The German contralto, Ortrun Wenkel, studied at the Franz Liszt College of Music in Weimar, at the College of Music in Frankfurt a.M. with Paul Lohmann and Elsa Cavelti.
Ortrun Wenkel began her career in 1964 as concert and oratorio soloist. She dedicated herself above all to the Baroque music, and appeared in major international festivals (English Bach Festival, Festival of Marais, Festival of Flanders, Holland Festival). However, she decided then also to turn to a stage career.
In 1971 Ortrun Wenkel made her stage debut at the City Theatre of Heidelberg as a title role in Orpheus by Gluck. Following she sang She sang at the State Operas of Stuttgart and Munich (since 1975 she was ensemble member of this house), at the Festival of Bayreuth, at the Opera Houses of Wiesbaden and Cologne. Between 1976 and 1980 she appeared in Bayreuth in roles such as Erda and 1st Norn in Der Ring des Nibelungen, in 1979 also Schwertleite in Walküre and in 1975-1976 the alto solo in Parsifal. At the Salzburg Festival she appeared during 1977-1978 in the role of Madre in Il Sant' Alessio by Stefano Landi.
Ortrun Wenkel made guest appearances in 1988 at the Théâtre of Champs Élysées Paris, in 1990 at the National Theatre Wiesbaden as Erda, in 1988-1989 she appeared at the Spoleto Festival as Herodias in Salome by R. Strauss, in 1989 at Miamiís Opera as Fricka, in 1991 at the Smetana Theatre Prague as Adriano in Wagnerís Rienzi. At the State Opera Stuttgart she performed in 1988 the role of Beroee in the contemporary opera Die Bassariden by H.W. Henze, in 1992 in Wiesbaden Magdalena in Evangelimann by W. Kienzl, in 1993-1994 Erda in Siegfried, in 1995 at the Opera House of Essen as Fricka in Walküre. Further guest appearances were in her hometown Heidelberg and Karlsruhe (including in the performance of Der Ring des Nibelungen in the 1990ís), in Basel, Geneva and Amsterdam, and followed to an extensive concert career. Thus she gave in 1983 concerts in Vienna, Graz, Paris and San Francisco. On the stage she was admired above all for her performance of roles in Baroque operas (George Frideric Handel, Gluck, Monteverdi), in addition, her Erda in Der Ring des Nibelungen, her Azucena in the Il Trovatore, her Orpheus of Gluck and her Olga in Eugen Onegin by Tchaikovsky.
Recordings: Da Capo (Lieder of Mussorgsky). Thorofon (Modern sacred music by Chemin-Petit), CBS (Xerxes by G.F. Handel, Symphony No. 8 of Gustav Mahler). HMV-Electrola (Symphony No. 3 of G. Mahler, W.A. Mozart's Zauberflöte, Evangelimann by Kienzl, Gaea in Daphne by R. Strauss), Eurodisc (Erda in Rheingold, J.S. Bach's Cantatas), Philips (Complete Der Ring des Nibelungen), Decca (W.A. Mozartís Requiem), Edition Schwann (Fünf Gesänge by Fr. Schreker), Wergo (Die Seejungfrau by Zemlinsky), Koch Records (Die Bassariden by H.W. Henze), Bella Musica (Erda in Siegfried and 1st Norn in Götterdämmerung).