Born June 20, 1899 in St. Louis, MO
Died July 29, 1972 of heart attack in St. John’s Hospital, CA
Helen Traubel was a famed Wagnerian soprano who quit the Metropolitan Opera for a career as a nightclub singer and movie and television comedian.
Instead of accepting her 1953 contract with the Met, the United States’ greatest Brunnhilde took to the nightclub circuit and between operatic arias belted out such tunes as “St. Louis Blues” (which she called “the folk song of my native village”) and “Bill Bailey Please Come Home” to cheering audiences.
The road led straight to Hollywood and a role in a 1954 movie, “Deep in My Heart,” based on the life of operetta composer Sigmund Romberg.
In it she had a chance to clown her way through a turkey-trot song and dance number with actor Jose Ferrer. To the amazement of everyone, she showed a natural flair for comedy and soon found her name on marquees with those of Jimmy Durante, Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton and Groucho Marx.
Before her departure from the Met, Traubel, was singing coach to President Truman’s daughter Margaret.
She also wrote two mystery novels, “The Ptomaine Canary,” which ran as a serial in 700 newspapers, and “The Metropolitan Opera Murders.”
Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera was on May 12, 1937 in the leading role of an opera by Walter Damrosch, “The Man Without a Country.”
She returned to the Met in 1939 in her first Wagner role and was such a success that for the next two years she divided the leading Wagnerian soprano roles with Kirsten Flagstad.
Her last appearance on stage was with Jimmy Durante at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in 1964.