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 Abbado.
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 Grimes.
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 world.