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Salemka, Irene (1931–)

Irene Salemka.
University of Regina Archives and Special Collections 84-11-395

Born on October 3, 1931, in Steinbach, Manitoba, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Irene Salemka studied voice in Regina, Montreal, Toronto, and in Germany. By the late 1940s she was winning scholarships in Saskatchewan festivals, and by 1953 she had received awards from the CBC’s “Opportunity Knocks” and “Singing Stars of Tomorrow.” Recognized for her performance as Juliette at the 1952 Montreal Festival, she made a spectacular debut as Cio Cio San at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1953 in the presence of an admiring Vincent Massey. Her first place among 200 singers at Carnegie Hall in 1955 launched her into the New Orleans Opera and appearances at Sadler’s Wells, London, and in Basle. A leading soprano of the Frankfurt Opera, she also sang in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Munich, Rome, Stuttgart and Vienna. A White Russian audience in Paris called her out for ten encores. Her versatility and popularity were evident in 1965 when she gave a concert in London, performed with eight European orchestras, made two television operas (The Gypsy Prince and La Boheme), and premiered a new opera in Bremen (Roulette des Herzens , by the Austrian Igo Hofstetter). Salemka returned to Canada that year to perform in Regina, Moose Jaw and Weyburn, and made recordings with the CBC in Montreal and Toronto. She supported Lutheran charities, on one occasion performing to an audience of over 1,000 in Regina. Her recordings include performances with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In 1972, she received an honorary degree from the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus. She now lives in Ontario.

Robin Swales

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