Having laid the foundation of her musical training at the Prague Conservatory, Maria Müller subsequently studied with Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and Erik Schmedes in Vienna. She made her operatic debut as Elsa / Lohengrin at Linz in 1919 and was then a member of the opera companies of Brno (1920–1921), the German Theatre in Prague (1921–1923) and Munich (1924–1925).
Müller made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York at the beginning of 1925 as Sieglinde / Die Walküre to warm reviews. In short order she sang several other roles at the Met, including Gutrune / Götterdämmerung, Mimì / La Bohème, Eva / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Agathe / Der Freischütz, Elsa and Maria in the American premiere of Montemezzi’s Giovanni Gallurese. She returned in the spring of 1926 and extended her repertoire further, delighting audiences with her sensitive portrayal of Mařenka / The Bartered Bride, as well as tackling the title role in Aida and Elisabeth / Tannhäuser. She first sang the title role in Madama Butterfly at the Met in 1927, as well as Octavian / Der Rosenkavalier. Müller sang regularly in New York until 1935. Later roles included Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni (from 1930) and participation in several significant American premieres: for example as Mariola / Fra Gherardo (Pizzetti, 1929); Parassia / Sorochintsy Fair (Mussorgksy, 1930); Dorotka / Schwanda the Bagpiper (Weinberger, 1931) and Amelia / Simon Boccanegra (1932). She made her last appearance at the Met as Butterfly in 1935.
In Europe Müller sang at the Städtische Oper in Berlin in 1926, before moving in 1927 to the Berlin State Opera where she enjoyed great success in Richard Strauss’s Die aegyptische Helena in 1928 and as Desdemona / Otello in 1929 with Bruno Walter conducting. She made her debut at the Bayreuth Festival in 1930 as Elisabeth with Toscanini conducting and was a constant presence there until 1944, her roles including Elsa, Eva, Sieglinde and Senta / Der fliegende Holländer.
At the Salzburg Festival Müller appeared regularly from 1931 to 1934 as Eurydice / Orfeo ed Eurydice (1931–1932), Rezia / Oberon (1932–1934) and Donna Elvira (1934). She sang at the Paris Opera in 1933 (Elisabeth and Elsa), 1936 (Eva) and in concert in 1937; at the Royal Opera House, London in 1934 (Eva) and 1937 (Sieglinde); and at the Vienna State Opera in 1936, 1938 and 1940 as Elisabeth and Sieglinde. In the USA she sang with the San Francisco Opera during the 1931 and 1932 seasons. Other cities where she appeared included Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dresden, The Hague, Hamburg, Oslo and Rome.
After World War II Müller returned to the Städtische Oper, Berlin to sing the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos and Sieglinde during the 1951 season, before retiring in 1952 to live in Bayreuth.
Olin Downes, writing in the New York Times at the time of Müller’s Met debut in 1925, summed up her strengths: ‘She has a fresh and youthful voice… much grace and sincerity as an actress. Not often is the figure of Sieglinde so human, so tender and so appealing to the beholder.’ Her recordings from the 1936 Bayreuth Festival capture a lyricism rare in Wagnerian singing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist