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Born at Castiglione dei Pepoli, near Bologna, he studied with Giuseppe Marchese and made his stage debut in Spoleto, as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, in 1967, he then joined the chorus of La Scala in Milan, and made his solo debut there in 1975, again as Figaro.
His career quickly took an international turn with debut at the Royal Opera House in London, as Miller in Luisa Miller, in 1978, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as Renato/Ankarström in Un ballo in maschera, in 1980. Renato was also his debut role at the Paris Opéra in 1981, and the Salzburg Festival in 1989, under Herbert Von Karajan. His career is remembered for famous performances in the opera world, including works with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Plácido Domingo and others.
His repertoire encompasses the entire Italian repertory from bel canto to verismo, but his sonorous voice, secure technique and dramatic abilities are best displayed in Verdi - notably as Rigoletto, Macbeth, Count di Luna, Giorgo Germont, Rodrigo, Amonasro, Iago, and Falstaff. He has sung the role of Rigoletto alone more than 400 times. 
Nucci has enjoyed a long and successful career and is still active. He is married to soprano Adriana Anelli, with whom he has a daughter.