There aren’t many well-known Croatian opera stars. But there is Zinka Milanov.
Born on May 17, 1906, the Croatian diva would go on to one of the most stable careers at the Metropolitan Opera.
She studied in Milan and Berlin during her youth, making her opera debut in Slovenia at age 21. Her role? Leonora in “Il Trovatore.” It was clear early on that she was destined for big meaty roles.
Her Met debut came at age 31 in 1937 in “Il Trovatore” and would become a fixture at the house.
One fun fact about Milanov is that her original last name was Kunc, but she ultimately changed it to Milanov, taking her husband’s name because it was not “glamorous enough for the Met.”
She would leave the house in 1947 and made her La Scala debut in 1950. However, the arrival of Rudolf Bing was the event that brought the soprano back to the Met. She closed out the old Met in 1966, ending her career and turning to teaching. Among her students were Grace Bumbry, Regina Resnik, and Christa Ludwig, among others.
She passed away on May 30, 1989.
During her legendary career at the Met, Milanov was the queen of Verdi operas taking on such roles as Leonora in “Il Trovatore,” Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Leonora in “La Forza del Destino,” Amelia in “Simon Boccanegra,” and Desdemona in “Otello.” But the role she performed more than any other was “Aida,” which she starred in 75 times, 16% of all her performances at the Met.
Her first Met “Aida” came in 1938 and her final one was 20 years later in 1958.
Read More on Milanov
Watch and Listen
Listen to Milanov in “Aida” from the Met.
And here is a look at her unique vocal qualities.