José Luccioni (1903-1978) was a Corsican tenor whose career spanned three decades. Born in Bastia, he began his working life as a racecar driver and mechanic for the Citroën company. It was not until he was performing his military service that he discovered his singing voice as well as his love of opera. Following his stint in the army, Luccioni auditioned for the Paris Conservatory and was granted a scholarship to study voice. Among his teachers was the legendary French dramatic tenor Léon Escalaïs, who helped the young singer build his technique. After passing his final exams in the spring of 1930, Luccioni was contracted by Opéra de Rouen, where he made his debut the following year as Cavaradossi in Tosca. His success was such that the Opéra de Paris offered the tenor a contract for the following season. He made his debut at the Opéra in 1932 at Canio in Pagliacci to great acclaim, reportedly receiving an impressive 15 curtain calls. However, in spite of this promising start, the Opéra soon relegated Luccioni to comprimario roles such as the Servant in Elektra and the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier. This eventually changed, and the young tenor found himself essaying such major roles as the Duke in Rigoletto, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Jean in Hérodiade and what was to become his most frequently performed role, Don José in Carmen, which he sang more than 500 times.
Luccioni was soon in demand throughout Europe, with appearances at London’s Covent Garden, the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Arena di Verona, the Théâtre Antique Vaison-la-Romaine, the Opéra-Comique in Paris, Barcelona’s Liceo, the Opéra de Monte Carlo as well as numerous provincial houses throughout France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. The tenor’s overseas activities were limited to a single season in Chicago and a few performances at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. In addition to his operatic stage work, Luccioni starred in a few French films and became active on the concert platform as well as on radio. His repertoire continued to grow, eventually encompassing over thirty diverse roles including Calaf in Turandot, Radames in Aïda, Mathô in Salammbô, Donello in La Fiamma, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Vasco da Gama in L’Africaine, Roland in Esclarmonde and the title roles in Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac (which he created at the 1936 world premiere in Rome), Roméo et Juliette, Samson et Dalila, Werther, La Damnation de Faust, Polyeucte, Sigurd, Andrea Chénier, and his greatest triumph, Verdi’s Otello.
Following his farewell to the stage in 1962, Luccioni was appointed Director of Opéra de Nice. He eventually retired from this position ad settled in Marseille. It was there that he passed away on October 5, 1978, just a week shy of his 75th birthday.
José Luccioni left behind a sizeable recorded legacy that encompassed nearly his entire career. His records make for some intriguing listening. One can hear the development of the tenor’s voice from the young lirico-spinto with a markedly rapid vibrato of the 1930s, to the full-fledged dramatic tenor of the 1940s and ’50s. Although not always subtle, Luccioni was a consistently exciting performer and a remarkable technician. Even recordings made toward the end of a lengthy career give no hint of any depletion of the tenor’s vocal resources. All in all, Luccioni was one of the finest French speaking dramatic tenors of his generation. Here, Luccioni sings "Adieu donc, vains objets" from Massenet's Hérodiade. This recording was made in Paris for H.M.V. on March 15, 1937.