Neil Shicoff has appeared at all of the world's leading opera
houses including the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera,
Royal Opera House - London, Berlin's Deutsche Oper, Bavarian State Opera, Lyric Opera
of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and many others. Known for his intensely passionate
portrayals, he has appeared in notable productions by Franco Zeffirelli, Jean-Pierre
Ponnelle, Elijah Moshinsky, Götz Friedrich, Robert Carsen, Andrei Serban, Pier Luigi
Pizzi, Werner Schröter, Lina Wertmüller, and Harold Prince among others.
Mr. Shicoff was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. He
studied at the Juilliard School of Music and with his father, the celebrated cantor Sidney
Shicoff. His debut as a principal was in 1975 at the Cincinnati May Festival; James Levine
called him in to replace Richard Tucker as Verdi's Ernani after Tucker's untimely death. In
the same year, he won the George London Foundation Competition.
Having impressed Levine at Cincinnati, Shicoff was invited to
audition for the Metropolitan Opera in the same year, and he made his debut there in 1976
as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi. [At 27, his Met debut coincidentally came at exactly the
same age as those of both Plácido Domingo and Jussi.] A critic reviewing that debut praised
the tenor's "amazing confidence and focused energy.” Shicoff was then engaged by the house
to sing the tenor leads in Rigoletto, La Bohème, Der Rosenkavalier, and Werther, which was
to become one of his signature roles.
Werther provided the vehicle for Shicoff's 1976 debut with
the Houston Opera, and he repeated the role subsequently in Zürich, Vienna, and
Aix-en-Provence, and at the Met. His European debut - his first Maurizio in Adriana
Lecouvreur in Munich in 1976, was soon followed by Don Carlo in Amsterdam in the 1976-77
season. In 1978, he made his Royal Opera House/Covent Garden debut as Pinkerton in Madama
Butterfly, returning to the house later that year as Rodolfo in La Bohème and Macduff in
Macbeth, which he also sang for the BBC (subsequent Covent Garden appearances include the
Duke in Rigoletto in 1988). His Vienna debut followed in 1978 (Rigoletto), beginning a long
and warm association between him and the Wiener Staatsoper audience; he would sing
frequently in Vienna over the subsequent years, most often in Carmen, Tosca, Onegin,
Grimes, and Lucia.
Shicoff’s close bond with his Viennese audience was
officially acknowledged when he was awarded the honorary title of Kammersänger by the
Wiener Staatsoper's Ioan Holender in 1998. He sang his first Éléazar there, in Halévy's
rarely-performed La Juive on 23 October 1999, a performance which met with overwhelming
critical and audience acclaim.
In 1979 he made his Chicago debut as Rodolfo (La Bohème).
Also noteworthy that year was his Werther in Aix-en-Provence, for television, with Teresa
Berganza as Charlotte, a performance that still resonates powerfully and fondly in his
memory, as well as in those of his audience and critics.
He gave the first performance in 1980 of what would soon vie
with Werther as his most important signature role: Offenbach's Hoffmann. This he sang to
great critical and audience acclaim in Florence (the five-act Oeser edition) under the
baton of Jürgen Flimm. Since then, he has sung the role many times, most notably in
Florence, Hamburg, London, Barcelona, Paris-Bastille (notably in 1992), and New York. More
debuts followed: San Francisco in 1981 as Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), and Paris in
1981-82 as Roméo (Roméo et Juliette), where he also sang Hoffmann. Also notable: Maurizio
in Adriana Lecouvreur at the Met in 1986.
1986 saw his first performance, at La Scala, in his third
signature role: Lensky in Eugene Onegin. Shicoff's voice, at first essentially lyrical, has
developed and darkened, allowing him to take on heavier roles, including Rodolfo in Luisa
Miller (which he sang in Amsterdam in 1991) and Don José in Carmen, a role he debuted in
Seattle in 1987, and sang again in Paris's new Bercy Hall in 1989, and also in Macerata,
Madrid, and Nîmes, among other houses.
That same year, he sang his first French Don Carlos at the
Paris Opéra. He made his Barcelona debut in 1990 as Hoffmann, and his first appearance in
Stuttgart in the same year, as Cavaradossi.
Another important debut came in 1995 with his first Manrico
in Il Trovatore in Zürich in 1995. More significant was his first Peter Grimes in Vienna in
1996 - his first role in a modern opera, and a major triumph for him.
Shicoff also has sung in concert with several major
orchestras, including the Boston, San Francisco, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras, and
the Israel and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. He is also a regular performer at festivals,
including Macerata, Caracalla, Arena di Verona, Orange, Münchener Opernfestspiele, Berliner
Festwochen, Wiener Festwochen, and Salzburger Osterfestspiele. He sang the tenor solo in
Verdi's Requiem at the Salzburg Easter Festival with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio
Shicoff's operatic repertoire is dominated by most of the
great Romantic French and Italian lyric and spinto tenor roles: Gounod's Faust and Roméo,
Massenet's Des Grieux (Manon) and Werther, Don José (Carmen), Hoffmann (Les Contes
d'Hoffmann), Éléazar (La Juive), Maurizio (Adriana Lecouvreur), Nemorino (L'Elisir
d'Amore), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Rodolfo (La Bohème),
Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Cavaradossi (Tosca), Luigi (Il Tabarro), Don Carlo, Alfredo
(La Traviata), Macduff (Macbeth), il Duca di Mantova (Rigoletto), Ernani, Riccardo/Gustavo
III (Un Ballo in Maschera), Manrico (Il Trovatore), Foresto (Attila), Alfred (Die
Fledermaus), the Italian Singer (Der Rosenkavalier), Lensky (Eugene Onegin), and Peter
Mr. Shicoff’s recordings include complete performances of
Carmen, La Juive, Lucia, Hoffmann, Bohème, Tabarro, Onegin (for both Phillips and Deutsche
Grammophon), Aroldo, Macbeth, Rigoletto, and Traviata.
He is a popular guest on opera-interview broadcasts where he
generously shares his long experience as a leading tenor on operatic stages around the