Prague Stories and Tips

Who was Emma Destinova ?

Sts Peter & Paul Basilica at Vysehrad- Photo, Prague, Czech Republic

The epitome of Bohemian,geographically and temperamentally,her real name was Emilia Pavlina Venceslava Kittova (what a mouthful!), but she adopted her music teacher's last name professionally when she became an opera singer. She performed frequently in Berlin, Bayreuth, London's Covent Garden and at the Metropolitan in New York. Having studied both piano and violin, she could sight-read any music rapidly and learned new roles speedily. Emma was fluent in German, Italian, French and English. She had many "firsts" -she was the first to sing Senta in The Flying Dutchman,she starred as Cio-Cio-San in the London premiere of "Madame Butterfly", she sang "Aida" at the Met debut of Arturo Toscaninni,and sang Minnie in the premiere presentation of "Girl of the Golden West." She sang the first"Carmen" to be recorded, though she sang in German, not French. In 1979, a Czech film "Divine Emma" depicted her life; unfortunately, I have not been able to rent the DVD that is available according to imdb.

Sounds like a real professional Wunderfrau? Yes, but she was more than just an international opera diva. Reputedly,she had a boa constrictor tatoo on her leg that slithered(?) from thigh to ankle ; reputedly she had many lovers ,including the libidnous Artur Rubinstein, and, in 1916,lost 100 K in concert fees to follow one of her lovers back to Bohemia, whereupon her passport was seized by authorities and she was stuck in Bohemia for a while. Rumors circulated that she was a spy on the Germans during these World War I years.

Her swan song took place in London on October 16, 1928. Two years later,married and in retirement, she died at the relatively young age of 52. Oh, but how she had lived! The memory of this first-class diva is still strong with the Czechs to whom music is a vibrant part of life.

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