Madeleine Marie Robin was born at Yseures-sur-Creuse near Tours on December 29th 1918. She grew up on her parents` property where her and her two sisters` musical ambition was encouraged in every possible way. At the age of thirteen the girl took her first singing lessons but never at that time thought seriously about a career in opera. She studied with Mario Podesta who, himself a pupil of Fernando De Lucia, discovered the exceptional high register of her voice.
Robin chose the aria of Gilda for a contest at the Opéra in 1937 where she easily won the first prize. Outbreak of War delayed her operatic debut but in 1942 the singer gave her first concert at the Salle Gaveau. At this time she recorded the first titles for Pathé-Marconi which had already made her famous without even having set foot on an operatic stage. But still, the thought of a professional singing career did not convince her if it had not been for some persistent friends who talked her into auditioning for Jaques Rouché, then director of the Grand Opéra. On the evening of her debut on August 12th 1945 as Gilda she not only fulfilled her public`s expectations but surpassed them by far.
Within a short time she was equally successful as Queen of the Night, Ophelia, Lakmé (role-debut in 1946), Rosina and Leila. After two seasons Robin thought it was time to extend her artistic horizon. She appeared at every major Opera House in France as well as in North Africa, Brussels, Luxemburg and Monte Carlo. 1950 Robin sang her first Lucia in Marseilles. 1954/55 was the year of the singer`s American debut and apart from an extensive tour she gave her only operatic performances in the U.S. in San Francisco. She returned to the Opéra for “Zauberflöte” in 1955 and was invited to sing at the celebration of the marriage of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly in Monaco in 1956. Spain, Germany, England and Switzerland saw a lot of her in 1958 and one year later she started a highly acclaimed tour through Russia where one of her great triumphs was a performance of “Rigoletto” at the Bolshoi Theatre.
In February 1960 the soprano had an operation performed from which she soon recovered and returned within no time to the stages of the Salle Favart and the Opéra. At the beginning of August she suffered a severe collapse but, again, regained her strength to record excerpts of “La Traviata” which she had always longed to perform on stage.
Mado Robin did not live to see her 42nd birthday. On December 10th 1960 she died of leukemia. During her all too short career several delegations of the Sorbonne`s General Physiologie had tried to discover the “secret” of Robin`s phenomenal high notes. Her extraordinary high register, which included a C in altissimo, was of a remarkable freshness and ease and had a stupendous agility. Some of her roles were arranged and transposed up especially for her voice! The French film-director, Sasha Guitry, used to appreciate the following definition: “Singing is very easy if one can sing like that. – But to be able to sing like that is very difficult.“
Courtesy: Opera Vivrà
Lilian with Mado Robin
Mado Robin et Roberto Benzi à la Villa Strauss, le 28 juin 1957