The French dramatic soprano Germaine Lubin was born in Paris in 1890 and studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Félia Litvinne, Lilli Lehmann and Marie Gutheil-Schoder. Aged twenty-two, she made her début at the Paris Opéra-Comique in the role of Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. In the audience were Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas. A year later in 1913 she married the French poet Paul Géraldy with whom she had a son Claude in 1916. The couple’s marriage only lasted until 1926. Wagner became central to Lubin’s career, and in 1921 she embarked on a series of Wagner roles at the Opéra: Sieglinde in Die Walküre, Elsa in Lohengrin and Eva in Die Meistersinger, all sung in French. In 1928 she sang Brünnhilde in The Ring and ten years later in 1938 Kundry in Parsifal. In recognition of her Wagnerian achievements she was the first French singer to appear at Bayreuth in the role of Isolde. She worked under such conductors as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Sir Thomas Beecham and Herbert von Karajan. Her German sympathies and friendship with the Wagner family temporarily halted her career in 1944 during the German occupation of Paris. She spent three years in prison, re-emerging with a greatly curtailed career in the early fifties. It was to be short-lived, however. In 1954 her son Claude committed suicide and she never sang in public again, but took up a teaching post at the Paris Conservatoire. She died in Paris in 1979, aged eighty-nine.
Lubin’s discographical legacy consists of about two dozen items which, considering the wide range of roles she embraced, is relatively small. Between 1927 and 1930 Wagner recordings dominate, with a couple of Tosca arias, and others from Der Freischütz and Faust. In Mein gläubiges Herze from Cantata No. 68 by Bach she seems slightly out of her comfort zone, and the Tristesse, based on Étude, Op. 10, No. 3 (Chopin, arr. Litvinne) originally issued on the 'flip side' is, for me, the least attractive item in the set. Between 1939 and 1944 there are some Schubert, Schumann and Fauré songs and a couple of duets with the young baritone Gérard Souzay. The 1954 recordings are broadcasts from French radio, songs by Durante, Debussy and Wolf. She was feted for her portrayal of Isolde, and we are treated to three versions of the Liebestod here: an early Odéon sung in French and the other two from 1 June 1938, one in French, previously unpublished and the other in German from Columbia. The Odéon version is a tad faster. Siegfried’s Ewig war ich (Dès l’origine jusqu’à cette heure) from 4 February 1930 is unfortunately dogged by some over-indulgent portamenti. Lubin is magnificent in Brünnhilde’s Immolation which was set down over two days in March 1929. It showcases the size, power, precision and penetrating quality of the singer’s voice. Henry Defosse, who conducts the performance, offers inspiring and sensitive support. In the aria Salut, splendeur du jour from Ernest Reyer’s Sigurd she rises magnificently to the grandeur of the music, investing it with beauty, elegance and, most of all, opulence. Vissi d’arte is another gem from the set. Nicely paced, she builds up the tension to the soaring climax, with a very satisfying outcome. The two duets with Gérard Souzay from 24 May 1944 are an absolute delight. My favourite is Felice Blangini’s affable and effervescent Per valli, per boschi. The singers respond instinctively to one another, matching phrase for phrase, all crisply articulated.
So, what of the woman? She was tall, elegant, slim and had a somewhat forceful and dominant personality. She was drawn to heroic parts, saying in an interview ‘I do not like to sing the role of victims’. The recordings reveal a powerful voice, both rich and warm.
As an appendix, Marston have included the complete commercial discography of Lucienne de Méo (1904-1930), of which there are three items from French Columbia recorded in early 1928. I have to admit that I have never heard of the singer before. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire and made her début at the Paris Opéra in 1927 as Sieglinde. Tragically, in her mid-twenties she took her own life, and what we have in these morsels is a foretaste of what might have been. I couldn’t agree more with Vincent Giroud’s assessment that these recordings ‘... reveal an attractive, clear soprano voice, evenly produced, capable of sweetness and soft attacks … In all three instances her enunciation is excellent.”
Germaine Lubin’s commercial recordings, together with the 1954 French Radio broadcasts have been issued before, in 1997 by Dante Productions (Lys 247-248). This now deleted set was my introduction to the singer, together with a selection on a Preiser LP (LV 225). Marston have gone one step further with the addition of some previously unpublished sides. Comparing the Lys with this new release is revealing. Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris’ audio restorations are more generous to the voice, giving it more bloom and presence and, as such, are a definite improvement.
This is a first rate production. As is the norm with Marston, extensive annotations, here by Vincent Giroud, provide both a biographical portrait of the singer and detailed commentary on the recordings. André Tubeuf, the writer, philosopher and music critic offers an engaging personal recollection of Lubin, as well as providing some fascinating photographs.
On the evidence here I can now see why many regard Lubin as the greatest French dramatic soprano of the twentieth century.
