…and I am using the past tense since, last night, my mother passed away at the age of 86 after some years suffering from Alzheimer’s, so, in a way, I suppose it could be considered a release, in the final analysis.
Now, Mum can return to eternal youth in the Heavens, along with Valérie Čižmárová, Eva Kostolányiová and a late addition to my burgeoning GOTGE-related record collection, thanks to my purchases at the railway station at Žďár nad Sázavou, the sadly very prematurely departed (at just 45) Jana Robbová, who is going to be an upcoming feature at GOTGE.
GOTGE readers might be interested to learn that I was intending featuring my mother in the Blog on her birthday on the 31st May, but due to this dramatic development in my personal life I am bringing it forward to today.
I was doing this because it occurred to me, recently looking through Mum’s scrapbook of press cuttings and publicity photographs relating to her amateur operatic career with the Laurence Lee Grand Opera Society in Derby as a young woman back in the early 1950s, that our family’s connection with things Czech pre-dates my own birth by nearly a decade, since her first leading role with the Society (one of the most highly rated provincial amateur operatic societies of its day) was as Mařenka in Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’ (or ‘Prodaná nevěsta’, to use its native language). Not only that, but I have worked out that, on the basis that Mum’s appearances in the role were on Monday 3rd March, Wednesday 5th March and Saturday 8th March, 1952, not only was that only just over a month after the birth of my GOTGE favourite, Valérie Čižmárová, on 29th January of that year, but Mum, at that time, would have been just about as old as Valinka would have been sometime in October 1973 – at the very height of her fame and glory.
Here are some enchanting publicity photos of Mum as a ‘Girl Of The Golden East’.
…and here are the glowing press reviews. ‘Vivacious’ and ‘charming’ are two of the adjectives that spring to mind also when thinking of Valinka, showing that my beautiful, talented young mother was very much of the same mould.
In 1949, at just 19, my mother, accompanied by her own mother, entered the Pantheon of the history of recorded music, cutting a disc with Dixon’s Private Recording Service of 115, Normanton Road, Derby, with ‘Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amour’ from Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ on one side and Franz Schubert’s ‘Death And The Maiden’ on the other. In another Valinka parallel, it was re-found, after several decades of our thinking it had been lost, in the year of Valinka’s death, 2005.
Here are those precious recordings, complete with the very human touch of Mum coughing after the conclusion of ‘Death And The Maiden’.
I have made reference in the past, in a Facebook-based chat, to Valinka having a high bar over which to get to impress a Brit on account of our having had Dusty Springfield. She also impressed someone who grew up with a voice like this singing around the house.
A rare privilege.
Give my regards to Valinka, Evička and Janka while you are up there with them, Mum!