Czech Dreams 2024
Soňa Červená / recitation
The opera singer and actress Soňa Červená ranks among the most distinguished figures of contemporary Czech culture. She launched her professional career in Prague in music theatre and film. Following her first opera engagement, at the Janáček Opera in Brno, she joined the Staatsoper in Berlin, where two years later she received the honorific title of Kammersängerin for her remarkable performances in Monteverdi, Handel and Gluck operas.
After her dramatic escape across the Berlin Wall to Western Europe in 1962, she gained recognition for portraying roles in operas by Bizet, Richard Strauss, Verdi and Wagner. She was subsequently a soloist of opera houses in Vienna, Milan, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon and all large German stages. She also frequently appeared as a guest on prominent European and American stages and at international festivals (Bayreuth, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, etc.). She worked at the San Francisco Opera for 11 seasons. Soňa Červená has performed with Rafael Kubelík, Karel Ančerl, Herbert von Karajan, Pierre Boulez, Sir Charles Mackerras and other renowned conductors. As regards concert and opera repertoire, she soon specialised in 20th century works (Mahler, Stravinsky, Janáček, Berg, Ligeti, Nono, Henze). In Frankfurt, she was named Kammersängerin for the second time.
She is also known as an exemplary performer of Janáček roles in Czech and a translator of sheet-music editions. After rounding off her operatic career, she worked at the famous Thalia Theater in Hamburg. Soňa Červená has performed in the stage director Robert Wilson’s creations and sung Tom Waits’s and Lou Reed’s music all over the world. After the 1989 revolution, she returned to Prague. She has written two books: her autobiography Stýskání zakázáno (Pining Forbidden) and Můj Václav (My Václav), about her great-grandfather, the brass-instruments inventor Václav František Červený.
For the National Theatre in Prague, she created the symbolic figure of Fate in Robert Wilson’s production of Janáček’s eponymous opera, the lead role in Aleš Březina and Jiří Nekvasil’s chamber opera Tomorrow There Will Be… (about the 1950s show trial of the Czech politician Milada Horáková), portrayed Elina Makropulos in Wilson’s production of Čapek’s drama The Makropulos Case and one of the main characters in Březina’s new chamber opera Toufar. She has also performed the role of narrator in melodramas (Ullmann, Bernstein, Suk, Bodorová, Štědroň, Kvěch, Březina, Ivanović).
Soňa Červená has received the Thalia Award (2004), the Dr. František Ulrich Prize in Hradec Králové (2005), the Alfréd Radok Award (2009), honorary membership of the State Opera Prague (2010), the Artis Bohemiae Amicis Medal (2011), honorary freedom of the city of Hradec Králové (2012) and the Gold Medal in the Arts from the John F. Kennedy Center, Washington, DC (2013). On 28 October 2013 she received at Prague Castle a Medal of the First Degree for Merits in the Arts.