Last of the great Straussians has died, aged 97 (or maybe 101)

The fabulous Inge Borkh has joined the immortals, the NZZas reports.

Unsurpassed as Elektra and Salome, and unfailingly musical, she was the great dramatic soprano of the mid-20th century, commanding every major stage.


Born in Germany as Ingeborg Simon (the date seems to be flexible) but forced to leave because her father was Jewish, she rose to stardom in Switzerland and stormed the world from 1950. She recorded on several labels, sometimes suffering from too close miking.

Her husband, the bass Alexander Welitsch, died in 1991.


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  • A wonderful Elektra, Salome, Fidelio, Sieglinde, Turandot… I heard her Elektra in Salzburg in 1957 with della Casa, Madeira and Kurt Böhme, cond. Mitropoulos. Unforgettable.

    • Wow, you are extremely lucky to have attended that legendary Electra. I vividly remember my excitement when I bought the LP as a teenager in 1980.

    • This is indeed one work that needs to be better known. With the opera of Dukas, Roussel, Schreker, Zemlinsky, Szymanowski or Enescu being played more often (although still not often enough for my taste), Bloch’s Macbeth is due for an urgent re-appraisal.

      As for Borkh, she’s indeed fabulous.

  • I was at a party in Vienna last year at Peter’s Opern Cafe where Inge Borkh was guest of honour.
    At 96 (or possibly 100) and diminutive in stature, she was still very much the grand diva – full of life and delicious anecdotes, many of which were quite salacious.
    Not averse to a spritzer or ten, she was the first to arrive and last to leave.
    With all respect to Nilsson and Varnay, Borkh’s Elektra is still unsurpassed.
    She was the non plus ultra dramatic soprano, the likes of which we are unlikely to experience again.
    Vale Inge.

  • I had the great joy of being in the chorus of the New Orleans Opera when she and Richard Cassily sang Fidelio in 1968-69, with maestro Kurt Andersen. What a voice she had and what an actor! I’ll never forget the ecstasy of the “O namenlose Freude” final duet.

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