Czech soprano Emmy Destinn's family name was Kittl, but she chose her stage name by adapting that of her voice teacher Marie Lowe-Destinn. In her later career, she used only the Czech form of that name, Destinnova. Her first musical studies were on the violin which she first played in a public concert at age eight. At 14, she started to study voice and at the age of 20 she made her debut at Berlin as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. She was immediately given a five-year contract with the Berlin Imperial Opera. In 1901, she sang Senta in Wagner's Fliegende Holländer to great acclaim, which led to her London debut as Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni. In London, she also sang Aida and Madama Butterfly. In 1904 at Berlin, she sang in the world premiere of Leoncavallo's Der Roland von Berlin. During this period, she also sang in Vienna, Prague, Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, and Paris. At London in 1908, she created the title role in Tess by Erlanger. That same year, she came to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, making her debut as Aida. It was there that she created Minnie in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West with Caruso and Toscanini. She returned to her homeland during World War I and worked for national independence, and at one point she was interned at her home for her activities. In 1919, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera for two seasons. It is said that Destinn could sing over 80 operas on a moment's notice and at one Metropolitan Opera performance when a colleague was ailing, she sang the off-stage Priestess as well as Aida in the same performance. In 1926, she gave her final stage performances. She lived out her life in Straz, Bohemia, and occasionally gave concerts, primarily benefit performances.
Destinn had a beautiful, rich soprano voice with an extensive range. It was a very expressive voice with complete command of the dynamic range. The voice recorded very well and she recorded over 200 items. Her complete recordings have been issued on CD (Ultraphon 11 2136-2 600) with many titles being recorded several times during her long recorded career. Her 1908 recording of Carmen with Karl Jorn (Marston CDA 52022) was one of the earliest complete opera recordings and is sung in German. It gives a wonderful example of her vocalism and her ability to create a character. Among the best recorded of her discs are the Victors which include arias from Madama Butterfly, Aida, La Gioconda, and Trovatore (Romophone 81002-2). Of her earliest recordings, the Act 4 duet from Les Huguenots with Karl Jorn is especially impressive. Besides Carmen, in 1908, Destinn also recorded a complete Faust by Gounod. This recording was also sung in German with Karl Jorn as Faust. Emmy Destinn was one of the greatest sopranos of the first quarter of the twentieth century, and we are fortunate that her voice recorded so well.