Hilde Konetzni

The younger sister of soprano Anny Konetzni, Hilde was initially more interested in swimming than singing. Having studied at the Vienna Conservatory with Rudolf Nilius and made her debut at Chemnitz in 1929 as Sieglinde / Die Walküre (singing opposite her sister as Brünnhilde), she continued her studies in Prague with Ludmilla Prohaska-Neumann. Konetzni sang with the opera in Gablonz in northern Bohemia (now Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic) for the 1931–1932 season and from 1932 to 1935 with the German Theatre in Prague. Here she caused a sensation with her portrayals of Leonora / Il trovatore and Agathe / Der Freischütz, and sang the title role in the German-language premiere of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová in 1936. During the same year she made her debut (as Elisabeth / Tannhäuser) at the Vienna State Opera, where she was based for the rest of her professional career.

At the Salzburg Festival Konetzni was a frequent guest, appearing as Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni (1936, 1939, 1941), Chrysothemis / Elektra (1937), the Marschallin / Der Rosenkavalier (1937–1939, 1946), Leonore / Fidelio and Elisabeth (1938) and Agathe (1939); as late as 1961 she took a small role in the first performance of Wagner-Régeny’s Das Bergwerk zu Falun there. She sang Donna Elvira at the Paris Opera in 1936, returning as Sieglinde in 1943 and the Marschallin in 1949. In 1937 she sang the title role in Weber’s Euryanthe in Amsterdam and toured America with a group of singers that included Alexander Kipnis, returning in 1939.

Konetzni first appeared in 1938 at both the Glyndebourne Festival (as Donna Elvira) and at the Royal Opera House, London (as Chrysothemis), also stepping in at short notice for an indisposed Lotte Lehmann as the Marschallin. She returned to Covent Garden the following year to sing Marie in The Bartered Bride under Beecham, was a member of the Vienna State Opera on its visit to London in 1947, and sang Sieglinde and Gutrune in the 1955 Ring cycle under Kempe.

Konetzni’s career after World War II was as significant as it had been before the war: she sang Sieglinde and Gutrune for Furtwängler in his famous Ring cycle at La Scala, Milan in 1950, returned there in 1951 to sing in Borodin’s Prince Igor, and sang Sieglinde in Furtwängler’s 1953 Rome radio Ring. Although released from her contract with the Vienna State Opera by Karl Böhm in 1959 during his second period as opera director, she was re-engaged in 1963; her farewell performance there came in 1973, as Filipyevna / Eugene Onegin.

With a voice that was sweeter, smaller and more lyric than that of her sister Anny, Konetzni’s repertoire included the Countess / Le nozze di Figaro, Senta / Der fliegende Holländer, Elsa / Lohengrin, Elisabetta / Don Carlo, Amelia / Un ballo in maschera, Desdemona / Otello, Marguerite / Faust, Giulietta / Les Contes d’ Hoffmann, Rosalinde / Die Fledermaus and Saffi / Der Zigeunerbaron. Among her later character roles were Mother Goose / The Rake’s Progress, the Principessa / Suor Angelica, the Theatre Dresser / Lulu and Mary / Der fliegende Holländer.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).