Hana Hegerová, the Czech Edith Piaf, turns 80


“The Great Lady of Chanson”, “Edith Piaf from Prague” or a “Chanteuse with a Slavic Soul” – that’s how critics have described Hana Hegerová, the Czechoslovak singer who turns eighty on Wednesday. After a career spanning almost half a century, Hana Hegerová saddened her fans a couple of months ago by announcing her retirement from the stage and cancelling all her scheduled concerts.

Hana Hegerová
“The Hana Hegerová company is going out of business, but Hana Hegerová, the private person will carry on and wants to lead a quiet existence away from the limelight, savouring the ordinary joys of life together with her pet dog. Wish me luck in the years to come,” Mrs. Hegerová told the press.

Born Carmen Farkašová on October 20th, 1931, in Bratislava, Slovakia the young artist began acting and singing in 1953 after graduating from a conservatory. She changed her name early on to Hana, as she was afraid audiences might find the name Carmen too pretentious for a budding actress. At the turn of the 1950s and 60s Hana Hegerová performed in Prague’s Rokoko theatre, later moving on to the legendary Semafor theatre where she stayed until 1967. Some of her biggest hits come from that time, including those from her part in the jazz opera “A Walk Worthwhile”.

From the 1970s Hana Hegerová devoted herself to chansons – a genre in which she remains unmatched to this day. Audiences easily relate to her songs about life’s hopes and disappointments, filled with nostalgia and performed with authentic emotion. “I have to believe every word I sing,” the chanteuse said about the importance of lyrics. Hana Hegerová’s repertoire included many chansons by Czech and Slovak authors, as well as those originally sung by Édith Piaf or Jacques Brel among others. During her career she recorded over 20 albums, performed in France, Canada, Germany, the United States and other countries and also appeared in a number of films.

Hana Hegerová
Her 2010 album titled “Mlýnské kolo v srdci mém” (The Mill Wheel in My Heart) earned positive reviews and two nominations for the annual Anděl music awards, becoming the third best-selling album of the year. These days Hana Hegerová’s record company is releasing a DVD featuring a selection of television and film recordings of her most famous songs to mark her eightieth birthday.