Czech mezzo-soprano Marta Krásová –an opera diva sought after by the Met

Marta Krásová, Queen of Sheba, 1926, photo: Győri a Boros / archive of Slovak National Theatre

Marta Krásová is one of the bright lights of Czech opera. In her days the mezzo-soprano, who combined a brilliant technique with a natural acting talent and unforgettable charm, had the world at her feet. She is one of the icons of Czech opera of the 20th century.

Marta Krásová  was born 120 years ago (March 16, 1901) in Protivín, South Bohemia. She showed a strong inclination for music since an early age, playing the violin and piano, but when it came to choosing her path in life her love of singing won out.

Marta Krásová,  photo: CC0

She received her first major engagement in Bratislava, where her performance commanded instant respect. She was asked to perform at the National Theatre in Prague and soon after, in 1926, at the age of just 25, she was offered a permanent engagement. Her career at the National theatre lasted for 38 long years, during which time she won the admiration of critics and audiences alike.

Among her greatest successes performed in Prague and on leading opera stages the world over was the role of Isabella (Bride of Messina), Vlasta (Šárka), Radmila (Libuše)  which had almost 150 reruns and Háta (The Bartered Bride) which she performed more than 300 times.

The mezzo soprano performed in Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, Vienna, Brussels, Berlin, Krakow, Copenhagen and Edinburgh together with the famous Czech conductors Václav Talich and Zdeněk Chalabala. Her fame spread overseas and in 1938 she sang in the USA and Canada - touring 34 cities.  The Metropolitan Opera in New York offered her an engagement, which, sadly never came about the war broke out.

Marta Krásová  (Radmila),  Libuše,  1938,  photo: Josef Heinrich / archive of National Theatre

Krásová also excelled in her interpretation of the songs of Gustav Mahler, Antonin Dvořák (the recording of Biblical songs performed by her is rated as one of the best in the world), Novák, Foerster and Ostrčil.

Even her rendition of simple Moravina ballads was an unforgettable musical experience. Have a listen to an old recording of those, where she is accompanied on the piano by Alfréd Holeček.