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Jan Kiepura. The "Sosnowiec Boy"

A great tenor, considered the most famous singing performer of prewar grand opera houses and the operetta stage, he continued as a singer into the 1930s,1940s and 1950s in his new role as a film actor.
With his beguiling smile and captivating, lovable manner, he starred in thirty-nine cinema productions, including My heart calls you, Zauber der Boheme (Le Charme de la Boheme), La Valse Brillante, or the Czardash Princess, among others. From 1931 he made a hit overseas, "bringing the house down" on Broadway and drawing large audiences into the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where he met with resounding applause.

Jan Kiepura had in his repertoire the most distinguished opera and light opera parts. He also appeared on the opera stages of Vienna (as in duets with Lotte Lehmann), Milan, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Budapest, Prague, Brno(Czech), Havana, Buenos Aires, Río de Janeiro, São Paolo – and in his home country Poland, where he would often return. He performed in English, German, French, Italian and Polish.
This renowned figure was aptly referred to by the Warsaw writer Jerzy Waldorff as an opera singer with a voice so rich and sonorous but “as vigorous and cheerful as the radiant warmth of the sun”, truly unrivalled among contemporary operatic voices.
Despite his brilliant career, Jan Kiepura had always declared himself to be just an ordinary "local boy" from Sosnowiec. As one of the first classical singers, he could engage in a close dialogue with his audiences, never turning down their requests to do a musical "number" on the street, on top of a car, on hotel balconies or stairways to opera houses.
Being well ahead of his time, he was capable of communicating with the public in their own languages. His peculiar talent gained enormous popularity in the whole world.

Jan Kiepura"s outstanding personality, unequalled voice, great musical feeling, unshakeable self-esteem made him – a man of the world and Polish patriot – the incarnation of bohemianism of his time and, perhaps, the Polish artistic "celebrity" of the first water.
He always remembered where he came from, and the town from which he set off on his tour of the best theatres. On many occasions, he used to manifest his Polish origin, even in such colorful detail as saying that he wore Polish shoes or inviting his guests to "Polish dinners". After all, it was in Poland that he and his wife Marta Eggerth tied the knot.

Jan Kiepura was generous to his family, never failed to lend a hand to his friends or promote young talent. He performed numerous concerts for charity, including after the 2nd World War, when his paychecks were often transferred in aid of the needy in Poland. As an emigrant, he kept having close, emotional ties with the country of his childhood. Under his last will and testament, his final resting place is in Poland: he was buried in the Powązki Cemetery, Warsaw, in 1966.

The art of musical performance is often transitory, and the memories of many an excellent singer have faded – not so with Jan Kiepura. In the 1999 vote held by the daily Gazeta Wyborcza for Man of Upper Silesia and the Sosnowiec Coal Basin, the fourth place went to Mr. Kiepura, definitively proving him to be a living legend.

By no means has Jan Kiepura been forgotten by his countrymen in Sosnowiec, where a street bears his name and we have two Jan Kiepura schools. It is into the Jan Kiepura Culture Club that many of his memorabilia have been brought together. Thus, thanks to Kiepura"s widow, Mrs. Marta Eggerth Kiepura and his fans from all over the country and abroad, who have been sending in photos and written remembrances of the singer, Sosnowiec boasts the greatest collection of Jan Kiepura memorabilia.

The year 2002 marked both the anniversary of Kiepura's 100th birthday and a hundred years from the founding of Sosnowiec town: by a remarkable coincidence, Jan Kiepura, one of the city"s most prominent persons, has come to be its contemporary.
Not only was Jan Kiepura, the singing maestro, commemorated by Sosnowiec people but also by the whole nation. In honour of Mr. Kiepura's patriotic pride and world renown, the Polish Parliament passed a resolution for 2002 to be Year of Jan Kiepura.
At the foot of the world's first public square statue of Jan Kiepura, designed by T. Markiewicz and G. Karwowski of Warsaw, a commemorative plaque was unveiled, where these words are inscribed: A SOSNOWIEC CITIZEN IN HIS HEART, HE WON THE HEARTS OF MANY ACROSS THE WORLD. The monument's replica has been set up in Krynica Zdrój, Kiepura"s favourite mountain resort.

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