Petri began his career after World War II, making his stage debut in 1947 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where he sang the following year the role of Creonte in the premiere of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, he also sang there his first Don Giovanni in 1950, a role he quickly became associated with throughout Italy.
He appeared in Rome, Florence, Venice, Parma, Bergamo, Verona, Naples. He sang opposite Maria Callas in the revival of Cherubini's Medea. In 1951, for the celebration of Verdi's 50th death anniversary, he sang on Italian radio (RAI) in I Lombardi, I masnadieri, and Simon Boccanegra.
Soon his reputation as Don Giovanni led to invitation to appear at the festivals of Glyndebourne, Salzburg, and Edinburgh. He sang relatively little outside Europe, though he made a few guest appearances in Dallas, in 1965.
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