Ezio Pinza (Fortunio Pinza)

Ezio Pinza

Ezio Pinza, christened Fortunio Pinza, was born in modest circumstances in Rome in 1892 and grew up on Italy’s east coast, in the ancient city of Ravenna. He studied singing at Bologna’s Conservatorio Martini, making his operatic debut in 1914, as Oroveso in Norma at Cremona. As a young man, Pinza was a devotee of bicycle racing. He also undertook four years of military service during World War I, prior to resuming his operatic career in Rome in 1919. He was then invited to sing at Italy’s foremost opera house, La Scala, Milan, making his début there in February 1922. At La Scala, under the direction of the brilliant and exacting principal conductor Arturo Toscanini, Pinza’s career blossomed during the course of the next few seasons. He became a popular favourite of critics and audiences due to the high quality of his singing and the attractiveness of his stage presence. Ezio Pinza never learned to read music. He learned all his music by ear. Lacking academic musical training, Pinza was unable to sight-read a musical score. However, he would listen to his part played on the piano and then sing it accurately. Pinza succeeded the great Italian basses Francesco Navarini and Vittorio Arimondi, both of whom enjoyed international opera careers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Nazzareno De Angelis, who arrived on the scene in the early 1900s. Another of his eminent predecessors in the Italian operatic repertoire was the Spaniard Jose Mardones, who had appeared regularly with the Boston and Met companies between 1909 and 1926. Tancredi Pasero, whose vibrant voice sounded remarkably similar to Pinza’s, was his chief contemporary rival among Italian-born basses. Pasero, however, lacked Pinza’s magnetic personality.

Pinza’s Metropolitan Opera debut occurred in November 1926 in Spontini’s La vestale, with famed American soprano Rosa Ponselle in the title role. In 1929, he sang Don Giovanni, a role with which he was subsequently to become closely identified. He subsequently added the Mozart roles Figaro (in 1940) and Sarastro (in 1942) to his repertoire, a vast number of Italian operatic roles of Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi, and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (sung in Italian). Apart from the Met, Pinza appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1930-1939, and was invited to sing at the Salzburg Festival in 1934-1937 by the celebrated German conductor Bruno Walter. Ezio Pinza sang once again under the baton of Toscanini in 1935, this time with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, as the bass soloist in performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. One of these performances was broadcast by CBS and preserved on transcription discs; this recording has been issued on LPs and CDs. He also sang in Toscanini’s February 6, 1938, NBC Symphony Orchestra’s broadcast performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. These performances both took place in Carnegie Hall. In March 1942 he was arrested and detained 3 months on Ellis Island with hundreds of other Italian-Americans who were suspected of supporting the Axis.

Ezio Pinza retired from the Metropolitan Opera in 1948. He had sung opposite many celebrated singers at the Met during his heyday. They included, among others, such international stars as Amelita Galli-Curci, Rosa Ponselle, Elisabeth Rethberg, Giovanni Martinelli, Beniamino Gigli, Lawrence Tibbett, Giuseppe De Luca, and Salvatore Baccaloni. The Metropolitan Opera honored Pinza by dedicating all the water fountains at the new Metropolitan Opera House (Lincoln Center) to him. Before his retirement from opera, his repertoire consisted of some 95 classical roles. Ezio Pinza died on May 9, 1957, of a stroke at the age of 64 in Stamford, Connecticut. His funeral was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He is interred at Putnam Cemetery, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Shortly before his death, Pinza completed his memoirs, which were published in 1958 by Rinehart & Company. Photos taken during his career, as well as images of his family, were included in the book.

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  • May, 18, 1892
  • Rome, Italy


  • May, 09, 1957
  • USA
  • Stamford, Connecticut

Cause of Death

  • stroke


  • Putnam Cemetery
  • Greenwich, Connecticut
  • USA

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