Milka Trnina – World-famous Opera Diva

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Until February 28th, the Zagreb City Museum will feature an exhibition, “Milka Trnina – World-famous Opera Diva”. The exhibition of items that belonged to Milka Trnina, and are nowadays part of the Zagreb City Museum holdings, was organized in order to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Croatia’s first, and one of the world’s most famous opera divas. Some of the items featured in the exhibition were borrowed from Zagreb’s Ethnographic Museum, the City Museum of Pozega and the Museum of Arts and Crafts. This exhibition was preceded by the exhibition organized by the Zagreb City Museum in 2006 at the Royal Opera House in London in order to mark the 100th anniversary of Trnina’s last performance in the UK capital.

Milka Trnina graduated from the Vienna conservatory and had her debut performance in 1882 in Zagreb’s old theatre building in the Upper Town, when she appeared in the role of Amalie in Verdi’s “A Masked Ball”. Not having been able to land a permanent position in Zagreb after graduating, she set off abroad and achieved great fame as one of the best performers of Wagner’s tragic heroines. At a concert held during the crowning of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 in Moscow, the Russian tsarina requested her to perform Isolde’s “Love Death”, one of the most beautiful arias from Wagner’s opera, “Tristan and Isolde”. The royal couple rewarded her generously to show their gratitude – the Russian tsar gave her a large diamond broche laden with rubies, which is kept at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, while the tsarina gave her a diamond bracelet.

During her career, the globally renowned opera diva played 65 different roles in more than 1,200 performances, but unfortunately had to cut her career short due to facial nerve damage she sustained in 1906. Her life, however, was full of interesting events, and she socialized with many famous people. During her time performing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she was often seen in the company of great scientist Nikola Tesla, who loved music and had a permanent box seat at the opera house. She was even among the few people who visited his laboratory in Manhattan and witnessed the experiments carried out by the renowned genius.

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