Homage to a Star Teacher

Opus Osm

Zora Jehličková (left), Miroslav Švejda, Jana Jonášová in 'The Two Widows,' June 18, 1981.

Why is it that many stars become teachers of their art after they retire from the high stakes game of live theatre and opera?

No doubt there are many reasons to take up teaching, but perhaps the most obvious is that teaching offers a way for performers to continue their own art through the performances of their students. It is through students that voice and opera teachers enjoy new successes and stay in touch with the stage.

That is also the case of Zora Jehličková, a major Czech opera soloist, whose soprano gave life to the characters Mařenka and Rusalka, among many others, for over three decades (1974 into the 1990s) in the Czech National Theatre and The State Opera. She has also performed as a guest at such prestigious opera destinations as Dresden’s Semperoper and Milan’s La Scala.

Since the 2000s Mrs Jehličková has been grooming students’ voices as a voice and opera teacher. Currently she teaches singing at the Music School in Prague 5. The “Meditation on Teaching” in Žižkov’s Atrium on January 28 was meant as a tribute to her teaching work.

Opus Osm

At the Atrium (from left): Růžena Kováčová, Mrs Jehličková, Petra Hlaváčková-Koliášová

Hosted by Ms. Jehličková’ student, Petra Hlaváčková-Koliášová, the evening alternated between performances of famous arias and duets and the spoken word. Rightly, the main singing protagonists were Zora Jehličková’s students Petra Hlaváčková-Koliášová and Růžena Kováčová, owners of beautiful mezzosoprano and soprano voices. Their powerful singing filled the Atrium chapel up to the ceiling.

As with any teaching, guiding a student through the intricacies of opera techniques can be equally frustrating and rewarding. Mrs Jehličková, speaking from the stage, assured us that it is a big success if the student remembers something after half a year. But then it is a big gratification when the student goes on to study at the Academy of Music or the Conservatory.

The key seems to be finding the perfect match between the teacher and the student. The teacher is the one who places the tone for the student, and explains the physiology of singing, and where the head voice is. This relationship can then last for a lifetime. –Well, provided one premise is met: The old practice, practice, practice applies even more in opera.

The evening was a nice reminder of where opera begins. – oo

– Zuzana Sklenková, assistant editor and regular contributor to Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Top: Jaromír Svoboda, The National Theatre archives; bottom, Zuzana Sklenková

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