A student of Emmy Destinn, Novotná made her operatic debut at the Prague Opera House, on June 28, 1925, as Marenka in Smetana's The Bartered Bride. Six days later, she sang there as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata. In 1928 she starred in Verona as Gilda opposite Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in Verdi's Rigoletto and at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples as Adina opposite Tito Schipa in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. In 1929 she joined the Kroll Opera in Berlin, where she sang Violetta as well as the title roles of Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly.
In January 1933, she created the female lead in Jaromir Weinberger's new operetta 'Frühlingsstürme' opposite Richard Tauber at the Theater im Admiralspalast, Berlin. This was the last new operetta produced in the Weimar Republic, and she and Tauber were both soon forced to leave Germany by the new Nazi regime.
Vienna and New York
In 1934 she left Berlin for Vienna, where she created the title role in Lehár's Giuditta opposite Richard Tauber. Her immense success in that role led to a contract with the Vienna State Opera, where she was named Kammersängerin. Prior to the Anschluss, she also appeared with Tauber here in Die verkaufte Braut and Madama Butterfly.
She appeared as Pamina in the 1937 Salzburg Festival production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. In the orchestra pit was the young Georg Solti, who played the glockenspiel in the opera.
On January 5, 1940, she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, as Mimí in Puccini's La bohème. She also appeared in twelve other roles at the Met: Euridice, Violetta, Cherubino, Massenet's Manon, Marenka, Donna Elvira, Pamina, Octavian, Antonia, Freia, Mélisande, and Prince Orlofsky, the role of her farewell performance on January 15, 1956. Of her 208 appearances at the Met, 103 were in the breeches roles of Prince Orlofsky, Cherubino, and Octavian.
She appeared in several films, including Max Ophüls's 1932 version of The Bartered Bride. In 1948, she won acclaim for her leading role in The Search, co-starring Montgomery Clift, as an Auschwitz survivor who searches for her young son. In 1951, she appeared in the film The Great Caruso, starring Mario Lanza.
- The Last Prima Donnas, by Lanfranco Rasponi, Alfred A Knopf, 1982. ISBN 0-394-52153-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jarmila Novotná.|
- Erik Eriksson's brief biography of Jarmila Novotná at Allmusic
- MetOpera database
- Photographs and literature
- Jarmila Novotná interview by Bruce Duffie
- Jarmila Notovna - Weißt Du nicht, was ein aus Frasquita von Franz Lehar on YouTube