In the Czech Republic, Soňa Červená is a rediscovered legend. The mezzo-soprano emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1962, under dramatic circumstances and, while abroad, sang in major opera houses, including a record 11 seasons at the San Francisco Opera. She didn’t return to her home country until the age of 65, when the Iron Curtain fell. There, she experienced a kind of renaissance, appearing until this day in operas, concerts, spoken-word theater and film. On September 9th, 2020, her 95th birthday, she held an event at the State Opera where she christened a new CD and announced the details of her new initiative for young artists. Is the initiative as innovative as the artist whose name it bares?
„Culture is the most important thing for our nation. I’m also a member of the Bohemia Heritage Fund co I know what I’m talking about. But I’m only one small fish. However, if there were more of us, ‘our nation would not perish,’ to quote Bedřich Smetana’s opera Libuše,” she said.
Despite her age, Červená is very active as both a concert goer and performer. On September 6th, not long before her birthday, she gave a concert in the small Ungelt theater in Prague, accompanied by pianist Karel Košárek. Her most recent operatic performance was in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame at the National Theater in Brno, in 2019.
In reference to the CD she christened, she explained: “After I fled the country, no one was allowed to broadcast anything connected to my name. My name was to be forever erased.” The CD is a restored version of a recording of W.A. Mozart’s Titus and Requiem from 1956 on which she is a soloist, which had been preserved in the archives of the Czech Radio.
The question remains whether Červená’s fund will elevate artists as eclectic as herself. So far, we can only judge based on the list of advisors to the fund, which includes no unexpected names. The Bohemian Heritage Fund, which will head Soňa Červená’s endeavor, is the self-described first and only private fund for the arts in the Czech Republic and supports many of the more successful music ensembles and institutions in the country. If one is a fan of the Czech music scene, Červená’s foundation is definitely one to watch.
“The Soňa Červená Foundation is my gift to the nation,” said the legendary singer, adding she plans to dedicate herself fully to this initiative.