Magdalena Kožená was born in the Czech city of Brno and studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and later with Eva Blahová at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. She has been awarded several major prizes both in the Czech Republic and internationally, culminating in the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 1995.
She was signed by Deutsche Grammophon in 1999 and immediately released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording, an album of songs by Dvorák, Janácek and Martinu, 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 numerous other awards since, including the Echo Award, Record Academy Prize, Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. Most recent releases for Deutsche Gramophon have included ‘Monteverdi’ with La Cetra Baroque Ensemble (2016), ‘Prayer’ for voice and organ with Christian Schmidt (2014), ‘Love and longing’ with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle (2012). The album ´Cole Porter´ recorded with Ondej Havelka and his Melody Makers appeared on Magdalena´s own label Brnofon in 2017, the two latest CD was recorded on the Dutch label Pentatone in 2019.
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 and Sir Roger Norrington. 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 have been cultivated in collaboration with outstanding period-instrument ensembles, including the English Baroque Soloists, the Gabrieli Consort and Players, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Venice Baroque Orchestra and Le Concert d’Astrée. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.
Kožená first performed at the Salzburg Festival in 2002 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and returned in 2013 as Idamante, a role she has also sung for the Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Kožená made her first appearance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2003 as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and has since been a regular guest. She sang Zerlina for the company’s tour to Japan in 2006 and returned to New York to take the title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Debussy’s 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 Baden Baden Easter Festival, 2015), the title-role in Bizet’s Carmen (Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals, 2012), Charpentier’s Médée (Basel Opera 2015) Martinu’s Juliette (Berlin Staatsoper, 2016), Magueritte in Berlioz´s La Damnation de Faust (Berlin Staatsoper, 2017) or Phaidre in Rameau´s Hippolyte et Aricie (Berlin Staatsoper, 2018).
To begin the 2019-20 season, Magdalena will make her highly anticipated role debut as Lady Macbeth in the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Macbeth, Underworld at La Monnaie, Brussels. Other opera engagements this season will include her return as Octavian in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan opera under Sir Simon Rattle, as Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Staatsoper Berlin, and she will make her role debut as the Waitress in the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Innocence at Festival Aix En Provence. In concert this season, Magdalena will embark on a European and US chamber music tour, joined by Sir Simon Rattle on piano. She will join Fillarmonica della Scala in Milan for Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder at Teatro alla Scala, and in Spring 2020 she will re-join her long-standing touring partners, The Melody Makers.
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.
photo: Julia Wesely 2019 / Pentatone