Neil Shicoff

born 2 June 1949 New York City

Picture of Neil Shicoff

Neil Shicoff sings Turandot: Nessun dorma
In RA format

Neil Shicoff sings La Juive: Ô Dieu, Dieu de nos pères

Neil Shicoff sings La Juive: Dieu, que ma voix tremblante

Neil Shicoff sings La Juive: Rachel, quand du Seigneur

Neil Shicoff sings La Juive: Arrêtez! Arrêtez! Plus qu'un mot!, with Walter Fink and Krassimira Stoyanova
This Juive performance is excellent for Shicoff's standard. I heard him twice, and on both evenings, he wasn't half as good, and not either in the (third) performance broadcast by the Austrian radio. In the two performances I heard, he always cracked the final top note in "Rachel"; on one of the two evenings, he thought he had it and repeated it twice, thus trying that note three consecutive times – he always cracked.
(However, to do Shicoff justice, it must be said that he was above all a singing actor, or more precisely: first an actor, then a singer. And he is actually one of the most impressive and most intelligent actors I've ever seen; had he chosen a film career, he'd have won lots of Oscars no doubt. Whenever his singing wasn't as bad as disturbing his acting performance, I enjoyed seeing him tremendously; which was the case in Peter Grimes – Shicoff alone was the reason to attend this performance of an opera I don't absolutely care for –, in Tosca, in Madama Butterfly, quite surprisingly, in Evgenij Onegin, in Don Carlo and in Roméo et Juliette, a role he didn't just act but also sing really well.)
Neil Shicoff sings Il trovatore: Di quella pira

Neil Shicoff sings Ernani: Come rugiada al cespite ... O tu che l'alma adora
In RA format

There is no shortage on Shicoff biographies on the web, but here we go: his first teacher was his father, cantor Sidney Shicoff, then he studied further at the Juilliard School of Music with Jennie Tourel. Already during his studies, he sang at small New York theaters and in Santa Fe, but his debut as a fully trained tenor came in 1975 (as Ernani in Cincinnati or as Narraboth in Washington, depending on sources).

After his Met debut in 1976, he embarked on a world career that included literally every important opera theater, centered around the Met, Zürich and the Vienna Staatsoper. He sang a bit too long, until the mid-2010s. His most important roles were Hoffmann, Werther, Roméo, Peter Grimes, and Éléazar (which latter was a sore musical misunderstanding, but certainly a most impressive piece of stage acting).

Of supreme intelligence and sensitivity, Shicoff was also quite difficult to work with, prone to suffering emotional problems, which resulted, at times, in frequent cancellations. On the other hand, he kept a healthy and quite ironic critical distance to himself like very few singers, or artists in general. Interviews with Shicoff were always a delight, and some of his remarks were priceless; my favorite: "Plácido is getting younger and younger, but fortunately, I know that I'm still younger than he is. In the meantime, I was only five years old when making my debut at the Staatsoper."

I wish to thank Imogen Norcroft for the recording (Turandot).
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings (Juive, Ernani) and picture.

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