The Magazine

Modern Mélisande

From the ashes of communism, a voice for the new century.

Jan 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18 • By CATHY YOUNG
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With the Iron Curtain gone, Kozena’s international career developed at a swift pace. In 1995, she placed first in the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg. Two years later, her first disc of Bach arias drew the attention of executives at Deutsche
Grammophon, and the studio at once signed her to an exclusive contract. By 2002, the Guardian was describing her as a “hot property” whose career was “about to go stratospheric.” She has won three Gramophone Awards, including Artist of the Year in 2004. Kozena’s success was all the more remarkable because of her often unorthodox choices. (She has said that she did not expect Lamento to have much appeal except among aficionados of obscure baroque music.)

Her relationship with Rattle attracted a less welcome kind of attention when they left their previous spouses after meeting at the Glyndebourne Festival. Yet today, their partnership, intensely private and family-oriented, could not be more different from glamorous celebrity coupledom: It is a professional partnership as well, based on an obvious and striking artistic rapport. Kozena and Rattle often work together, allowing them to combine their time on the road with family time. The boys invariably travel with them, or with Kozena when she tours alone.

Kozena’s next trip here is scheduled for February 2012, a tour with pianist Yefim Bronfman concluding with a recital at Carnegie Hall. In the meantime, anyone wishing to enjoy her work without going to Europe has a rich discography to choose from. Lamento, Songs My Mother Taught Me, and Songs (a 2004 album that includes the Shostakovich satires and the Britten lullabies), and albums of Handel and Vivaldi arias are particularly notable. Other standouts include Mahler’s Der Knaben Wunderhorn, recorded in 2010 with the Cleveland Orchestra under Pierre Boulez, and fragments from Martinu’s opera Juliette. On DVD, Kozena can be seen as Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo and as Orpheus in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice.

What’s next? Her upcoming engagements include Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (her first), another run of L’étoile, and the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. When we spoke in New York, she mentioned that, with her older son Jonas now in school and unable to travel with her during the school year, she will have to further curtail her tours. It was a matter-of-fact statement with no trace of disappointment. Kozena has said elsewhere that she sees motherhood as recharging her emotional energy and completing, rather than hindering, her work. For her, both are labors of love.

Cathy Young is a columnist for Real Clear Politics and a contributing editor to Reason.

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