Born at Castiglione dei Pepoli, near Bologna, Nucci studied with Giuseppe Marchese. He made his stage debut in 1967 in Spoleto as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He then joined the chorus of La Scala in Milan, going on to make his solo debut there in 1975, again as Rossini's Figaro.
Nucci's career quickly took an international turn. He debuted at London's Royal Opera House in 1978, as Miller in Luisa Miller, and at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1980, as Renato/Ankarström in Un ballo in maschera. Renato was also his debut role at the Paris Opéra in 1981, and at the Salzburg Festival in 1989, under Herbert Von Karajan. His career is remembered for high-profile performances in opera including appearances with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland and Plácido Domingo.
On June 6, 2003 Leo Nucci scintillated at the 3. Herbert von Karajan memorial concert under the baton of conductor James Allen Gähres in Congress-Centrum Ulm, together with the singers Stella Grigorian and Vera Schoenberg with Italian opera arias and duets.
In January 2016 he performed at La Scala of Milan as Rigoletto in Rigoletto with Nadine Sierra as Gilda. On October 10, 2019 Nucci sang for the last time of his career, during the celebrations for the anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi, in Parma.
Nucci has enjoyed a long and successful career. His repertoire encompasses the entire Italian repertory from bel canto to verismo, and his technique and acting abilities are displayed in Verdi – notably as Rigoletto, Macbeth, Count di Luna, Giorgio Germont, Rodrigo, Amonasro, Iago, and Falstaff. He has sung the role of Rigoletto alone more than 500 times.
He is married to soprano Adriana Anelli, with whom he has a daughter.
- The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991, Deutsche Grammophon DVD, 00440-073-4582
- Official Herbert von Karajan - online archive 3. Herbert von Karajan Gedächtniskonzert Retrieved May 24, 2016
- Eduardo Lamberti Castronuovo (13 January 2016). "Scala, Leo Nucci (Rigoletto) e la giovane Nadine Sierra (Gilda) subissati di richieste di bis dal pubblico" (in Italian). video.corriere.it. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "Scala, pubblico in visibilio per la prima del Rigoletto. Concesso il bis chiesto a gran voce" (in Italian). rainews.it. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- Vittorio Testa (23 September 2019). "Leo Nucci: «Non canto più: il 10 ottobre il mio addio al Regio»" (in Italian). gazzettadiparma.it. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
- Pierachille Dolfini (19 September 2019). "Opera. Leo Nucci: «Il mio ultimo Rigoletto, emozionato come la prima volta»" (in Italian). avvenire.it. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
- Grove Music Online, Elizabeth Forbes, May 2008