Fortune T. Gallo was born on May 9, 1878 at Torremaggiore, Italy, province of Foggia, to Tommas and Zelinda Gallo. His childhood was spent at Torremaggiore, where he became involved with music and musicians, especially the “Banda Rosa,” which would prove of importance later in his life. In 1895, aboard the vessel “Werra,” Gallo immigrated to the United States. He worked as a clerk in an Italian bank on Mulberry Street in New York City. From that base it appears Gallo became involved in politics on the local level, amassing contacts and influence within the Italian community.
Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century the “Banda Rosa” was engaged to play in America. Emanating from this situation was the acquaintance of Gallo with Channing Ellery, a patron of music, that led to Gallo’s work as an advance man from Ellery’s band. By 1910 Gallo had also become manager of another band, operated by Giuseppe Creatore; and in 1911 helped an Italian opera company, stranded in Latin America, untangle its financial difficulties, ultimately assuming its management in December, 1913, and re-naming it the San Carlo Opera Company. The company fared well, and in 1927 Gallo built the Gallo Opera House on West 54th Street in New York City which would become Studio 54.
He not only toured the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America with San Carlo, but in addition, managed Anna Pavlova’s ballet company, as well as other troupes. In 1929 Gallo produced the first full-length sound movie of an opera, Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci”. Furthermore, he managed the Chicago Opera Company in the early 1940’s. Fortune Gallo’s managerial abilities were lauded because he made opera “pay”. Numerous periodical articles described Gallo’s skills, with one portraying his as having produced opera for the “masses and not the classes”. The impresario, often labeled the “cut rate opera king,” financed and toured with the San Carlo for over forty-five years.
On May 4, 1912 Gallo married Sofia Charlebois.