entered the New World with no appreciable trade. Only the generosity of a Rumanian synagogue, whose congregation he joined, and a nearby settlement house on the Lower East Side, helped him sustain his family until he earned his first American dollars--selling chocolate squares at a candy stand. Following the accepted Melting Pot practice, Israel soon anglicized his biblical name to 'Sam,' though he resisted the Americanized 'Tucker' that his children would eventually adopt."

Proud patriarch Israel (Sam) Ticker (center) with his family in 1926. Seated (left to right)  are Daniel Nacman, holding his infant daughter, Ruth; Claire Nacman; Claire Parness; Abe Parness, holding his infant son, Larry; Daniel Parness.
Standing (left to right) are Minnie (Mrs. Daniel Nacman);  Celia (Mrs. Louis) Tucker; Louis Tucker; Fannie Ticker; Rubin (Richard Tucker), then thirteen; Norma (Mrs. Abe Parness): and Rae Tucker. (courtesy of Mrs. Richard Tucker)

"Sam Ticker was an Orthodox Jew in a fundamental Old World sense of the term. He remained devout and observant despite the sunrise-to-sunset workdays he endured to be able to feed and clothe his family. His religious devotion gave his younger son lifelong memories of the importance of rituals in everyday life. Each morning, young Rubin (later Richard) watched his father don a prayer shawl and tefillin and thank God for creating the new day and for renewing his strength through the night's sleep. At dinner each night--however meager the meal and no matter how late it was served--Sam recited the Hebrew blessing, giving thanks to 'the King of the Universe, Who dost bring bread out of the ground...'
A reasonably literate woman, she (Sam's wife Fannie) fulfilled her responsibilities for her children's upbringing by reciting the biblical verses she had learned from her own mother, and reading them snippets of Yiddish and Hebrew wisdom from New York City's then-prosperous Jewish newspapers. Though Sam was dutiful, it was Fannie who reinforced her children's identities as Jews, underscoring the meaning of the Book of Jonah: 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven, Who hath made the sea and the dry land.'
To foster in her children a sense of communal responsibility as Jews, Fannie Ticker used what she had learned of the Talmud. A gem she frequently quoted to her younger son--her 'Ruby' (Rubin/Richard), as she called him, was the parable of men in a boat at sea. Far from the shore, the parable went, one man began to bore a small hole in the bottom of the boat. When the others admonished him to stop, the man responded, 'But I am boring the hole under my own seat.' Only when his comrades pointed out that he would cause all of them to drown did the self-centered man stop what he was doing. 'So it is with Israel,' the Talmud declares, 'Its wealth or its woe is in the hands of every individual Israelite.'"



Great Artist Series

 The Yiddish World


The Magnificent
Richard Tucker
in Gounod's

Richard Tucker
as Radames
in Verdi's


Richard Tucker
as Alvaro
"La Forza del Destino"

Richard Tucker
as Des Grieux
"Manon Lescaut"

Richard Tucker
as Cavaradossi


Richard Tucker
as Tamino
in Mozart's
"Magic Flute"


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