Born in the Czech city of Brno, Magdalena Kožená studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and with Eva Bláhová at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. The recipient of several major prizes in the Czech Republic and around the world, Magdalena came to prominence at the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg which she won in 1995.
Magdalena was signed as an exclusive artist by Deutsche Grammophon in 1999 and immediately released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording followed, which was an album of songs by Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů, which appeared on Deutsche Grammophon’s yellow label in 2001 – the same year she was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award. She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has since received numerous other prestigious awards, including the Echo Klassik, Record Academy Prize Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. In 2017, Magdalena forged a long-term relationship with Dutch classical music label Pentatone and in May 2019 released her debut album for the label; ‘Il Giardino dei sospiri’, which features a collection of scenes from secular cantatas on tragic love by Handel, Leo and Marcello, accompanied by harpsichordist Václav Luks and the Czech baroque orchestra Collegium 1704. Her second album ‘Soirée - Magdalena Kožená & Friends’ is an intimate chamber music recording, encapsulating the essence of informal, domestic music making and her most recent recording ‘Nostalgia’ in collaboration with Yefim Bronfman will be released in August 2021.
During her illustrious career, Magdalena has worked with the world’s leading conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, 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, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. Magdalena’s understanding of historical performance practices has been cultivated in collaboration with outstanding periodinstrument ensembles, including the Venice Baroque Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, La Cetra Barockorchester Basel, 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.
On the opera stage, Magdalena made her Salzburg Festival debut as Zerlina Don Giovanni in 2002, and returned as Idamante in 2013 - a role she has also sung at Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Her first appearance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera took place in 2003 as Cherubino Le nozze di Figaro and she has since been a regular guest, including amongst others as title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 2010/11 and most recently Octavian Der Rosenkavalier in the 2019/20 season. The role of Octavian has also taken Magdalena to the Staatsoper Berlin 2009 and Osterfestspiele Baden Baden 2015 whilst other operatic highlights include the title-role in Bizet’s Carmen (Osterfestspiele and Sommerfestspiele Salzburg 2012), Charpentier’s Médée (Theater Basel 2015), Martinů’s Juliette (Staatsoper Berlin 2016) and the Waitress in Kaija Saariaho’s new opera Innocence at the Festival d’Aix en Provence (2021).
In recent seasons, Magdalena has developed a series of projects which have toured widely in Europe and Asia, highlighting her artistry and diversity. An eclectic mix of soundworlds and influences, Magdalena’s projects include concerts with Czech jazz ensemble The Melody Makers in performances of Cole Porter and other authentic swing and big band numbers from the 1930s and ’40s; semi-staged performances of the music of Claudio Monteverdi and Luciano Berio, set onstage by Ondrej Havelka; and performances with Spanish Baroque ensemble Private Musicke, and flamenco expert Antonio El Pipa with his Compañía de Flamenco. On tour, they entwine the roots of raw flamenco with the music of the Spanish Baroque era and have appeared in venues such as the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the home of flamenco: Madrid and Barcelona. In the 2021/22 season, Magdalena revives her Cole Porter project with performances in Bratislava, Kosice, Plzeň, Prague and Ostrava.
Other engagements in the coming season include concerts of Ondřej Adámek’s Where are you?, with the London Symphony Orchestra, touring to Bucharest Festival, Barbican Centre London, KKL Lucerne, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Konzerthaus Dortmund and the Koningin Elisabethzaal Antwerp. She joins the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in concerts of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, re-joins her friends from La Cetra Barockorchester Basel in concerts of Caldara’s La concordia de 'pianeti in Vienna and Bucharest, and of Giacomelli’s La Merope in Basel and Amsterdam, and returns to the London Symphony Orchestra in performances of Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. Renowned for her interpretation of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Magdalena revisits the work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and on tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées.
In recital, Magdalena partners with Ohad Ben-Ari in performances in Europe including at the Wigmore Hall, La Monnaie Brussels, Musikverein Vienna and L'Auditorium de Bordeaux. The pair subsequently go on tour later in the season to Asia for concerts in Taiwan and Korea. On the opera stage, Magdalena will revive the role of Phèdre in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie at the Staatsoper Berlin under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.
Magdalena was appointed a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.
Magdalena Kožená: © Julia Wesely