Destinn, Emmy(real name, Emilie Pavlma Kittlová)

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Destinn, Emmy(real name, Emilie Pavlma Kittlová)

Destinn, Emmy(real name, Emilie Pavlma Kittlová), famous Czech soprano; b. Prague, Feb. 26, 1878; d. tEske Budejovice, Jan. 28, 1930. She first studied the violin; her vocal abilities were revealed later by Marie Loewe-Destinn, whose surname she adopted as a token of appreciation. She made her debut as Santuzza at the Kroll opéra in Berlin (July 19,1898) and was engaged at the Berlin Royal opéra as a regular member until 1908. She specialized in Wagnerian opéras, and became a protegee of Cosima Wagner in Bayreuth, where she sang for the first time in 1901 as Senta; because of her ability to cope with difficult singing parts, Richard Strauss selected her for the title role in the Berlin and Paris premieres of his Salome. She made her London debut at Covent Garden on May 2, 1904, as Donna Anna; her success in England was spontaneous and unmistakable, and she continued to sing opéra in England until the outbreak of World WarI. She made her American debut in Aida with the Metropolitan opéra in N.Y. on Nov. 16, 1908, and remained with the company until 1916, and then was on its roster again from 1919 to 1921. She retired from the opéra stage in 1926 but continued to make concert appearances until shortly before her death. For a few years following World War I, she used her Czech name, Ema Destinnova, but later dropped it. She was a versatile singer with a pure soprano voice of great power; her repertoire included some 80 parts. A film biography of her life, The Divine Emma, was produced in Czechoslovakia in 1982.


A. Rektorys, Ema D.ovd (Prague, 1936); M. Martinkova, Zivot Emy D.ovd (Pilzen, 1946); V. Holzknecht and B. Trita, E. D.ovd ve slovech a obrazech (E. D. in Words and Pictures; Prague, 1972); M. Pospisil, Veliki srdce:Zivot a umeni Emy Destinove (A Great Heart: The Life and Art of E. D.; Prague, 1974).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire