Emmy Destinn bought the beautiful castle at Stráž nad Nežárkou in Southern Bohemia at the peak of her artistic career. The romantic castle, built in the 12th century among the hills of Southern Bohemia, is set in acres of wild gardens, crossed by the river Nežárka. It was originally built by the Rosenberg family (Stráž means 'guard') to protect a trade route over the river. Their crest - a blue rose in a gold background - can still be seen above the main gate, which Destinn designed herself.
Since she moved in, in 1914, Destinn furnished the castle with a great collection of art, antiques and books on all subjects, bought while touring the world. She spared no expense to imbue the place with her own slightly eccentric personality. She had a taste for the macabre and a great sense of humour, as her numerous caricatures of colleagues and friends demonstrate.
The colours of the keys on her custom-built piano were reversed and she kept an aquarium with a selection of frogs, each named after a primadonna, whose different pitch of croaking she apparently recognised. Destinn was happiest at the castle and spent many tranquil hours walking in the ancient woods or fishing for carp and pike. It became her refuge during the First World War, when she was put under a house arrest by the German authorities for her patriotic activities and for refusing to entertain their troops. She lived there throughout the last lonely years of her life.
Although Emmy Destinn bequeathed the castle to the nation, after her death in 1930, her husband sold the empty castle to a wealthy Czech family who refurbished it to its former glory. In 1948 the castle was confiscated by the communist authorities and used at first as a garrison and later as a home for disabled children. It took almost half a century before the rightful owners reclaimed the delapidated castle in 1995 and began its reconstruction.
In May 1999, Emmy Destinn Foundation organised an event at the castle, under the auspices of the Prague Spring Music Festival. 800 people crowded into the small Stráž church to hear Magdalena Kožená and Roman Janál performing at a gala concert, after which a bronze bust of Destinn, created by Irena Sedlecká FRBS for the Emmy Destinn Foundation, was unveiled by Sir Charles Mackerras and Božidara Turzonovová (who portrayed Destinn in a 1976 Czech film 'The Divine Emmy'). An oak tree sapling taken from Destinn's favourite fishing spot was planted in the castle's gardens by Magdalena Kožená and Lord Wise of King's Lynn, to mark the ocassion.
The castle is now in the hands of new owners.