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The daughter of Richard Goerke and Marguerite Goerke, Goerke was born in 1969 in New York State. She grew up in Medford, New York, where she attended Tremont Elementary School, Oregon Avenue Middle School, and Patchogue-Medford High School. Following high school, Goerke attended SUNY Fredonia for one semester in the fall of 1986 as a music education major with a concentration in clarinet. During her time there Goerke became increasingly more interested in vocal music and ultimately decided to pursue a degree in vocal performance. In 1989, Goerke entered the undergraduate music program at Stony Brook University from which she graduated in the spring of 1994 with a degree in voice. Goerke went on to become a member of the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artist Program from 1994 to 1997.
Goerke began her career singing minor roles at the Metropolitan Opera as part of the company's Young Artist Program. Among other roles, she appeared as the First Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, the High Priestess in Verdi's Aida, and the Ship's Doctor/Space Twin in Philip Glass' The Voyage. In the 1997/98 season, Goerke sang her first major role at the Metropolitan Opera, Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni.
After her voice changed, Goerke transitioned into playing parts that require a more powerful voice, such as the heroines of Wagner operas. In 2013, Goerke performed the role of the Dyer's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Metropolitan Opera to wide critical acclaim, after which she was offered the role of Brünnhilde in the Met's 2018/19 production of the Ring Cycle. At the same house she sang the title role in Puccini's Turandot in 2015.