Vallin, Ninon

French soprano, 1886 - 1961

Biographical notes:

Ninon Vallin was born in 1886, at Montalieu-Vercien (region of Isère). After studies at the Conservatoire de Lyon, she was taught by Meyriane Héglon at Paris. The young singer was soon successful on the concert platform, singing in Debussy’s La demoiselle élue and also in the première of his Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, both in 1911 at le Châtelet. Debussy was enlighted about the young soprano whose voice, he said, shimmered like silver. He chose her for the première of his Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé. In addition to Debussy, Ninon Vallin collaborated with a number of important composers, including Albert Roussel, Reynaldo Hahn, Xavier Leroux, Louis Beyot, Marguerite Béclard D’Harcourt and Joaquín Nin. It was the director at the Opéra-Comique, Albert Carré, who encouraged her to expand her performing activities to opera. She made her operatic debut in 1912 as Micaëla in Carmen, where she continued to sing throughout her career. Her vast repertory included roles such as Louise, Manon, Micaëla as well as Carmen, Mélisande, Tosca, Louise, Salud (La vida breve), Mimì, the title role in the French première of Respighi’s Maria Egiziaca, Thaïs,  Mignon, Charlotte, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Princess of Rabaud’s Marouf, Zerlina, Alceste, Nedda, Iphigénie, Margherita in Boito’s Mefistofele, the three Hoffmann heroines, among many other roles. After Carré’s departure from the Opéra-Comique the new management failed to offer her interesting new roles and she left for South America. She first appeared at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, in 1916 as Gounod’s Marguerite, returning regularly for the following 20 years.  Ninon Vallin appeared extensively on the concert platform, singing French, Spanish and German songs (the German ones in French). She had a remarkable sympathy for the music of Spain and Spanish America. Last but not least; for almost four decades she was the most active and effective ambassadress of French singing throughout the world. Her operatic career continued well into the 1930s. She was 70 years old (!) when she made her last recordings, with a voice still in good condition. She  continued to give concerts until after the war and spent the rest of her life teaching near Lyon.


Ninon Vallin as Mélisande


“The exceptional quality of this voice, its purity, its freshness, its timbre, its color, its flexibility, its emotional character as well as the assurance and the taste with which it was used could leave no doubt whatever. We were in the presence of a great artist.”

(Albert Carré, director of the Opéra-Comique)


In the title role of Massenet’s Manon (Act 1)


Georges Thill as Werther

“He was a big baby and a bad colleague.”

Ninon Vallin

Ninon Vallin and Georges Thill appeared rarely together although their voices were in many ways ideally matched. They were engaged for recordings of Werther and Louise. We know that the relationship between Vallin and Thill was a bad one, in a word, she could not stand him...


Recordings: (selection)

Massenet - Werther (Georges Thill, Germaine Féraldy, Marcel Roque)

Naxos Historical EMI Références

Charpentier - Louise/Version for the gramophone conceived and realised by the composer (Georges Thill, André Pernet, Aimée Lecouvreur)

Naxos Historical Nimbus-Prima Voce

Gounod - Faust (Busser/Berthon, Vezzani, Journet)


Opera and Mélodie  (Carmen, Les Pêcheurs de perles, L’Enfant prodigue, Le Roi d’Ys, Hérodiade, Louise, Fortunio (Messager). Mélodies by Fauré, Duparc, Chabrier, Balakirev, Bemberg, Debussy)


Chansons et Mélodies Célèbres (Renard, Dalcroze, Berlioz, Gounod, Duparc, Hahn, Rachmaninov, Schubert, Grieg, Leroux, Holmes, Chopin, Godard, Messager, Brahms, Kern, Longas, Désespérance, Darck)

Music Memoria

Airs d’Opéras et Mélodies (Norma, Mefistofele, Hérodiade, Werther (3), Carmen, Manon, Louise, Lohengrin, Le Timbre d’argent (Saint-Saëns). Mélodies by Massenet, Messager, Leroux. Lieder by Schumann and Schubert, all sung in French)

Music Memoria

Ninon Vallin - The Complete Pathé-Art Recordings 1927-1929      (La Bohème (4), Carmen (6), Madame Butterfly (2), Louise, Thaïs (2), Le Roi d’Ys, Manon (6), Sadko, Tosca (2), Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Faust (2). Mélodies by Leroux and Duparc. Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas by de Falla)


Canciones, Lieder, and Peruvian Folk Songs (1929-1935)


Four Famous French Sopranos (Hérodiade, Manon (2), Louise / + Lily Pons, Janine Micheau and Mado Robin)


Anthologie de L’Opérette Vol.  2 (1900-1926)


A number of recordings (opera and song) on the French label ->



Ninon Vallin as Carmen - she studied the role with Emma Calvé


Emma Calvé (1858 - 1942) secured a place in history of Carmen

“Calvé’s  voice - a luscious, finely trained soprano with the addition of strong chest notes and some very pure high notes - derived a peculiar charm from its combination of absolute steadiness with rich color.”

Desmond Shawe-Taylor


Meyriane Héglon (1867 - 1942) in the title role of Alexandre Georges’ Miarka



Ninon Vallin was one of the most versatile singers and she had a long and prolific career as recording artist (French HMV, Pathé, Odéon and Columbia).

Hers was a clear, pure and absolutely firm soprano voice. It was characterstic of this singer to put as much sensitivity into a casual arrangement of a Chopin study as she did into music by Debussy or Schumann. Her stylistic security guarded her from sentimentality and exaggeration. Many of her recordings are outstanding.

In “Le Bonheur est chose légère” from Saint-Saëns’ neglected opera Le Timbre d’argent we can admire her lightness and delicacy of style and the easy security of the high notes.

 Le bonheur est chose légère   Title role in Le Timbre d’argent / Saint-Saëns / ?)

In Carmen’s ‘Air des cartes’ we can hear the unusually strong lower half of her voice.

 Voyons, que j’essaie à mon tour Title role in Carmen / Bizet / Pathé 1932)


“I always had to bargain with recording industry. If you let me record X, I’ll record Y for you; the sales for Y will surely compensate any financial loss you suffer from X.”

Ninon Vallin