Artist Profile: Helen Traubel, A Great Wagnerian Soprano With Other Extra-Operatic Interests

By David Salazar

Helen Traubel was one of the great Wagnerian sopranos during the early 20th century. The problem was – her career was often overlooked because another great Wagnerian soprano was at her peak. That soprano, of course, was Kirsten Flagstad.

Traubel, who was born on June 16, 1899, still managed a solid career emerging on the opera stage for the first time on May 12, 1937 in “The Man Without a Country.” It was her Met Opera debut. Then she made debuts in San Francisco and Chicago.

She wound up with a 16-year career at the Met, singing on the stage 176 times.

But her career was defined by a number of other major factors, including working as an “advisor” to US President Harry S. Truman’s daughter, who aspired to be a singer. She also made several radio and TV appearances and appeared in the Broadway show “Pipe Dream.” She also made appearances onsuch films as “Deep in My Heart,” “Gunn,” and “The Ladies Man.” She also wrote two murder mysteries and was a part owner of the St. Louis Browns, her local baseball club.

She has a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

She died on July 28, 1972.

Signature Role

Traubel was one of the premiere Wagnerian sopranos of her time, particularly in the roles of Isolde and Brünhilde. The emergence of Kirsten Flagstad impeded her being able to rise to the top.

The role of Brünhilde in “Die Walküre” was a particular fixture for Traubel, who made her San Francisco debut with the opera. At the Met, she sang the role 47 times overall, more than any other role during her career. Second on the list? Isolde, which she took on 47 times. She also appeared in “Götterdämmerung” 25 times in her Met career.

Read More on Helen Traubel

She Was More than an Opera Star

Watch and Listen

Here is a glimpse of her Isolde in the famed Liebestod.

And here is the Immolation scene from “Götterdämmerung.”


Opera Wiki