Ema Destinn(ova) - Back Again in Straz nad Nezarkou
Something important took place in Straz at the beginning of June- the exhibition "Ema Destinn(ova) is Coming Back Home" was opened in a chateau which used to belong to this famous soprano. Her former home is now private property but it is open to the public.
After 1989, the chateau was bought by a Mrs. Doubravova in a rather devastated state after being used by the German army, then by the Border patrol and finally by the Office of Social Work. The building was restored, the National Museum arranged a new permanent exposition about this famous diva and thus not only her personal property but also music has returned to this area.
The Divine Ema and Fishing
After a period of intensive work in opera productions all over the world, Ema always loved to come back to her homeland which she cherished.. In 1916 she bought the chateau in Straz and here she spent not only the summer but also the war years and her involvement in the fight for freedom of her compatriots.
This part of Ema's life was unforgettably enacted by the actress Bozidara Turzonovova in the film"THE DIVINE EMA", directed by Krejcik. (The famous Slovak soprano Gabriela Benackova sang in it the most beloved arias from Czech operas.) Ms Turzonovova was also present at the opening of the exhibition.
While staying in Straz, Ms Destinn(ova) was visited by many important personages including T.G. Masaryk to whom Ema dedicated her historical novel:" In the Shadow of a Blue Rose"(Ve stinu modre ruze.) She was very fond of the beautiful country side of Southern Bohemia. She loved to take long walks and to fish- a hobby that was at that time seldom pursued by women. Her other interests were writing, painting and preparing herbal liqueurs.
She also had here several unhappy love affairs, and lived here in the declining years of her artistic career and- unfortunately- also witnessed the sale of many of her art collections that she accumulated on her world travels.
Reconstruction of the Chateau
Many centuries ago, there was a wooden fort on the property, which was later rebuilt into a stone castle and much later into a chateau. After 1989, it took about 3 years to reconstruct it. Five rooms are devoted to the exposition about the artist. There is also a music hall, a rebuilt yard and an amphitheater in the garden. A research center is to be founded here in the future to further study Ema's life and work so that her importance in Czech culture can be fully documented.
The Foundation of Ema Destinn
In cooperation with the owner of the chateau, the National Museum and the Foundation of Ema Destinn it is planned to offer here summer operatic master classes, workshops and concerts with famous opera singers, conductors and directors in attendance. This activity should be mostly helpful for young singers and musicians and it should help rebuild the great Czech operatic tradition. The Foundation of Ema Destinn is located in London. Its representatives and members are mostly Czech compatriots. From time to time it organizes a Czech-British Ema Destinn vocal competition. Negotiations are under way with such artists as Peter Dvorsky, Eva Urbanova, or with members of the Royal Opera in London, or with the Vienna State Opera. Ideally- the summer school should consist in part of preparation and training of the young musicians, and of an actual production of an opera.
Unique Opportunity for the National Museum
According to Vlasta Koubska, the exhibition director, the National Museum was very pleased that the new owners of the chateau asked them to help with the project. They succeeded to collect about 200 memorabilia , including costumes from Ema's many famous opera parts ( Marenka, Aida). Also exhibited are some personal objects. The National Museum also received certain objects from the collection of the Museum of History( Theater Department)- mostly photographs, pictures, costumes and letters from her personal correspondence. After news about the exhibition spread, many older people living in the area or nearby came forward with some object received from Ema.
Since it was difficult to obtain certain authentic objects such as pieces of furniture, because they are in other museums and countries, it was necessary to use replicas of such things. What is authentic and interesting is e.g. the secret exit from Ema's bedroom, her original "fortune telling room" with its skeleton , which was supposed to remind the artist of the transience of human life. All through the chateau you can hear recordings of her singing her most famous arias.
"Do not trust people,
they all will disappoint...
Repose in nature's embrace
She will never let you down...
These words of Ema, expressing her relationship to the Czech meadows and forests were selected as the motto for the exhibition. The chateau is open year round except Mondays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Professional guides are provided.Martina Fialkova Translated by Marie Dolanska
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