NINON VALLIN, la voix d’un destin by Patrick Barruel-Brussin

10 Eur, Editions Livres EMCC, 16O pp
ISBN : 978-2-35740-356-7

Ninon Vallin (1886 – 1961) doesn’t need any introduction to the vocal buff.
Being one of France’s legendary singers it is indeed surprising that so far not much on her had been written. Robert de Fragny’s “Ninon Vallin” was published more than half a century ago and has become unfindable and  The British Record Collector magazine devoted their June 2003 issue to the singer. An expert article written by Alfred De Cock which contains a survey of her roles and a complete discography both lacking in the recent publication.
Besides the very economical price the main interest in the small sized pocket book is that it contains many rare photos and memorabilia from the author’s collection.

The biographical outline is not as good as De Cock’s but nevertheless gives more detail on her world war two activities and her teaching career. One WWII story involves the conductor Paul Paray “who had resigned leadership of the Concerts Colonne and left Paris in October 1940 when the authorities of the occupation demanded from him the names of Jewish musicians, and a change of name for the orchestra. He exiled himself to Marseille, and later to Monaco after the invasion of the 'free zone'. He was offered the post of co-director and principal conductor of the Monte-Carlo Opera. During this dark period, he joined to his orchestra several  Jewish musicians whose lives were threatened in France.” (Jean Cabon) 

It was during the invasion of the “Free zone” that Vallin hid Paray and his Jewish wife Yolande on two occasions. Another riveting story involved the Jewish pianist François Lang who also had found temporarily refuge at her house but was later deported and murdered in Auschwitz in January 1944. Lang was arrested in Nice in November 1943 and put on transport via Drancy. He was in the same compartment as César Chimay, Félix Dratwa and  the Pluntz brothers who succeeded in opening the barred exit and jumped off the train. Out of fear of hurting his hands Lang refused to jump.
The story involving Lang is also mentioned in the Record Collector article yet Barruel-Brussin in providing more details sheds more light on it.

Ninon Vallin was once married to a Tuscan musician called Eugenio Pardo and sang under the name Vallin-Pardo until about 1920 so her marriage was a failure and ended in divorce but info on Vallin's private life is regrettably scarce in both works mentioned though less so in the book under discussion..

(François Lang/Ninon Vallin and her student Ana Raquel Satre)

While Barruel-Brussin doesn’t give a discography he does give a survey of all CD releases and there is an index. Both the Record Collector issue and this French issue are indispensable for Vallin devotees.

Rudi van den Bulck