Exhibition Titled “Breda Kalef – an Unusual Prima Donna” Opened at the National Theatre Museum

16 March 2022

In addition to the photographs, posters from the shows and personal items of this renowned artist, the exhibition also sheds light on her significant career on the National Theatre stage and on her guest performances abroad. 

In a very inspired speech during which he reminded the audience of some of the most significant moments of Breda’s brilliant career, the chief conductor of the National Theatre, Dejan Savić, stressed, among other things, that the exhibition was dedicated to a great artist and opera star “who was aware of her mission that she completely accomplished”.

In his opinion, Mrs. Kalef was a “quintessential, real prima donna, but too modest one for such a fantastic career that she had.”

He reminded that all great conductors, including Oskar Danon and Borislav Pašćan, “always highly praised her attitude towards her art, colleagues and the work she performed”. 

The Opera Manager, Nikola Mijailović, said that “as a child of this Theatre” he was excited to attend the opening of the exhibition dedicated to Breda Kalef stressing that she played a great role in his childhood and while he was growing up. 

Mijailović pointed out that Mrs. Kalef, in addition to her extraordinary voice, stage appearance and charisma….she also had distinguishability “which is something that only the greatest opera artists possess.”

“When you hear the voice of Breda Kalef, you have no dilemma for a second whether it is somebody else’s voice. With her singing she set an example of what it is that an opera singer should strive for and what an opera singer should accomplish. Her knowledge of vocal technique, which is very complex, enabled her to maintain the freshness of her voice and the entire register until the end of her career, despite the fact that she had been singing the hardest roles for a very long time”, Mijailović said adding that her magnificent roles – Azucena from “Il Trovatore”, Doma from “Ero the Joker (Ero from the Other World)” and Mother from “The Consul”, still “keep resonating” in his mind. 

The author of the exhibition and the Museum director, Dragan Stevović, stressed that “this was not a story about Breda Kalef’s career, but about her life”.
“The first thing was to survive this life, then to live it, to live and fight. And after several years from the debut, to find one’s place among the top-ranking soloists who made this opera house famous all around the world in its golden years. One of those shows was Don Quixote in the Vienna State Opera in 1964 and many other titles…”, Stevović reminded.
Before pronouncing the exhibition open, he gave Mrs. Kalef a bouquet of flowers and a framed poster of the Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” from the performance held on June 28, 1960 when she debuted at the National Theatre. 

Within the grand exhibition opening ceremony, an audio recording was played of the Countess’ romance from “The Queen of Spades” sang by Breda Kalef at the premiere performance at the National Theatre in 1980. 

Mrs. Kalef attended the exhibition, but she did not address the audience. She sat in the company of her colleagues and friends – prima donnas Milka Stojanović and Radmila Bakočević. 

The exhibition will be opened until the middle of May. 

Breda Kalef-Simonović was born on December 7, 1930.

She graduated from the Music Academy in Belgrade in the class of Prof. Zlata Djundjenac Gavela, and in 1962 she became a soloist of the National Theatre Opera in which she performed until 1991. 

In the season 1964/1965 she was the soloist of the opera in Tel Aviv in Israel.

She played over 50 mezzo soprano roles – Carmen (“Carmen”), Delilah (“Samson and Delilah”), Azucena (“Il Trovatore”), Konchakovna (“Prince Igor”), Marina (“Boris Godunov”), Olga (“Eugene Onegin”), Lucrezia (“Lucrezia”), Gioconda (“La Gioconda”), Charlotte (“Verter”) …

She is a recipient of numerous awards among which are two National Theatre Annual Awards for Best Artistic Achievement, the National Theatre Stamp and the Gold Medal of Outstanding Merit which she received from the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, in 2021.