Helen Traubel studied voice in her native St. Louis and made her debut as a soloist in 1925 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. She continued to study and perform in recitals and concerts and on the radio for the next dozen years. In 1937, she made her stage debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as Mary Rutledge in the world premiere of Walter Damrosch's opera The Man witbout a Country. She then became a leading interpreter of Wagnerian soprano roles, excelling as Isolde, Elisabeth, Brünnhilde, Elsa, and Kundry. She also peformed on radio and teleivision, much to the disapproval of the Metropolitan Opera's imperious director, Rudolf Bing. She also gave singing lessons to President Harry Truman's daughter Margaret.
Helen Traubel left the Met and went on to perform in the nightclub circuit. She appeared on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Pipe Dream, and was recruited for a role in Deep in My Heart, the 1954 film based on the life of operetta composer Sigmund Romberg. She showed a natural talent for comedy and worked in films with Jimmy Durante, Jerry Lewis, Red Skelton, and Groucho Marx. She also wrote two mystery novels: The Ptomaine Canary (1950), which ran as a serial in 700 newspapers, and The Metropolitan Opera Murders (1951), featuring a soprano heroine. She also published an autobiography, St. Louis Woman (1959).