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Hochdramatische Sopran (High Dramatic Soprano)

Germaine Lubin – French High Dramatic Soprano

By December 24, 2018March 31st, 2023No Comments

Germaine Lubin (February 1, 1890 to October 27, 1979) was probably the greatest dramatic soprano produced by France.  She is problematic, as were many during World War II in that she was severely criticized and punished for her sympathy for the Nazis after the occupation of France.  While creating this and other blogs, I have found so many instances of Nazi sympathizing from artists that it is hard to know how to look at it from a vantage point of a nearly a century later.  When I discovered that Lotte Lehmann, one of my absolute favorite sopranos was also involved with the Nazis, even though she had denied it vehemently during and after the war, I had to rethink what is meant by artistry.  And the conclusion that I came to was to put aside the political issues and to focus on the performer’s work.  Ironically, I would have been one of the ones sent to the gas chambers had I lived during that time.  It is not easy to put aside the past.

I will give two selections by Lubin.  The first one is a famous aria from Lohengrin “Dich teure Halle”, sung in French.  Unfortunately, the French deviates from the German in many respects in order to make the French translation have something to do with the German.  I have given the German, the French, and an English translation of the German (not the French) so that you will know what the character is singing about.

Then, I have given a Fauré mélodie, Au Bord de l’eau, which is a love song.  First Lubin sings this, and them I have given Crespin singing the same mélodie.  These two women were both dramatic sopranos, but their approach is very different.  Lubin studied Fauré’s songs with Fauré himself.  To me, Crespin sounds as if she is singing Berlioz instead of Fauré; but you decide.

Dich teure Halle
The French and the German have some correspondence, but not much. Therefore, I have given the original German, the French that Lubin sings, and the English translation of the German. The English will not correspond to the French.

Dich, teure Halle

Dich, teure Halle, grüss’ ich wieder,
Froh grüß’ ich dich, geliebter Raum!

In dir erwachen seine Lieder,
und wecken mich aus düstrem Traum. –
Da er aus dir geschieden,
wie öd’ erschienst du mir!
Aus mir entfloh der Frieden,
die Freude zog aus dir. –
Wie jetzt mein Busen hoch sich hebet,
so scheinst du jetzt mir stolz und hehr;
der dich und mich so neu belebet,
nicht länger weilt er ferne mehr.
Sei mir gegrüßt! Sei mir gegrüßt!
Du, teure Halle, sei mir gegrüßt!
Sei mir gegrüßt!
Du, teure Halle, sei mir gegrüßt

Salut à toi

Salut à toi noble demeure,
Ah! quel bonheur de te revoir

Tu vas revivre tout à l’heure
Et dans mon coeur renaît l’espoir
Ta gloire si  vanté
Semblait languir sans lui!
La paix m’avait quitté
Tout charmes t’avait fui!
Comme à présent mon coeur joyeux
De même ici tout paraît resplendir!
Nous raniment par sa présence,
Enfin il va venir.
Salut à toi noble demeure! Salut à toi noble demeure
Salut à toi noble demeure! Salut à toi noble demeure
Il vient à moi!

You, dear hall

You, dear hall, do I greet again
I greet you joyfully, beloved room!

In you his songs awake
And wake me from a dusky dream.
When he departed from you
How dull you seemed to me!
Peace flew out of me
And joy went out of you.
And now my bosom is raised high
As you now seem to me proud and noble
He who brings you and me to life
Is no longer wandering far away
I greet you, I greet you!
You, dear hall, I greet you!
I greet you!
You, dear hall, I greet you.

Au bord de l’eau

S’asseoir tous deux au bord du flot qui passe,
Le voir passer ;
Tous deux, s’il glisse un nuage en l’espace,
Le voir glisser ;
À l’horizon, s’il fume un toit de chaume,
Le voir fumer ;
Aux alentours si quelque fleur embaume,
S’en embaumer ;
Entendre au pied du saule où l’eau murmure
L’eau murmurer ;
Ne pas sentir, tant que ce rêve dure,
Le temps durer ;
Mais n’apportant de passion profonde
Qu’à s’adorer,
Sans nul souci des querelles du monde,
Les ignorer ;
Et seuls, tous deux devant tout ce qui lasse,
Sans se lasser,
Sentir l’amour, devant tout ce qui passe,
Ne point passer!

