Inge Borkh

Inge Borkh

Soprano

• Born 1921

Biography

Inge Borkh enjoyed major success in the world's leading opera houses not only because of her bright and attractive soprano voice, but also because of her deft dramatic skills. Indeed, she was trained as an actress and managed to convert her superior sense for drama seamlessly to the operatic stage, taking on a variety of standard roles, but with many memorable successes in early-20th century opera. She sang Verdi -- Aida, Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), Cherubini -- Medea, Wagner -- The Flying Dutchman (Senta), Die Walkure (Sieglinde, Freia), and many other staples. But in the 20th century, beside singing Richard Strauss (Salome and Elektra) and Puccini (Tosca and Turandot), she took on somewhat riskier fare, including Magda in Menotti's The Consul and Cathleen in Egk's Irische Legende. Because Borkh also had training as a dancer, she often moved about on-stage with a keen balletic sense and gracefulness. Though she retired from singing in 1973, many of her recordings are still available from a variety of major labels, including DG, Decca, RCA, Opera D'oro, Orfeo D'or, Melodram, Ponto Recordings, and Myto Records.

Inge Borkh (Ingeborg Simon) was born in Mannheim, Germany, on May 26, 1917. She studied music in Milan, and during the war years resided in Switzerland. Borkh made her debut at the Lucerne Opera in 1940, singing Czipra in Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Der Zigeunerbaron. In the postwar era she gained international notice when she sang Magda in The Consul at the Basle Opera in 1951. This was a major production at the time, not least because it was the German-language premiere of the Menotti masterwork. Other important debuts followed: Bayreuth (1952), singing Sieglinde and Freia; San Francisco (1953), as Elektra; and Florence (1954), as Eglantine in von Weber's Euryanthe.

Her debut at the Met came in 1958, singing Salome, and at Covent Garden the following year in the same role. Borkh was appearing in major recordings as well, including the 1957 Dimitri Mitropoulos-led Elektra (also available on Orfeo D'or) and the acclaimed 1960 version of the same opera with Karl Böhm on DG.

Borkh remained a major operatic star throughout the 1960s, even though she did not amass a large number of recordings. In 1973 she retired from serious singing, but returned to the stage four years later as an actress. Following retirement, Borkh also briefly appeared in a cabaret-style act. Her autobiography was published in 1996, and she collaborated on the 2006 book Nicht nur Salome und Elektra with Thomas Voigt. She died in Stuttgart in August 2018.

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