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.
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.