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Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

By Galegirl
Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

Keepsakes from opera reviewing

As a seasoned opera reviewer, I regularly receive notices from companies to promote their upcoming seasons and/or selected productions. Sometimes publicists send me books and CDs related to opera in exchange for a review. I can’t share all the news and announcements that come my way, as much as I might like to. So, I pick and choose my “operatoonities,” what to publish and what to review.

One day earlier this summer, I was scrolling through my inbox and found a cordial email from Dr. David Tucker, son of opera legend Richard Tucker, requesting a review of his memoir about life with his famous father called The Hard Bargain. It sounded like something out of the ordinary, and I was intent on sharing the book with readers. The bygone era of Richard Tucker’s Metropolitan Opera days, which some refer to as the Golden Age of Opera, intrigued me.

Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

David Tucker memoir

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The Hard Bargain, a new memoir by David Tucker and Burton Spivak

Because Dr. Tucker proved very cooperative throughout our emailship, once I reviewed the book, I requested a special Q&A with him about the project, and he was happy to oblige. Here then is a Q&A with Dr. David Tucker, the middle son of Richard Tucker, primo tenore at the Metropolitan Opera for 30 years (1945 to 1975).

Q: Welcome to, Dr. Tucker. When did you decide to write your memoir?
A: I first thought about my memoir three and a half years ago, following my retirement from ophthalmology practice in Cincinnati and teaching at NYU School of Medicine. I have been told many times that I am an excellent raconteur, and thus, always attracted great interest and enthusiasm when people have inquired about my life experiences with my iconic father. This memoir is a testament to the extraordinary life that my dad lived and the awesome career he helped me to pursue. My story illuminates the world of opera, the long path to become a physician, the importance of hard work and the lucky break, and the Jewish American saga.

Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

photo of David Tucker in operating room scrubs

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Dr. David Tucker in operating scrubs | photo courtesy of David Tucker

Q: Why did you choose to use a collaborator and how did you find Burton Spivak?
A: My story needed a special writer to capture my voice and reveal the clash of wills between a famous father and his hard-driving middle son. After trying a few writers, I finally found Burton Spivak, who was that gifted person. Serendipitously, I connected with Burton on the golf course at my club in Connecticut. He captured the narrative in vivid detail and elegant prose with a compassionate and honest guide to both young and older men and women about the turmoil and love in relationships between parents and children.

Burton wrote as if he knew my father after listening and recording my stories during hundreds of hours of interviews.

Although the libretto was mine, Burton was my Puccini in its expression.

Q: How long did it take you to write? Describe one or two of the challenges involved.
A: For me, it was a monumental task that required discipline with over 500 hours committed to recorded interviews, editing back and forth with Burton, and research for accuracy of the narrative. This also includes dialog with the publishing company and planning of future marketing for the book. The biggest challenges were that I was virgin to book publishing, and also had to trust my collaborator with some of the most intimate facts about my life.

Q: You fearlessly shared several eyebrow-raising incidents from your past–as a child, locking Kenny in the incinerator of your apartment building; as an adult, the “homemade cupcakes” episode, much later in the book. Were you disposed to candor throughout or was that something Mr. Spivak coached you into doing or being?
The candor is all mine, but putting it to my voice was Burton’s expertise. Since “Love and Respect” was always present in my heart when talking about my parents, my candor and honesty came forth naturally. However, I was a “devil and a trouble maker” as a kid, seeking center stage. Later on, full of ambition to succeed, I wanted to hold that “center” professionally too. My loving wife never felt I had a “filter,” and Burton Spivak helped to bring my personality to the written page.

Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

Opera legend Richard Tucker singing with his three sons. David Tucker is holding the maracas. | photo courtesy of David Tucker

Q: Did writing this memoir offer any intangible rewards? Did you get anything out of the writing process or from the publication of the resulting book–a sense of peace, closure, a little poetic justice?
I always felt blessed with no regrets. Dreamed big, aimed high, and worked hard at what I wanted. In hindsight, I made the correct choices in my life with only some mistakes. VERY LUCKY ! As far as my dad was concerned, tough love with parental indifference turned out to be parental wisdom.

Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

David Tucker with his dad backstage during a performance of “La Juive” in New Orleans | photo courtesy of David Tucker

Q: Since you gave up your dream of a stage career, what is left on the bucket list?
A: It is true that I gave up my dream for the theater stage, but my destiny (bashert–Yiddish word for destiny and soulmate) was in medicine and my theater became the OR (operating room) as a successful eye surgeon. I do remember my father repeatedly saying to his young boys: “Be the best at what you choose.”

I continue to approach life with verve. No real bucket list, but I want to push forward with my play, Divo and Diavolo – A Tale of Two Tenors, for an enhanced production in regional theater. This play is based on my memoir.

Q&A with Author David Tucker, an Opera Star’s Son

The playbill for new dramatic comedy | photo courtesy of David Tucker

After I accomplish this feat, a possible screenplay for cinema. BIG DREAMS AGAIN!


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