The Austrian soprano Hilde Gueden, or Güden (15 September 1917 – 17 September 1988), was one of the most appreciated Straussian and Mozartian sopranos of her day. Her youthful and lively interpretations made her an ideal interpreter of roles like Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro.
She was born Hulda Geiringer in Vienna, and studied singing with Otto Iro, piano with Maria Wetzelsberger, and dancing at the Vienna Music Academy. She debuted, as Hulda Gerin, in 1937 in Benatzky's operetta Herzen im Schnee at the Vienna Volksoper. Her operatic debut came in 1939, when she sang Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at the Zurich Opera.
In 1941, the famous conductor Clemens Krauss engaged her for the Munich State Opera, where she sang with much success. From this time she used Hilde Gueden as her stage name. However, she had some Jewish ancestry, and this forced her to leave Germany under the Nazis. Rumour has it that she was almost arrested by the Gestapo in Munich, but she had by then obtained a fake passport showing that she was a Roman Catholic Polish woman and could avoid arrest.
In Italy, Tullio Serafin invited her to sing Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier) in Rome and Florence. From then on, she gained great successes in Paris, Milan, London, Venice, Glyndebourne, and other major cities. She made her debut at Salzburg Festival in 1946 by singing Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni in 1946. In 1947, she started a long membership with the Vienna Staatsoper, where she was still of the greatest stars up to 1973. In December 1951, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Gilda in Rigoletto. In 1953, she sang Ann Trulove in the first U.S. performance of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at the Metropolitan Opera.
From late 1950s, she moved from light parts to lyric parts in the same operas; from Susanna to Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), from Zerlina to Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), from Despina to Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), from Nannetta to Alice Ford (Falstaff), and from Musetta to Mimi (La bohème). She was also praised for her performances of Violetta in La traviata, Marguerite in Faust, and Micaela in Carmen.
She was a most versatile and accomplished singer. Besides her usual Mozart and Richard Strauss, she was also an ideal operetta singer. Her Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus is considered one of her best roles. In the bel canto repertoire, she became a famous Gilda in Rigoletto and Adina in L'elisir d'amore. She was also noted for her Lieder and oratorio work.
She died, aged 71, in Klosterneuburg.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Hilde Gueden made dozens of recordings with the best artists of her generation, especially for the Decca/London label. Following is a selection of her recorded works:
4. Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus (as Rosalinde) with Wilma Lipp, Anton Dermota, Julius Patzak and Clemens Krauss (cond.); Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera; rec.1950 (London Gramophone LLP 305, Decca, now only available in various "public domain" versions)
10. Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (as Zerbinetta) with Lisa della Casa, Irmgard Seefried, Rudolph Schock and Karl Böhm (cond.); Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera; rec.1954/live-Salzburg Festival (DG)
11. Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (as Eva) with Paul Schöffler, Günther Treptow, Karl Dönch, Anton Dermota and Hans Knappertsbusch (cond.); Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera; rec.1950–51 (Decca)
12. Giacomo Puccini: La bohème (as Musetta) with Renata Tebaldi, Giacinto Prandelli, Fernando Corena and Alberto Erede (cond.); Orchestra e coro dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma; rec.1950 (Decca)
- She can be seen on black-and-white video as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, in a live performance with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Geraint Evans, Graziella Sciutti, and Evelyn Lear, conducted by Lorin Maazel, from the Salzburg Festival, 1963. The DVD is published by Video Artists International, Inc. Catalog number DVD 4519.
- D. Brook, Singers of Today (Revised Edition – Rockliff, London 1958), 100–103.