Able to switch seamlessly from demanding mezzo-soprano parts on the opera stage to ethereal contralto roles in the concert hall, Anna Reynolds was one of the most expressive singers Britain produced in the 1960s.
Born in Canterbury, she trained at the Royal Academy of Music and continued her studies in Rome. In 1960, she made her professional debut as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly in Parma, and gained substantial experience in Italy over the next two years in repertoire that ranged from Purcell to Massenet and Rossini.
Returning home in 1962, she made her UK debut as Genevieve in Pelleas et Melisande at Glyndebourne, where she returned two years later to sing Ortensia in Rossini’s La pietra del paragone and, in 1965, Annina in Der Rosenkavalier.
That same year, she made her debut with Scottish Opera as Mrs Herring in Britten’s comic opera Albert Herring. She established a long-lasting relationship with the company, and made a substantial contribution to its late 1960s/early 1970s’ Ring cycle, directed by Peter Ebert.
Reynolds’ first appearance with the Royal Opera company came in 1966 as a valkyrie conducted by Georg Solti, for whom she returned in 1967 to sing Adelaide in Arabella alongside Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. She returned to Scotland in 1975 for the role of Andromache in Michael Tippett’s King Priam.
An international career blossomed after her debut as Flosshilde in Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1968, a role that established her as a leading Wagnerian. She took part in the Herbert von Karajan-conducted Ring cycles at Salzburg (1970) and the Met (1975), and made regular appearances at Bayreuth in the first half of the 1970s.
In the concert hall, Reynolds made a notable impression as the Angel in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius for John Barbirolli in 1963, and at the Edinburgh Festival the following year in a concert performance of Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette. She was admired for her rendition of the alto solos in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, striking up an admired partnership with Leonard Bernstein. In 1969, she sang in the premiere of John Tavener’s The Whale at the BBC Proms and on its first recording.
Other successes on disc include cantatas and sacred music by Bach, Bernstein’s acclaimed account of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis. On retiring from performing, she developed an extensive teaching career.
Anna Reynolds was born on October 4, 1931, and died on February 24, aged 82. Her husband, the tenor Jean Cox, died in 2012.