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Bittová, Ivafree

  • Pavla Jonssonová

Czech vocalist, violinist, composer, and actress Iva Bittová

by permission of Iva Bittová.
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(b 22 July 1958, Bruntál in Czechoslovakia). Czech vocalist, violinist, composer, and actress.Bittová grew up in a musical family and with sisters Ida and Regina often accompanied her father, the composer and multi-instrumentalist Koloman Bitto. She gave up playing violin at the age of fourteen and so her mother, a choir singer and teacher, enrolled her to study acting at Brno Conservatory. In 1978, Bittová became a member of the avant garde theatre Husa na provázku (Goose on a String), starring as Eržika in the popular musical Balada pro banditu (Ballad for a Bandit). She also began her film acting career at this time. She quit her theatre career in 1982 to fulfill her father’s wishes and restarted her study of the violin under Rudolf Šťastný of the Moravian String Quartet. Enabled by her theatrical professionalism, improvisational skills, command of pitch, and purity of tone, Bittová developed a unique performance style consisting of combining the voice and the violin. This avant garde interplay of violin and extended vocalization techniques (ranging from primordial and nature-inspired clicking, screeching and ululating to folkloristic tunes) shocked her audiences. In 1985, she partnered with Pavel Fajt, the drummer of the Brno alternative band, Dunaj, with whom she recorded celebrated albums; the dissident Václav Havel was in the audience for the premiere of the Bittová & Fajt album (Panton, 1987) at Chmelnice club in Prague in 1988. In the 1980s and early 1990s she established herself as a star of world/experimental music, collaborating with internationally-renowned art-rock musicians including Fred Frith, Tom Cora, Chris Cutler, and David Moss, while continuing to perform and recording regionally. Her definitive work from this period White Inferno (Indies, 1997), recorded with guitarist Vladimír Václavek, is still widely available.

At the same time Bittová enlarged her repertoire with classical violin interpretations of her favorite composers Béla Bartók and Leoš Janáček. Her collaboration with the contemporary Slovak composer Vladimír Godár resulted in the album Mater (ECM 2007). She became more involved in composition, recording Elida with Bang on a Can All-Stars Orchestra, which premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2005. Her other projects include film music, founding her own band Čikori, collaborations with techno the DJ Javas, the Prague Philharmonia, Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, jazz bassist George Mraz, and ambient composer and DJ Susumu Yokota. She also sang the role of Donna Elvira in the opera Don Juan in Prague, which premiered at Bard SummerScape in 2003.

In 2007 Bittová relocated from the village of Lelekovice near Brno, where she lived since 1990, to Hudson Valley, upstate New York, with her son, Antonín Fajt (b 1991), also a musician. She often returns to Europe to perform. In 2015 she graduated with a BA degree in musicology from Masaryk University in Brno.

Among her achievements are numerous awards for acting, Records of the Year, Singer of the Year from the Czech Musical Academy, and live televised performances at Czech State Ceremonies where audiences have included heads of states such as Havel, President GeorgeBush Jr, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Bibliography

  • L. Jaklová: Iva Bittová (Praha, 2002)