Death of Bayreuth’s English mezzo

Death of Bayreuth’s English mezzo


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2014

We have sad news of the passing of Anna Reynolds, who sang Fricka at Bayreuth from 1970 to 1976 and recorded solo roles with Bernstein, Karl Richter and Maazel, among others. She was 83.





Born in Canterbury in 1931, Anna met the American tenor Jean Cox at Bayreuth and married him, living together in Germany until his death.

May she rest in peace.


  • Thank you for posting, Mr Lebrecht. Anna was an outstanding artist and an inspirational teacher – she will be very greatly missed.

    • Do tell us more about her, Julia.

      • After studying piano at the RAM, Anna studied singing in Italy with a celebrated teacher, Debora Fambri. She had an international career in the 70s and 80s, singing at the highest level with the top singers and conductors of her day. Making her London debut with Sir John Barbirolli as the Angel in “The Dream of Gerontius”, he said to her after the rehearsal, the day before the concert, “of course, my dear, you are going to sing it from memory, aren’t you?”. Her agent hadn’t warned her that this would be expected, but of course she said yes, and because she had prepared the part thoroughly, was able to do this without a mishap.

        When I was working on the Act 1 Brünnhilde/Waltraute scene in “Götterdämmerung” with her, she recalled the time when she sang Waltraute opposite Birgit Nilsson at the Metropolitan Opera: at the very intense moment when Brünnhilde refuses to give the Ring back to Waltraute, her love for Siegfried is so great, Nilsson actually dropped the Ring, which rolled down into the orchestra pit. She turned to Anna, shrugged her shoulders and carried on singing as if the Ring wasn’t important anyway. As I’ve never heard about this episode from any other source, I wonder if it was perhaps an orchestral rehearsal and not a performance – but it’s a lovely story, nevertheless!

        She retired quite early from her performing career but was active as a teacher from her home in the Frankonian countryside, near Kulmbach. On day she died she had just given a singing lesson.

        Anna once told me that above all, her favourite composer was Bach. She recorded the cantatas with conductor Karl Richter and there are several wonderful recordings of her on Youtube. Rest in peace, dear Anna.

  • Jean Cox died in Bayreuth in 2012. I had no idea his wife had outlived him.

  • David Boxwell says:

    A lovely Bach and Handel singer. I also have her singing Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer from the Aldeburgh Festival (1972), conducted by “Benjy B.” (BBC Music 8004-2).

  • Michaela says:

    I had the pleasure to attend singing lessons with her in Peesten, she was a welcoming person,extremely gifted.When you travelled you stayed there for some days in their home, Anna Reynolds teached, played the piano etc…. Jean Cox was listening. You could l attend lessons of others if they agreed. Anna Reynolds was full of energy, after a day of teaching she prepared the evening meal, which was shared with all staying at their home. A great, musician, person in soul and heart.

  • Lee Johnson says:

    Anna Reynolds was born 5 June 1930, not 1931 as stated.

  • Nick says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Anna many times when she was a regular guest with Scottish Opera before she relocated to Germany. She took the roles of Fricka and the Gotterdammerung Waltraute as the company built up its first Ring cycle in the late 60s/early 70s. But she was also a very fine Mrs Herring in Anthony Besch’s production which, in addition to several revivals in Scotland, toured many parts of Europe. Less well-known, perhaps is that she was Dorabella in the glorious Besch/John Stoddart production of Cosi, taking over the role in 1972 from Janet Baker who had sung it with the company some years earlier.

    Her last appearances with the company were as Genevieve in Pelleas in 1973. A couple of years earlier, I had met her at Bayreuth to see her after one of the Ring operas. She was extremely gracious and took time to show us around much of the backstage. RIP.