MOZART AS A LODESTAR
The year 2002 marked a milestone in Magdalena Ko ená s career, for not only did it witness the release of the present collection of arias, which had been recorded in the Rudolfinum in Prague, but it also saw her Salzburg Festival debut as Zerlina in a new production of Don Giovanni conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. This was a production that also marked the breakthrough of another of today s star singers, Anna Netrebko. And, as was the case with the Russian soprano, Magdalena Ko ená s conquest of all the world s major stages was now unstoppable a development that she herself had considered barely possible while she was still studying singing: Our goal was the National Theatre in Prague, she recalls. Of course, we knew that La Scala existed and that even further away there was the Metropolitan Opera, but we never for a moment dreamt of singing in these houses.
From the very beginning Mozart played a central role in Magdalena Ko ená s career. In 1995 she won the Mozart Competition in Salzburg and a year later made her professional stage debut in Brno as Dorabella in Così fan tutte. This was also followed in 1996 by her first engagement in Western Europe, in Vienna, as Annio in La clemenza di Tito. Her Metropolitan Opera debut on 19 November 2003 was as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro. And Mozart was not just her guardian angel from an artistic point of view, he also brought her personal happiness, for it was while she was singing Idamante in Peter Sellars s production of Idomeneo at the 2003 Glyndebourne Festival that she met Simon Rattle, who has not only been immensely important to her from a musical point of view but is also her husband and the father of her children.
She has her own explanation of the reasons why Mozart has been a central pillar of her artistic career: Quite apart from the fact that I m immensely fond of his music, he is a part of my destiny. If you have the type of voice that I do, it s natural to appear very often in Mozart roles on stage. But I also like his music because it reflects my own character. He is never artificial, he always depicts real feelings. His characters are always true to life, and that s how they must be played. If you approach them too intellectually, you run the risk of destroying them.
Truthfulness is certainly the most obvious characteristic of Magdalena Ko ená s Mozart interpretations. She never makes these figures too emotional but always tries to convey their character by means of her affecting singing and an expressive range of colours, whether she is dealing with the simple vocal lines of Cherubino s Voi che sapete or the coruscating coloratura writing of Cecilio s Il tenero momento from Lucio Silla or Sesto s great aria Parto, ma tu, ben mio from La clemenza di Tito. Sesto in particular has been one of the central roles in the Czech singer s repertory: He is a slave of love, she says, explaining her approach to the part. His love for Vitellia drives him nearly mad and ultimately destroys him. The piece shows us how far love can go.
Another of the mezzo-soprano s key roles is Paride (Paris) in Gluck s Paride ed Elena, which she has also sung in a complete recording of the opera under Paul McCreesh. The central theme of the work is physical passion, and it is one that finds a practically ideal exponent in Magdalena Ko ená. In Paride s opening solo O del mio dolce ardor she not only sings with bewitching beauty but with her melancholy colouring and deliberately wan tone she finds a vocal equivalent for the Trojan prince s inner passion, even though her voice is not yet as dark-toned as it was later to become. Her performance is not only a superb example of her vocal imagination, it also demonstrates the outstanding quality of an opera that had previously b