Irene Salemka's voice studies with Marjorie Cathcart in Weyburn, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Lloyd Slind and Mme A. Birkett in Regina, and Fred J. Smith in Montreal led to awards on CBC radio's 'Opportunity Knocks' (1951) and 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' (1953). She made a COC debut in 1953 as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly and a Montreal Festival debut in 1952 as Juliette in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette opposite Raoul Jobin. She completed her training under Hans Löwlein in Germany and returned occasionally to Canada, singing with the COC as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (1960) and Anna Glawari in The Merry Widow (1973), performing on CBC radio and TV, and appearing as Olympia, Giulietta, Antonia, and Stella in the Vancouver Opera Assn's The Tales of Hoffmann (1961) and as Donna Elvira in the Stratford Festival's Don Giovanni (1966).
Salemka was a leading soprano (1956-64) with the Frankfurt State Opera and concurrently appeared with other opera companies in the USA and Europe. In Frankfurt, she appeared in such roles as Cio-Cio-San, Mélisande, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Anne in The Rake's Progress, Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Pamina in The Magic Flute, and Concepción in L'Heure espagnole during her tenure, and returned as Micaëla in Carmen (1966). She also sang with the Frankfurt SO under Solti and Hindemith and appeared in the German films Madame Dubarry (1965) and The Merry Widow (1965). Salemka's lyric soprano was described in The Times of London as 'a voice of rare quality, haunting yet resolute, mellow yet ringing and always perfectly controlled.' She later returned to Canada and appeared in recital on CBC TV and radio. Salemka spent her later life in Collingwood, Ontario.