Yveta Synek Graff, the self styled secret weapon of Czech Opera's Velvet Revolution passed away on Friday November 6th, 2015 at her home in Montecito, CA. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Yveta Synek, was the only child of the distinguished judge, author, playwright, director, editor and politician Dr. Emil Synek and Eugenia Budlovska, a star of Czech theatre. A fervent anti-nazi working with the Czech government-in-exile, Dr. Synek anticipated the communist takeover in 1947 and managed to spirit his family to France. Yveta Synek flourished in Paris, studying voice with Ninon Vallin and modeling. She became "Miss Kodak" and appeared in promotional campaigns on billboards throughout France. In 1956 she obtained a coveted visa to go to America and never looked back. The young Synek arrived in New York City, met and married Robert Lincoln Love, a children's wear fashion designer and had two sons, Steve and Brett. Later on they would divorce and then she married F. Malcolm Graff, Jr., a private banker with the Bankers Trust Company. Their shared passion for opera brought them to the pinnacle of glamour in New York City, The Metropolitan Opera House. At the urging of her father and husband, she became the doyen of Czech Opera, first as a vocal coach in her native Czech language and then, with her colleague and editor Robert T. Jones, as a translator and transliterator (i.e. phonetic transcription). Today, her transliterations are permanently archived at the Juilliard School of Music and used by every opera house around the world. Yveta Graff's career started in 1977 with Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York performing Smetana's Dalibor, in Czech, on the stage of Carnegie Hall. For the next thirty years she worked at almost every opera house of note in the world overseeing productions of operas by Leos Janacek (The Cunning Little Vixen, Kat'a Kabanova, Jenufa, From the House of the Dead and The Makropulos Case), Dvorak (Rusalka) and Smetana (The Bartered Bride). Graff acted as right hand to such maestros as Rafael Kubelik, James Conlon and Sir. Charles Mackerras. She coached stars like Renee Fleming, Karita Mattila, Catherine Malfitano, Patricia Racette, Dolora Zajick, Gabriela Benackova and Ben Heppner. But of all her institutional associations, none was a greater source of pride to her than the one with The Metropolitan Opera, where she served as de facto subject-matter expert in all matters Czech for over two decades, beginning with Jenufa in 1985 and culminating with Rusalka in 2009. For her devotion to Czech Opera, Mrs. Graff received numerous medals from her native country including The Orders of the Czech Republic bestowed on her by the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel. Yveta Synek Graff is survived by her son, Steve Love, his wife, Jeanie Love, her grandson, Chase Love and her god-son, Marc Chazaud.
Published by New York Times on Nov. 15, 2015.