Hilde Gueden (born Hulda Geiringer) was among the extraordinary young Mozart/Strauss singers who emerged from Vienna immediately after WWII and who dominated Mozart performance well into the 1960s. Gueden's considerable ease in the top register destined her to sing the lighter roles of Richard Strauss and she made a mark in operetta as well, achieving celebrity in the works of Johann Strauss, Lehár, and others. She was a trim, sparkling personality on stage; as a Decca artist, she left numerous recordings of her best roles.
Of Austrian, Italian, and Hungarian ancestry, Gueden's parents mixed finance and the arts: Gueden's father was a banker, while her mother was an actress. Gueden began her musical training at age seven with piano lessons, and began to study voice seven years later. When she was only 16, she was brought to the attention of operetta composer Robert Stolz who offered her a part in his Servus, servus; Gueden's performance immediately endeared her to the Viennese public. During the performance run the young soprano studied ballet privately and took courses in acting at the Max Reinhardt Academy, all with an eye toward the operatic stage.
With the Anschluss, Gueden escaped to Switzerland where she auditioned for the Zurich Opera. Engaged on the spot, Gueden made her debut in 1939 as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro. Numerous other roles came in the aftermath of her success and she remained in Zurich for two years. Family matters called her back to Vienna in 1941 and, finding herself unable to leave her home country, she accepted an engagement in Munich where she appeared first with conductor Clemens Krauss as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Composer Richard Strauss attended a performance of Così fan tutte and, struck by the beauty and splendid vocal resources of the young singer, urged Gueden to study the role of Sophie in his Der Rosenkavalier. After taking his advice, Gueden made her Italian debut as Sophie at the Rome Opera in December 1942. Given her intense dislike for the Nazi regimes in both Austria and Germany, Gueden elected to remain in Italy. When the Nazis occupied that country, she simply withdrew from performing for the duration of the war, seeking shelter first in Venice, then in a rural town near Milan.
Following the conclusion of hostilities, Gueden returned to Austria and was invited to the Salzburg Festival in 1946 where she debuted in the signature role of Zerlina. That same year, she was engaged by the Vienna Staatsoper where she remained a treasured artist until 1973. In 1947, she sang at Covent Garden for the first time and, in 1951, she began a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera which lasted for nine seasons and embraced more than 100 performances in 13 roles. For the Metropolitan, she created the role of Anne Truelove in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in a production coming shortly after the work's Venice premiere. Among other roles in New York, Gueden sang both Musetta and Mimì in La bohème, Zerlina, Susanna, Sophie, Zdenka, and Rosalinde.
At Salzburg, Gueden offered a saucy performance of the title role in Strauss' Die Schweigsame Frau in 1959, and, in Vienna, a radiant Daphne in 1964, both productions captured on disc. Her cherishable Sophie was preserved on commercial recording under Erich Kleiber.