Jarmila Novotna

Today in Mailbox we reveal the identity of our December mystery Czech and announce the names of the four lucky winners. We also have a brand new quiz question for you! Listeners quoted: Helmut Matt, Fares Alnusairat, Pier Carlo Acchino, George Pugachev, Colin Law, David Eldridge, Shri Subhas Chakraborty, Charles Konecny, Harold Yeglin, Christine Takaguchi-Coates, Lola Hamrayeva.

Welcome to the first Mailbox in 2008. Thank you so much for all the New Year’s greetings, including many e-cards and even one short video.

As usual, at the beginning of a new month, it is time to announce the results of our monthly listeners’ competition. Our December mystery person was a Czech-born soprano, a star in the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. Again, we have received dozens of correct answers from which we are going to quote. And we begin with this one from Helmut Matt from Germany:

“I guess the Czech born opera singer you are looking for was Jarmila Novotná. Jarmila was not only a gifted soprano singer and Metropolitan star. She also played serious roles in several high quality movies. Especially her role as a mother looking for her child after surviving Auschwitz in the Movie ‘The Search’ is unforgottable.”

Fares Alnusairat lives in Jordan:

“She was born in Prague, on 23 September 1907. As a teenager, she began studying with Emmy Destinn and Hilbert Vavia. Later, in Milan, she studied with Antonio Guarnieri, resident conductor at La Scala.”

Pier Carlo Acchino writes from Italy:

“The December personality is Jarmila Novotná. I found a lot of pictures of her and I'm happy to show a couple to you. She was a very charming woman!”

Thank you for the attached photos! George Pugachev listens to Radio Prague in Sweden:

“Czech opera soprano Jarmila Novotná made her professional debut in Prague in 1925, singing the title role of ‘The Bartered Bride’. When talking pictures arrived, she headlined the 1932 German film version of Bartered Bride, among other productions. She then left film to concentrate on her stage work with the Viennese State Opera and New York's Metropolitan Opera, where she performed regularly from 1940 to 1956.”

Colin Law from New Zealand sent in a long and detailed answer:

“Baron George Daubek and Jarmila Novotná were married in 1931, and they had two children, Jarmilina and George, Jr. Jarmila was a patriotic Czech who supported the cause of a free Czechoslovakia during the World War II, making a record of ‘Songs of Lidice’ with Jan Masaryk playing the piano. Among the several films in which Novotná performed there is a link to another mystery Czech. In the 1948 film “The Search” she played the part of Mrs Hannah Malik, the mother of the child Karel Malik played by September 2007 mystery Czech, Ivan Jandl. [...] In 1991 Jarmila Novotná-Daubek was awarded the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Order by the President of the Republic. The award is made to honour persons who have made eminent contributions to the development of democracy, humanity and human rights.”

David Eldridge from England was also among those who noticed that there was a connection between our September quiz and last month’s question:

“This month's mystery person is a follow-on from September's mystery person. ‘In the family’, you might say. Jarmila Novotná played the mother to Karel Malík, the little boy 'Jimmy' in the 1948 film ‘The Search’, played by September's mystery person, Ivan Jandl.”

Mr Eldridge also included a number of links to short clips of Jarmila Novotná singing as well as a trailer to “The Search”. He adds:

Jarmila Novotna
“In the early 1930's she did much work in Berlin but she left Germany in 1933 partly because, as she wrote ‘I soon realised that in this new atmosphere of manufactured hatred I did not wish to continue my activities in Berlin’. She moved to America and continued her work there in opera and on TV. She retired in America and kept her professional career separate from her family life. She died on 9th February 1994 in New York. “

Shri Subhas Chakraborty writes from India:

“The name of the mystery Czech lady is Jarmila Novotna. She began her professional career as an opera singer in 1925 and made her film debut in the same year. In the USA she also appeared on Broadway besides the opera stage.”

Charles Konecny follows Radio Prague in Ohio:

Jarmila Novotna
“She certainly had a full career starring in opera, film, and stage. She has so many credits even though she retired at a relatively early age to care for family (that may be her greatest credit). I am old enough to have seen some of her films she made in America. I remember especially ‘The Great Caruso’. Hopefully I can rent the movie and watch it again. I also note that she was in ‘The Search’ which won the only Juvenile Academy Award for Ivan Jandl. Jandl was the answer to the competition question a few months ago. I will try to rent that movie also.“

Harold Yeglin also writes from the United States:

“Altogether she sang 193 performances of which 142 were in-house and 51 on the road. She belongs to the last of the great operatic personalities who were not only impeccable musicians but also consummate actors. Her professional opera career began in Prague in 1925. She made her film debut the same year in a Czech silent movie. Her great success in film came with the talkies of the '30s and later in such big American movies as ‘The Search’, ‘The Great Caruso’ and ‘The Great Waltz’."

Jarmila Novotna
Christine Takaguchi-Coates included an interesting detail about Novotná and Jandl:

“In 1985, for the first time in years, she met Ivan Jandl, the young Czech actor who had played the role of her son in The Search. She died in 1994.”

Lola Hamrayeva keeps in touch with our programmes in South Korea: "’As a rule the success of opera stars does not depend so much on good looks or good acting as on good singing. But once in a great while an opera singer comes along who can get full marks on all three counts...’ that's how ‘Time’ magazine described her in February of 1940. Jarmila Novotná and her husband, Baron Daubek, hoped to reside in Prague after World War II, but found their property in Czechoslovakia confiscated by the Communists.”

Thank you very much for your interest in our competition and all your well-researched answers. This time the lucky four who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague are: Sunil Dhungana, Michael Fanderys, Shri Subhas Chakraborty and George Pugachev. Your parcels are on their way to the United States, India and Sweden.

Our competition continues in 2008 as well. Everybody has a chance to win so why not give it a try this time?

Our January mystery man was a Jewish scholar and chief rabbi in Prague in the latter half of the 16th century. He is buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague and many legends are connected to his personality.

We await your answers as usual at [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague by the end of January. Your reception reports, questions and comments are all welcome at the same addresses. Good bye.