His operatic career began in earnest after WWI, when he made his La Scala debut, in 1919, under Arturo Toscanini. From the very beginning, his voice was uncommonly smooth and beautiful, a great asset for a singing bass, especially one with matinee idol looks, which Pinza possessed in abundance. His lack of formal education meant that he was not a particularly well-schooled musician. He was not able to read music, for example, but he had a very sharp ear, and could memorize music accurately, even to the point of being able to hear—and absorb—stylistic nuances. His musical instincts were superb. The result of this was that he began his musical career to considerable acclaim, coming across to audiences and critics alike as a very good-looking and sophisticated singer and actor, with a brilliant and beautiful voice. His career soared as a result, and by 1926 he had been invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. Engagements at Covent Garden and Salzburg soon followed. He was particularly successful in the Italian repertoire, including Bellini, Verdi and Donizetti.
Like other Italians before him, he felt most at home in America, where he was an idol of the huge Italian-American audience that had so warmly embraced Caruso, Galli-Curci, Martinelli, and so many others. He was a favorite at the Met, where he sang for 22 years. In 1948 he switched gears, so to speak, and embarked upon a successful Broadway career, becoming a popular and well known matinee idol, largely through the success he enjoyed in South Pacific and, later, Fanny. It was in South Pacific, however, that he first became known by America’s popular music audience, and it brought him great fame. He was frequently heard and seen on radio, TV and in the movies, and found acceptance as an essentially popular singer. His was one of the broader and more successful American singing careers.
wearing an ascot
in black tie
trying out a camera
All Photos courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery