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Magdalena Kožená

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, or Lady Rattle if you are so inclined, became a popular and critically celebrated figure in Europe before the age of 30. She was touted as the chief competitor to Cecilia Bartoli (although there is no evidence of a personal rivalry between the two). Her area of primary expertise is 18th century music, particularly Bach, but she has also had success in more Romantic opera and song repertory. Kožená's voice has been variously described as "sweet" and "fiery and melting," depending on her repertory; more constant attributes include her vocal agility and sense of drama, which are both highly regarded. Kožená was born on May 26, 1973, in Brno, in the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia). She initially studied at the Brno Conservatory, then with Eva Blahová at the College of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Even before her graduation in 1995, she was winning major prizes in the Czech Republic and internationally, the most significant being top honors at the sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 1995. She spent the 1996-1997 season as a member of the Vienna Volksoper. In 1997, Kožená made her recording debut with an album of Bach Arias on the Archiv Produktion label. In 1998, she made her debut at the Drottningholm Festival as Paride in Gluck's Paride ed Elena. Her Bach recording caught the attention of the Deutsche Grammophon label, which signed her to an exclusive recording contract in 1999 that resulted in annual releases. In 2000, she debuted at the Châtelet in Paris as Gluck's Orpheus and at the Vienna Festival as Nero in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. She appeared as Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2001. During this time, Kožená was also an active recitalist throughout Europe but was less known in the U.S., despite performances in San Francisco and at Carnegie Hall. Participation in Metropolitan Opera productions of Mozart and Janácek operas boosted her American reputation. Kožená has been featured mainly in Baroque and Classical music, although she has also ventured into the Romantic era and 20th century Czech songs. As a recitalist, she has performed and recorded Britten, which has endeared her to the nationalistic British press. An even greater honor came to Kožená in 2003 with the success of her recording of Romantic French opera arias, not to mention her presence in the 2002 centenary production of Pelléas et Mélisande at the Opéra Comique: she was awarded the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In 2004, she was named the Gramophone Awards "Artist of the Year." Kožená married conductor Sir Simon Rattle in 2008, and they have three children together. Since her marriage, she has also been known as Lady Rattle. In 2009, Kožená's recording of Julietta fragments by Martinu won a Gramophone Award. The following season, she toured with the ensemble Private Musicke in a program based on her album Lettere Amorose. Kožená began a fruitful relationship with the PentaTone Classics label in 2017, which quickly resulted in several albums, including Il Giardino dei sospiri and Soirée: Magdalena Kožená & Friends in 2019. Her 2023-2024 season included recitals, concerts, and operatic appearances in countries around the world, and saw her release the album Folk Songs (with Rattle conducting the Czech Philharmonic) in 2023, followed by a recording of Handel's Alcina (with Marc Minkowski leading Les Musiciens du Louvre) in 2024.
© James Reel & Keith Finke /TiVo

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