Obituary, Inge Borkh (1917/21-2018)
The German dramatic soprano Inge Borkh has died. Born in Mannheim (sources vary as to whether in 1917 or 1921), she initially trained as an actress before studying singing in Milan and Salzburg, making her operatic debut in Johann Strauss II’s Der Zigeunerbaron in Lucerne in 1940; she spent much of her early career in Switzerland, but by the mid-1950s was in demand across Europe and the United States, appearing at the Wiener Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Metropolitan Opera (where she debuted as Salome in 1958) and Covent Garden.
Endowed with a large metallic instrument and commanding stage-presence, Borkh excelled in high-intensity roles such as Beethoven's Leonore, Weber's Eglantine (Euryanthe), Wagner’s Fricka, Senta and Sieglinde, the Dyer's Wife in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten and especially the title-roles in his Salome and Elektra; she recorded the latter under Karl Böhm for Deutsche Grammophon in 1960, and live performances under Fernando Previtali, Dimitri Mitropoulous and Joseph Rosenstock are also available on CD. Though Borkh recorded comparatively little for an artist of her stature, her discography includes an album of arias from operas including Gluck’s Alceste, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Giordano’s Andrea Chénier on Decca, Die Frau ohne Schatten under Joseph Keilberth, Brahms’s Die schöne Magelone with baritone Konrad Jarnot, and Turandot (opposite Mario del Monaco as Calaf) under Alberto Erede on Decca.
Her repertoire also encompassed roles in numerous new operas, such as Max von Schillings’s Mona Lisa, Carl Orff’s Antigone and Magda in Menotti’s The Consul as well as operetta (arias from Léhar’s Eva and Millöcker’s Gräfin Dubarry appear on a 2006 compilation on Orfeo, released to mark her 85th birthday) and Italian roles including Aida, Lady Macbeth, Tosca and Turandot, which she often performed in German. In concert she was in demand for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder.
Borkh retired from opera in 1973 (her final appearances were as Strauss’s Elektra), but continued to perform as an actress and even in cabaret for some years afterwards. She was married to baritone Alexander Welitsch.