Maria Reining worked in the foreign exchange department of a bank before commencing formal vocal studies when she was twenty-five. She made her debut with the Vienna State Opera in 1931 and for the next two years appeared there in soubrette and comprimario roles. Between 1933 and 1935 she sang with the Darmstadt Opera, after which she became a member of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, making her debut as Elsa / Lohengrin with Hans Knappertsbusch conducting.
When Knappertsbusch was relieved of his duties in Munich and moved to Vienna, Reining followed him. She remained with the Vienna State Opera until 1957 and was one of the company’s leading sopranos: her roles included Agathe / Der Freischütz, Elisabeth / Tannhäuser, Sieglinde / Die Walküre, Leonora / Il trovatore, Desdemona / Otello, Tatyana / Eugene Onegin and the title role in Richard Strauss’s Daphne; she also sang the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos in the 1944 production mounted to celebrate Strauss’s eightieth birthday, with Karl Böhm conducting. One of her last appearances with the company was as Elisabetta / Don Carlo in 1956; she was made an honorary member in 1959.
Having made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in 1937, as Eva / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Toscanini conducting, Reining subsequently appeared there as the Countess / Le nozze di Figaro (1939), Pamina / Die Zauberflöte (1941), Arabella / Arabella (1947) and the Marschallin / Der Rosenkavalier (1949 and 1953). She sang at the Zoppot Open-Air Opera Festival in 1934, 1939 and 1940; with the Antwerp Opera in 1937; and appeared at the Royal Opera House, London in May 1938 as Elsa, winning critical approval. In November of that year she made her American debut as Eva with the Chicago Opera, taking the title role in Madama Butterfly there shortly afterwards. She sang the Countess (Figaro) as a guest in Amsterdam in 1940 and 1944.
After the end of World War II, Reining appeared with the Zürich Opera in 1948; and the following year, after singing the Marschallin at the Paris Opera, travelled once again to the USA. Here she sang Ariadne and then the Marschallin with the New York City Opera in that company’s first production of Der Rosenkavalier, under the baton of Lázsló Halasz. She also appeared at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires in 1952.
Following her retirement from the Vienna State Opera, Reining taught in Salzburg from 1962, and in 1983 was awarded that city’s Mozart Medal.
At her best, Reining possessed a beautiful soprano tone and enunciated text with great delicacy. These characteristics, combined with her aristocratic stage presence, made her performances highly affecting. Complete recordings of her in several of her leading roles have fortunately survived.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).