After long-term voice study with Louise Verta Karst in her native St. Louis, Traubel made her debut as soloist with the St. Louis Symphony in 1925. During the ensuing decade, she performed as a concert singer and recitalist, also appearing often in radio broadcasts. In 1937, Traubel was engaged for the role of Mary Rutledge in Walter Damrosch’s The Man Without a Country during a second spring season at the Metropolitan Opera. Notwithstanding her inexperience on stage, she exhibited a lustrous, voluminous sound and considerable dramatic presence. The opera was not well-received, but Traubel’s performance was warmly praised.
There were, however, no offers for the Wagnerian repertory that she wanted to sing. The presence of Kirsten Flagstad and Marjorie Lawrence caused the management to be indifferent to yet another Wagnerian soprano. It was, however, the public who eventually swayed the management’s opinion. After several radio and concert appearances with Dimitri Mitropoulos and Sir John Barbirolli the acclaim and demands of the public opened the doors to the Met. She was offered the role of Venus in a production of Tannhäuser, but she refused wanting to sing Sieglinde in Walküre. After much initial resistance by the management, she was finally allowed to make her Wagnerian debut as Sieglinde opposite the Brünnhilde of Kirsten Flagstad in 1939. During the war years her position changed as Flagstad left America for Norway and Marjorie Lawrence contracted polio. Left in sole possession of the Wagnerian repertoire, she quickly established herself as a consummate and highly acclaimed singer. She appeared 176 times on the Met stage (168 times in Wagner operas). She was forced off the stage by the newly appointed General Manager Rudolf Bing. Even more commotion was caused by the reason given for her dismissal. Could an Isolde, Brünnhilde and Kundry of the Met concurrently make appearances as a nightclub singer? Bing’s reply was a clear “No”. Her contract was not renewed and she gave her last performance in 1953 as Isolde.
Soon her name was all over the posters of the show programs of New York’s Copacabana Club, the Chez Paree in Chicago, The Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Clover Club in Miami. She also appeared on television, opposite Groucho Marx, Red Skelton and Jerry Lewis. She played in films, and she appeared in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s revue Pipe Dream. She spent the last years of her life in Santa Monica, where she died in 1972