CD 1 [74:44]
Pathé, Paris, 1927-1928 Der Freischütz: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer (Comment trouver le calme) (Weber)
January 1927; (N200607/8) X.0612 Tannhäuser: Dich, teure Halle (Salut à toi, noble demeure) (Wagner) [3:06]
22 June 1928; (201242) 7140 Faust: Il était un roi de Thulé (Gounod) [3:37]
22 June 1928; (unpublished take transferred from test pressing without matrix number) Faust: Il était un roi de Thulé (Gounod) [3:22]
22 June 1928; (201243) 7140
Odéon, Paris, 1929-1930 Tosca: Non la sospiri la nostra casetta (Notre doux nid caché dans la verdure) (Puccini)
12 May 1930; (Ki 3246-2) 188720 Tosca: Vissi d’arte (D’art et d’amour) (Puccini) [3:15]
12 May 1930; (Ki 3245-2) 188720 Sigurd: Salut, splendeur du jour (Reyer) [6:21]
16 May 1930; (Ki 3265/6) 188724 Lohengrin: Einsam in trüben Tagen (Seule dans ma misère) (Wagner) [4:13]
25 January 1929; (XXP 6814) 123613 Tannhäuser: Dich, teure Halle (Salut à toi, noble demeure) (Wagner) [3:50]
25 January 1929; (XXP 6815) 123613 Tristan und Isolde: Mild und leise, wie er lächelt (Doux et calme) [Liebestod] (Wagner)
Date unknown; (Ki 2821-3, Ki 2822-2) 188696* Die Walküre: Ein Greis in grauen Gewand (Drapé dans une cape noire) (Wagner) [3:53]
17 May 1929; (XXP 6887-2) unpublished Die Walküre: Ein Greis in grauen Gewand (Drapé dans une cape noire) (Wagner)
4 February 1930; (XXP 7024-1) 123684 Die Walküre: Siegmund heiss‘ich (Siegmund suis-je) (Wagner) [3:47]
with René Verdière, tenor, 4 February 1930; (XXP 7023-2) 123683 Siegfried: Ewig war ich (Dès l’origine jusqu’à cette heure) (Wagner) [4:27]
4 February 1930; (XXP 7025-2) 123684 Götterdämmerung: Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort (Qu‘un bûcher s‘élève là-bas) [Brünnhilde’s Immolation] (Wagner) [15:18]
19 March 1929; (XXP 6853/6854) 123634
25 March 1929; (XXP 6862/6863) 123635
CD 2 [67:49]
Odéon, Paris, 1929-1930 (continued)
Mein gläubiges Herze (Mon âme croyante tressaille et chante) from Cantata No. 68, BWV 68 (Bach) [3:41]
15 April 1929; (XXP 6872) 123641
Tristesse, based on Étude, Op. 10, No. 3 (Chopin, arr. Litvinne) [3:56]
15 April 1929; (XXP 6871) 123641
Columbia, Paris, 1938 Tristan und Isolde: Mild und leise, wie er lächelt (Doux et calme) [Liebestod] (Wagner)
1 June 1938; (CLX 2031-1, CLX 2032-2) unpublished Tristan und Isolde: Mild und leise, wie er lächelt [Liebestod] (Wagner) [6:48]
1 June 1938; (CLX 2033-1, CLX 2034-1) issued on HMB179
Pathé, Paris, 1939 Der Erlkönig, D. 328 (Schubert) [4:14]
(PARTX 1350-3) issued as a dubbing on a private 78 rpm disc Liebeslied, Op. 51, No. 5 (Schumann) [2:43]
(PARTX 1351-2) issued as a dubbing on a private 78 rpm disc Lied der Suleika, Op. 25, No. 9 (Schumann) [1:49]
(PARTX 1351-2) issued as a dubbing on a private 78 rpm disc
Pathé-Marconi, Paris Verborgenheit, No. 12 from Mörike-Lieder (Mörike, Wolf) [2:51]
24 May 1944; (OLA 4301-1) unpublished on 78 rpm Per valli, per boschi (Blangini) [1:55]
with Gérard Souzay, baritone 24 May 1944; (OLA 4302-1) issued on HMA94
Signes (Leguerney) [3:16]
with Gérard Souzay, baritone 24 May 1944; (OLA 4303-1) issued on HMA94
Sylvie, Op. 6, No. 3 (Choudens, Fauré) [2:20]
25 May 1944; (OLA 4304-1) issued on HMA71
Au bord de l’eau, Op. 8, No. 1 (Sully Prudhomme, Fauré) [1:54]
25 May 1944; (OLA 4305-1) issued on HMA71
Recorded 5 June 1954, broadcast 9 August 1954
Vergine Tutto Amore (Durante) [3:24]
Beau soir (Bourget, Debussy) [2:16]
Je tremble en voyant ton visage, No. 3 from Le promenoir des deux amants (Tristan L’Hermite, Debussy) [1:51]
Nun wandre, Maria, No. 3, from Spanisches Liederbuch (Wolf) [3:01]
Um Mitternacht, No. 19, from Mörike-Lieder (Mörike, Wolf) [3:21]
Lucienne de Méo (soprano)
Complete Commercial Recordings
French Columbia, 1928
Alceste: Divinités du Styx (Gluck) [3:59]
25 February 1928; (WLX247-1) D14212
Der Freischütz: Und ob die Wolke (En vain au ciel) (Weber) [3:45]
25 February 1928; (WLX246-1) D14212
Die Walküre: Der männer Sippe (Tous nos parents, groupés autour de nous) (Wagner)
14 April 1928; (WLX 351-2) unpublished on 78 rpm
*Note: The recording date of this selection is uncertain. The surviving recording sheets for these matrices do not list a recording date for the published takes 3 and 2 respectively. The date of 19 December is listed for takes 1 and 2 for part 1, and take 1 for part 2. The published takes were most likely recorded during a later session.
Languages: CD 1: all Tracks sung in French CD 2: Tracks 1-3, 10-12, 14-15, 18-20 sung in French; Tracks 4-8, 16-17 sung in German; Tracks 9 and 13 sung in Italian
Accompaniments: CD 1: Tracks 1-4 with orchestra, unidentified conductor; Tracks 5 and 6 with orchestra conducted by Gustave Cloëz; Tracks 7-15 with orchestra conducted by Henry Defosse. CD 2: Tracks 1-2 with piano, Jeanne Krieger; Tracks 3-4 with Orchestra of the Paris Conservatory conducted by Philippe Gaubert; Tracks 5-7 with piano, Erich Itor Kahn; Tracks 8-12 with piano, Georges Viseur; Tracks 13-17 with piano, Jean-Jacques Painchaud; Tracks 18-20 with orchestra conducted by Fernand Heurteur.