b. Fortunato Pinza, 8 May 1892, Rome, Italy, d. 9 May 1957, Stamford, Connecticut, USA. An accomplished operatic bass, Pinza studied at the Bologna Conservatory before making his professional debut in 1914. After World War I he sang at Italy’s principal opera houses, including La Scala, Milan, from 1922-24. He made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1926, singing there for 22 consecutive seasons. During the 30s he sang in London and elsewhere in Europe, then, in the late 40s, left the Met to start a new career on Broadway. He sang the role of Emil de Becque in South Pacific (1949), in which he played opposite Mary Martin. The show was hugely successful, running for 1, 925 performances, and Pinza won a Tony Award as Best Actor. He appeared as César in Fanny (1954), another success that ran for 888 performances. Pinza made some film appearances, including Carnegie Hall (1947), a thinly-disguised concert of classical music, featuring opera singers Lily Pons, Rïse Stevens and Jan Peerce. Also involved are Harry James and Vaughn Monroe, there presumably as a sop to the mass audience.
In 1951 Pinza appeared in Mr. Imperium (UK title: You Belong To My Heart), playing a European royal chasing after a pop singer turned film star (Lana Turner). Included are some songs by Harold Arlen and Dorothy Fields, the score was by Bronislaw Kaper and the musical director Johnny Green. The film was undistinguished but Pinza did well and sang the UK title song accompanied by the Guadalajara Trio, with one chorus from Turner (dubbed by Trudy Irwin). In Strictly Dishonorable (1951), Pinza played an Italian opera singer, opposite Janet Leigh. In Tonight We Sing (1953), a biopic of impresario Sol Hurok, Pinza took the role of the acclaimed operatic bass Feodor Chaliapin.