Sunday, January 1, 2012
Ezio Pinza: One Of The Greatest Singing Basses
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.
Here is the quintessential Pinza in one of his most popular operas, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, singing "Non Piu Andrai."
Notice the extreme smoothness of the voice. The wonderful thing about Pinza (inter alia!) is that he was first and foremost a singer. He put the "singing" in "singing bass." Many, less endowed vocally, will sometimes bark their way through even lyric arias like this. Pinza never did that. He was always the consummate singer and musician.
In the Italian repertoire, Pinza was very much at home, and the opportunity to display his elegant and musical singing was never greater than in operas such as Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Here is the beautifully dramatic "Il Lacerato Spirito."
It is hard to imagine this aria better sung. It displays Pinza's operatic gifts perfectly. It is all there: the musicality, the stylistics, and—always—the flawless technique and beautiful, flowing voice.
Finally, we absolutely must conclude with the song that made Pinza a household name in America. Here is an old kinescope recording of Pinza and Mary Martin in "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. As will become apparent from the old video, he was in fact an excellent actor. The voice is wonderful, and the thick Italian accent is completely irrelevant, because it is a foreign character part. In fact, it adds to the charm. This is the Pinza most Americans knew and loved:
There is nothing I can add to that!
at 11:31 AM