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Milanov, Zinka (1906–1989)

Croatian soprano. Born Mira Zinka Teresa Kunç in Zagreb, Croatia, on May 17, 1906; died on May 30, 1989, in New York; married Predrag Milanov (a theater director and actor), in 1937 (divorced); married General Ljubomir Ilic, in 1947; studied at Zagreb Academy with Milka Ternina, Maria Kostrencic, and Fernando Carpi.

Made debut at the Ljubliana Opera in Il Trovatore (1927); Zagreb Opera (1928–35); Metropolitan Opera in Il Trovatore (December 17, 1937); Teatro all Scala (1950); retired (1966).

Zinka Milanov will be remembered for her larger-than-life stage persona as well as for her voice. Her performances were a throwback to an earlier era in opera when all stars played in the "grand manner." "To an age of somewhat dislocated musical values," wrote Irvin Kolodin, "Zinka Milanov stands as a kind of magnetic pole of old-fashioned musical virtue." Milanov's voice was huge and could dominate any ensemble easily. She chose, however, to make certain that her voice suited the total production. In the early years of her career, she performed widely throughout Yugoslavia for very little money. Often she made long train rides for a single performance. In this way, Milanov introduced a great deal of opera to her country, performing Turandot in 1929 only three years after its premiere. When Bruno Walter heard her in Vienna in 1936, he sent her to Toscanini, who engaged her for his 1937 production of Verdi's Requiem at Salzburg. That same year, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Although many appreciated her marvelous voice, her public recognition was not as great as that of other stars. "It is a tragedy for operatic singing that [Maria Callas ] rather than Milanov became the postwar icon," wrote Hugh Canning. Despite that, she had a wide following and was the principal soprano in New York until the closing of the old Metropolitan on April 16, 1966. Recordings document her stupendous voice.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

Milanov, Zinka (1906–1989)

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