Tucker’s voice was generally ranked among the finest natural tenor instruments of his time.
Tucker was born in Brooklyn on August 28, 1914, the son of Jewish immigrant parents, who named him Reuben Ticker. His father who had come to this country from the Romanian province of Bessarabia, was a Manhattan fur worker and sometimes officiated as cantor in his synagogue.
At the age of 6, Tucker was singing alto and caught the notice of Joshua Samuel Weisser, cantor of the Allen Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side. At his death, he was still an ordained cantor who sang during High Holy Day services.
Mr. Tucker’s operatic career was, in a sense, an accident of marriage. Thirty‐five years ago, he met Sara Perelmuth, who was the sister of Jan Peerce, already a well‐known tenor.
At the time a $25‐a‐week fur salesman, Mr. Tucker proposed marriage to Sara on a BMT subway platform, and she accepted, even though he was not considered a great catch by her well‐off family.
Soon, Mr. Tucker found himself in a friendly rivalry with his brother‐in‐law and made up his mind that he too could become a famous singer. He began, taking voice lessons from the Wagnerian tenor Paul Althouse, impressing that artist with his determination.
Until his marriage, Mr. Tucker had never seen a Metropolitan Opera performance. After several years of study, however, he entered the Metropolitan Auditions of the Air and won a second prize. A job with the Chicago Theater of the Air on radio station WGN followed (he sang condensed versions of operas and operettas).
It was in 1944, finally, that Mr. Tucker, having refused to enter the Met’s Auditions of the Air for a second try, managed to persuade Edward Johnson, the company’s manager; to audition him on the Met stage. Mr. Johnson ordered the novice to learn the part of Enzo in “La Gioconda” and came back. When he made his debut’ a year later in the role, delegations from Brooklyn and the garment industry were there to cheer him on.
Mr. Tucker was one of an illustrious group of American singers who were brought into the Metropolitan in the nineteen‐thirties and forties ‘during the Edward Johnson era. Among, the others who, broke tradition by being’ mostly American trained, were Leonard Warren, Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, Helen Traubel, Eleanor Steber, Rise Stevens, Blanche Thebom and Roberta Peters.
Although he appeared on occasion in European opera houses such as La Scala in Milan, where he made his debut in 1969, Mr. Tucker’s career centered on the Metropolitan.
Among his early glories was his selection by Arturo Toscanini in 1949 to sing Radames in “Aida” in the Italian maestro’s first nationwide opera broadcast. Among his frivolities was the time he broke into Italian for a famous aria during an English‐language performance of “Martha” in 1961.
Tucker died on January 8, 1975, aged 60, of a heart attack.