Leo Nucci was born in 1942 in the town of Castiglione dei Pepoli, near Bologna. While apprenticing as a locksmith, he also trained his voice under Mario Bigazzina and then continued his vocal studies in Bologna with Giuseppe Marchesina between 1959 and 1968. In 1967, he won a singing competition in Spoleto that afforded him his first opportunity to appear on stage, as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. In the beginning, he sang as a member of the La Scala chorus rather than as a soloist. He also furthered his education in Milan with Ottoviano Bizzani, and in 1973 won another singing competition (the Concours de Vercelli), which brought him another engagement as a soloist, this time in the title role of Rigoletto.
He made his La Scala debut in 1976, with appearances on other renowned opera stages following, including London's Royal Opera House, the Wiener Staatsoper, New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. Since then, he has sung his repertoire of more than 45 roles all over the world.
His principal roles include Mercutio (in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette), Miller (Luisa Miller), Renato (Un ballo in maschera), Falstaff, Count di Luna (Il trovatore), Macbeth, Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Marquis de Posa (Don Carlos), Amonasro (Aida), Iago (Otello) and Arbace (Idomeneo).
The conductors he has collaborated with include Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Carlos Kleiber, Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Chailly, Zubin Mehta, Sir Pritchard and Donato Renzetti.
He has sung together with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Plácido Domingo, and many others.
He is married to the soprano Adriana Anelli.