Martinelli, Germaine

French soprano, 1887 - 1964

Biographical notes:

She was born in Paris. Her father was a doctor and worked at several theaters. During concerts he often used to take his daughter with him. In 1900, at the age of 13 (!), she sang for the first time in the Salle Pleyel. Critics already noticed her.  Germaine Martinelli began as a mezzo-soprano and became a dramatic soprano a long time afterwards. She studied with Jean Lassalle, a baritone who had created the part of the Roi de Lahore by Massenet. She never thought to enter the Conservatoire. The academic teaching did not fit her artistic aspirations. She made further private studies with Albert Petit (Garcia method). In 1908, under her maden name, she sang in  a musical matinée with Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud and Raphael Pugno. This was her first big success. She got married and had a son. Worldwar I broke out, she gave concerts in the hospitals and at the theaters at the armies. It was not until 1919 that her career began. Gabriel Pierné who was then first conductor of the Concerts Colonne asked her to play with him. He was so impressed by her talent, that he engaged her immediately. That was the beginning of a long lasting artistic collaboration and great friendship. She was a soloist in concerts  at Colonne, Lamoureux, Padeloup and the society of the conservatoire. She was directed by the most famous conductors: Eugène Ysaye, Ernest Ansermet, Pablo Casals, Henry Tomasi among others. She began to give recitals in 1928 and she had an extremely wide repertory in French and German songs. She sang frequently with Georges Thill, Charles Panzéra, Roger Bourdin and André Pernet. She was awarded with several prizes. She was a star at the French radio (some hundred broadcastings!). In 1941, she decided to retire. She became a member of the board of examiners at the Conservatoire de Paris and taught the art of singing until 1963.



Duparc (Phidylé), Fauré (Les roses d’Ispahan), Schubert (Marguerite au rouet, La jeune religieuse, La belle meunière), Schumann (L’amour et la vie d’une femme)


Polydor recordings (Massenet, Berlioz, Händel, Reyer, Franck, Debussy, Lapparra, Nerini, Lehár)

The Vintage Music Company

18 Divas Françaises

Music Memoria



Germaine Martinelli belongs to the most renowned concert and Lieder singers, but her recordings only existed in rare shellac originals and in a single and long-deleted LP. Today, you can purchase excellent releases on CD.

She is a truly sumptous and rich voice, delivered by a beautiful legato. French sopranos are said to produce a “Gallic edge” in the upper register. This is not to be found in Martinelli’s voice. She has a dark timbre of an almost mezzo-like quality.

She was a close contemporary of Lotte Lehmann, Lucrezia Bori, Frida Leider, Claudia Muzio and Ninon Vallin. This was a time of beautiful women and eminent sopranos. In Paris there was “competition” of  Germaine Lubin, Marie Delna, Yvonne Gall, Fanny Heldy and Ninon Vallin. Martinelli’s stage career was probably limited by her plain and ungainly appearance (?).

I am quite sure she would have been an excellent opera singer too, listen to her in Werther, Reyer’s Sallambô and Damnation de Faust. She is wonderful in some Wagner excerpts opposite George Thill.

 Les roses d’Ispahan (Fauré / Polydor 1932)