Obituary: Czech Mezzo-Soprano Soňa Červená Passes Away, Aged 97

By Logan Martell
(IMage Source: Opera Scotland)

Czech mezzo-soprano Soňa Červená passed away on May 7, 2023.

Born on September 9, 1925, Červená studied singing in Prague under Robert Rozner and Lydia Wegner-Salmowá before joining an operetta ensemble in the city. During World War II, both of Červená’s parents were imprisoned by the Nazis, and during the year of the communist coup in Czechoslovakia her mother died in a communist prison. Her professional debut came in 1954, singing at the Janáček-Oper, where she would perform for the next three years.

In 1958 she made her debut with the Berlin State Opera in East Berlin, in the title role of “Der Rosenkavalier,” a role she played to great success at home and abroad. She would leave the company in 1962 when leaving the Eastern Bloc, with notable roles including Dalinda in “Ariodante,” Onoria in Handel’s “Ezio,” Orpheus in Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice,” Cherubino in “The Marriage of Figaro,” Olga in “Eugene Onegin,” and more.

After escaping to West Berlin, Červená would perform at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, going on to become a principal artist at the Oper Frankfurt, and appear in cities such as Milan, Amsterdam, and Paris, the Bayreuth, Glyndebourne, and Edinburgh Festivals, and throughout the Western world.

Upon retirement from opera, Červená moved to Hamburg in 1989, acting at the Thalia Theatre and working with director Robert Wilson. She returned to her home country after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and would appear in plays such as Karel Čapek’s “The Makropoulos Case” at the National Theatre in Prague.

For her achievements, she was named a Kammersangerin in 1960, awarded the Czech Thalia Award in 2004, the Alfred Radok Award for Best Actress in 2008, and in 2013 received a Gold Medal from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a Czech state decoration. Asteroid 26879 “Červená,” discovered in 1995 between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, is named in her honor.