Prague Minos Guide

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19. - 20. století

Emmy Destinn

World-famous Czech opera signer
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She was a prominent character on the Czech scene and a world-famous singer who sang among others at the New York’s Metropolitan Opera. At home she was much honored and was even friends with President Masaryk.
She was born into a wealthy Prague family led by the cultural patron Kittel. Since childhood she showed a promising combination of talents (painting, violin, literature). She studied acting and was highly educated. She debuted as a singer in Dresden in 1897 and was greatly successful. She received a contract in the Berlin State Opera and for a long time she was more valued abroad than at home. In the first decade of the 20th century her repertoire included such numbers as Salomé by Strauss and Carmen and in 1905 she performed in London for the first time in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. At that time she had already

achieved world fame and she regularly performed in London, Paris and Vienna. She even sang alongside Enrico Caruso.
In 1908 she was also finally honored and acclaimed in the Czech National Theatre. After the war began in 1916 she was suspected of espionage and interned by the Austrian authorities in her chateau in Straz nad Nezarkou. The suspicion was however not true. Emma lobbied for the independence of Czechoslovakia, and in 1918 at the end of every concert she would sing the Czech National Anthem, which was seen as a National Manifesto. She soon became ill and limited herself to teaching singing, which after 1926 fully corresponded to her philosophy – “There is nothing worse than to watch an old woman on stage”.
She died in 1930, highly revered by the entire nation, her burial was made a reverent ceremony.


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