At the bank of the river

To sit together on the bank of the flowing stream,
Watching it flow;
Both of us, if a cloud floats by in space,
Watching floating by;
On the horizon, if a thatched roof is smoking,
Watching the smoke;
Around us if some flower is fragrant,
Perfuming the air;
To listen, at the foot of the willow where the water murmurs,
To the murmuring of the water;
While this dream lasts, not to feel
Time passing;
Not feeling deep passion,
Only adoring one another;
Without concern for the cares of the world,
Ignoring them;
And alone together seeing all that grows weary
Without wearying of each other;
Feeling love in the face of all that happens;
Will never end!

Germaine Lubin

For a certain time, Lubin thought about following in her father`s footsteps; he was a doctor, but she soon decided to study voice with de Martini and Isnardon at the Conservatoire de Paris. Gabriel Fauré himself, then director of the Conservatoire, taught her a large part of his songs which she kept in her concert repertory until the end of her career.

In 1913 she chose the role of Antonia in “Les Contes d`Hoffmann” for her debut at the Opéra Comique where she mainly concentrated on lyric roles such as Gounod`s Juliette and Thaïs during her first years and took part in the world premiere of Vincent d`Indy`s “La Légende de Saint Christophe” (with Paul Franz as her partner). After two years she moved on the Opéra (debuting role: Marguerite in “Faust”), Jaques Rouchés was then its director, which became her artistic home until her glorious career came to an unworthy end. Shortly after the end of World War I the singer appeared at the Opera House of Monte Carlo (“Thaïs” with Battistini, “Aida” and “Tosca” with Gigli and Octavian in “Der Rosenkavalier” with Ritter-Ciampi and the great Vanni-Marcoux under Victor De Sabata and with Max Reinhardt as stage director). “My diction was far from perfect and I was not a born actress” she confessed in an interview with Lanfranco Rasponi, “but under the guidance of my teacher and friend Félia Litvinne not only my diction improved remarkably but I also became a real actress. I owe it all to her.”

During the first years at the Opéra she continued to appear mainly in French Opera but also sang some Aidas and Toscas. In 1921 it was decided that it was time to bring Wagner back into the repertory of the Opéra. Lubin`s first great success as a Wagner-singer proved to be Sieglinde, one year later as Elsa she already was the leading soprano at the Opéra and Eva followed the next season. As Elsa under Clemens Krauss she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1924 and was equally successful as Marguerite in “Faust” and Ariadne (under Strauss). Lubin studied the role of Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni”, which she first sang under Bruno Walter in Salzburg in 1931, with Lili Lehmann, she prepared Alceste (1926 at the Opéra with Georges Thill) with Félia Litvinne and Elektra (1932) with Marie Gutheil-Schoder which proved one of her greatest triumphs both as a singer and as an actress.
Lauritz Melchior recommended her to Heinz Tietjen of the Berlin State Opera after a guest performance as Parsifal at the Opéra. Her overwhelming debut on February 20th 1938 as Sieglinde led to an engagement at Bayreuth where she made her debut as Kundry in 1938 (at the age of 48 ) and not without some hesitation did she accept an invitation to return the following year as Isolde (with Max Lorenz under Victor De Sabata). It was her Isolde at Bayreuth, only some weeks before War broke out, which probably was the greatest artistic triumph of her career. Lubin flatly refused to come to Bayreuth the following year and stayed instead in occupied France but she did sing Isolde in a guest performance of the Berlin State Opera under the direction of Herbert von Karajan. To her vast repertory she added Fidelio and a wonderful Marschallin in “Rosenkavalier” and was chosen to appear as Charlotte in “Werther” on the occasion of Massenet`s centennial-celebration in 1942.

A performance as Alceste in 1944 proved to be her last appearance on an operatic stage. When France was finally liberated she was prohibited to appear publicly as a result of numerous rumors and accusations (last but not least her close friendship with Winifred Wagner) and part of her property and her passport were confiscated. Not until 1950, after all accusations had proved groundless, she gave a concert in Paris on May 29th which turned into a personal triumph.

Taken from, entry on Germaine Lubin
Germaine Lubin in her own words:

“I have suffered an enormous injustice. They curtailed my career by ten years – my own people! The fact is that I knew some of the Germans when they came to Paris during the occupation. This gave my enemies the chance to satisfy their envy…If I saw the Germans in Paris – and they had been more than kind to me – it was to save my compatriots. It was my way of serving my country at that particular moment. Nobody knows how many prisoners I had released…When I spent three years in prison, they confiscated my château at Tours and my possessions. Did anyone bother to ask me why I did not accept Winifred Wagner’s invitations to sing in Germany during the occupation? But my trial was a complete vindication: I was completely cleared. Yes, they gave back most of what they had taken…”
“Lubin Revisited” by Max de Schauensee