Milton John Cross (April 16, 1897 – January 3, 1975) was an American radio announcer famous for his work on the NBC and ABC radio networks.
He was best known as the voice of the Metropolitan Opera, hosting its Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts for 43 years, from the time of their inception in 1931 until his death in 1975.
Born in New York City, Cross started his career just as network radio itself was in its earliest stages. He joined the New Jersey station WJZ in 1921, not just as an announcer but also as a singer, often enaging in recitals with the station's staff pianist, Keith McLeod. By 1927, WJZ had moved to Manhattan and had become the flagship station of the Blue Network of NBC's new national radio network. Cross' voice became familiar as he not only delivered announcements for the Blue Network but also hosted a number of popular programs. Cross was the announcer for the quiz program Information Please and the musical humor show The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, among others. In the 1940s Cross hosted a Saturday morning show featuring child performers, called Coast To Coast on a Bus.
Cross featured as narrator on several records, including:
- Peter and the Wolf, 4 78-rpm discs, c. 1950s, Musicraft Records M 65 302–305
- Milton Cross Explains, 2 discs each, Ottenheimer Publishers/Cabot Records 1958
- The Instruments of the Orchestra CAB 4021
- The Magic of Music CAB 4022
A native New Yorker, Cross died in New York City where he had lived all his life. He is interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
Metropolitan Opera broadcasts
Milton Cross at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s
It is as the host of the Metropolitan Opera's broadcasts that Cross will be most remembered. His distinctive voice conveyed the excitement of live performances "from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City" for generations of radio listeners. Initially, he broadcast from a seat in "Box 44" at the old Metropolitan Opera House at Broadway and 40th Street. In 1966, he introduced the radio audience to the Met's new home at Lincoln Center as he hosted a special broadcast of the opening night performance from a modern radio booth in the new house.
In 43 seasons he missed only two broadcasts, due to the death of his wife. Cross never retired but died in New York from a heart attack during the Met season of 1974/75. He was succeeded by Peter Allen, who had been his standby announcer.
Cross edited several popular editions of opera synopses, published in conjunction with the Met broadcasts. He also co-authored (with David Ewen)Milton Cross' Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and their Music – a set of biographies of 78 composers, published in 1953 by Doubleday & Co.
Cross was parodied in Peter Schickele's album, P. D. Q. Bach: The Stoned Guest. Will Jordan played the role of Milton Host, the host for the opera quiz, with a voice strikingly similar to Cross'.