Magdalena Kožená’s profound musicianship and beguiling artistry attracted critical acclaim at an early age. The Czech mezzo-soprano, whose career was securely established by her mid-twenties, signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 1999. Kožená has since matured to become one of the foremost singers of her generation, a great communicator able to hold song recital, concert hall and opera audiences spellbound.
Magdalena Kožená was born in the Czech city of Brno on 26 May 1973. She sang with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra’s youth choir and also studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory. In 1991 Kožená enrolled at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts to study singing with Eva Bláhová. She made her breakthrough as winner of the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 1995 and joined the Vienna Volksoper ensemble the following year.
Deutsche Grammophon signed Kožená after recognising the young singer’s star qualities, immediately releasing her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording with Graham Johnson, an album of songs by Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů, appeared on Deutsche Grammophon’s yellow label in 2001 and was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award. She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has won many other awards since, the Echo Award‚ Record Academy Prize, Tokyo, and Diapason d’or among them. Recent releases for Deutsche Grammophon include Prayer for voice and organ with Christian Schmidt (2014) and Love and Longing with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle (2012).
Her latest album, Magdalena Kožená – Monteverdi, scheduled for international release in February 2016, was made in company with the renowned period-instrument orchestra La Cetra and Andrea Marcon. She will tour her Monteverdi programme in February and March 2016, reaching audiences in London, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Prague, Madrid, Barcelona and other major European cities.
Magdalena Kožená has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors, Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Roger Norrington and Sir Simon Rattle among them. Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, with whom she has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. Kožená’s understanding of historical performance practices has been cultivated in collaboration with such outstanding period-instrument ensembles as the English Baroque Soloists, the Gabrieli Consort and Players, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, La Cetra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.
Kožená began the 2015/16 on tour with the Vienna Philharmonic, performing Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius at the Lucerne Festival and Birmingham Symphony Hall and on the penultimate night of the BBC Proms. Her season continues with a series of artist residencies at four of Europe’s most prestigious venues: Wigmore Hall, the Philharmonie Luxembourg, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Prague’s Rudolfinum. These include recitals with Mitsuko Uchida, a chamber music project with Sir Simon Rattle and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, a series of concerts with La Cetra, and a ‘Big Band’ extravaganza featuring the songs of Cole Porter. Other engagements in 2015/16 include title-role performances in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande with the Berliner Philharmoniker and London Symphony Orchestra and in Martinů’s Juliette at the Staatsoper Berlin.
Magdalena Kožená established her reputation as an opera singer of the front rank during the early 2000s. She brought charisma, glamour and vocal authority to her onstage interpretations of roles in the operas of Mozart, making her debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2002 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and joining Simon Rattle the following year for a series of performances as Idamante in Idomeneo at the Salzburg Easter Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Kožená made her debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2003 as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and has since been a regular guest with the company. She sang Zerlina for the Met’s tour to Japan in 2006 and returned to New York to take the title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Pelléas et Mélisande in 2010/11. Her opera credits also include Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Royal Opera House, 2007), Oktavian in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (Berlin Staatsoper, 2009 and the Baden-Baden Easter Festival, 2015), Lazuli in Chabrier’s L’étoile (Berlin Staatsoper, 2010), the title-role in Bizet’s Carmen (Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals, 2012) and in Charpentier’s Médée (Basel Opera 2015).
The broad scope of Kožená’s repertoire is reflected in her Deutsche Grammophon discography. Her albums include a recital of songs by Britten, Ravel, Respighi, Schulhoff and Shostakovich; Songs My Mother Taught Me, an anthology of Czech songs made in company with Malcolm Martineau; two recordings of arias by Handel and Vivaldi with the Venice Baroque Orchestra and Andrea Marcon; a collection of French opera arias with Marc Minkowski and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; and Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Christian Gerhaher.
Magdalena Kožená was appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.