A legendary beauty, hailed as one of the greatest singing actors of her time, Jarmila Novotna (1907--1994) was an internationally known opera soprano from the former Czechoslovakia. Best known for her performances in Der Rosenkavalier, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata, she was a celebrated performer at the Metropolitan Opera and other theaters across Europe and the United States. A "natural screen actress," Novotna also appeared in Hollywood hits such as The Search (1948) with Montgomery Clift (with whom she shared an enduring friendship) and The Great Caruso (1951) with Mario Lanza. She was also considered a pioneering "crossover" star who performed on Broadway, and worked in radio and television with Bing Crosby and Abbott and Costello. This gifted artist captivated audiences worldwide, and while she was still a young woman, the Czech government treated her as a national heroine and its cultural ambassador.
In Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song, editor William V. Madison brings Novotna's own English-language version of her best-selling memoir to readers for the first time. The memoir details how, following her debut in 1925 at the National Theater in Prague, her fame quickly evolved into a tremendous musical career at a time of unprecedented political upheaval. Novotna provides eyewitness accounts of the Nazi takeovers of Germany and Austria, the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, as well as her extensive travels in the United States during and after World War II.
Throughout the memoir, lavishly illustrated with photos from her personal collection, Novotna shares entertaining stories about her time in Hollywood, an "unending stream of parties" - including those hosted by Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of MGM Studios - alongside such stars as Jimmy Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor. Novotna also offers revealing profiles of many notable artistic figures of the time, including director Max Reinhardt, composer Cole Porter, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and dignitaries such as Dwight Eisenhower and Toma Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. This fascinating self-portrait offers a window on history and the reflections of a captivating and supremely talented figure who left an indelible mark on the performing arts.
Jarmila Novotna (1907-1994), one of the great operatic artists of the twentieth century in Europe and America, was also a performer in theater, radio, on film and television. A fervent patriot who personally witnessed the birth of independent Czechoslovakia, Novotna would be exiled from her homeland by the Nazis and the Communists in succession for fifty years, returning only after the Velvet Revolution to be hailed as a national heroine by President Vaclav Havel.
William V. Madison is a former producer at CBS News and a former associate editor of Opera News. He is the author of Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life.