Novotna, Jarmila (1907–1994)

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Novotna, Jarmila (1907–1994)

Czech soprano. Born Jarmila Novotna on September 23, 1907, in Prague, Czechoslovakia; died on February 10, 1994, in New York City; daughter of a banker; married Baron George Daubek, in 1931; children: one son, one daughter.

Made debut at the National Theater in Prague in La Traviata (1926); appointed soprano of the Berlin State Opera (1928); sang at the Vienna Staatsoper (1933–38); appeared with the Metropolitan Opera Company (1939–45).

Jarmila Novotna, a Czech-born lyric soprano, was a famous star on opera stages throughout the world. She studied in Prague with Emmy Destinn and made her debut with the Prague National Opera at the age of 17 as Marenka. She sang Gilda in 1928 at the Verona Arena. From 1933 to 1938, she sang at the Vienna Staatsoper, also appearing regularly at Salzburg as Octavian, Euridice, Countess Almaviva, Pamina, and Frasquita. Novotna created the title role in Lehár's Giuditta in 1934 in Vienna.

After Arturo Toscanini heard her perform in Salzburg and Vienna, Novotna was invited to the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1928, but she declined because she did not want to be separated from her fiancé, Baron George Daubek, whom she would marry in 1931. She was in New York, however, when Hitler's troops entered Czechoslovakia in 1938. Returning to her occupied country, she managed to get her husband and children to Vienna and by 1939 was performing Madame Butterfly in San Francisco.

During World War II, Novotna recorded Songs of Lidice in memory of the victims of the Nazi massacre in her homeland. She was accompanied on the piano by Jan Masaryk, the son of Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk and Thomas Masaryk, the former president of Czechoslovakia. Known for her musicianship and expressiveness, Novotna appeared 193 times with the Metropolitan Opera. Her acting ability and regal bearing made her a natural for the opera stage. She was so talented as an actress that Max Reinhardt, the German director, urged her to devote her talents to the theater. Louis B. Mayer was equally impressed, and she appeared in such films as The Great Caruso and The Search.

Jarmila Novotna performed in opera houses throughout the world and made many recordings. She also sang Smetana's The Bartered Bride for a European film. Her last appearance was in Vienna in 1957. She had moved there with her husband the previous year and lived in Austria until his death in 1981. She then moved permanently to New York, where she became a familiar figure in music circles.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Novotna, Jarmila (1907–1994)

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