Born Dec. 9, 1915, in Jarotschin -- in what was then Germany -- she studied at the Berlin Musikhochschule. Her early career was almost thwarted by a teacher who thought she was a contralto, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Schwarzkopf made her debut at the Berlin State Opera in Wagner's "Parsifal" in 1938 after which her career soared. After World War II, however, her career suffered when questions about membership in the Nazi Party arose.
Her New York theater debut was picketed. Finally, in 1983 she admitted, "Everyone at the opera joined."
Her international career expanded after she married British record producer Walter Legge in 1953. Her EMI recordings were among the label's most successful.
"With her exceptional elegance, extraordinarily fine musicianship and creamy, gorgeous voice, she was simply irresistible," Times music critic Mark Swed said.
Former Times music critic Martin Bernheimer said one record set was "one of the most staggeringly beautiful collections ever."
She had no children. Her nephew, U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, led American troops in the first Gulf War.