Zinka Milanov, born in Zagreb, Croatia as Zinka Kunc, studied with the famous Wagnerian soprano Milka Ternina. She was discovered by Bruno Walter who recommended her to Arturo Toscanini for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in Salzburg in 1937. There she was heard by Edward Johnson, then general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. In the same year she made her debut in New York as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
At that time she adopted the name Milanov and continued as the leading dramatic soprano of the Metropolitan Opera for nearly 30 years until her retirement in 1966 at the closing night of the old Met. She then devoted herself to teaching – among her pupils were Grace Bumbry, Christa Ludwig and Regina Resnik.
It was generally acknowledged that Zinka Milanov was the greatest dramatic soprano after Rosa Ponselle, who retired early in 1937. (…) Her singing was refined, subtle, powerful, sensitive or dramatic, as the music demanded. She produced a big, warm sound and had an equalized scale up to a secure high C. In the Aida ‘Nile scene’ she was able to take a haunting pianissimo on the C that will forever float in memory.
(Harold C. Schoenberg, The New York Times, May 31, 1989)