In September the Metropolitan Opera Chorus opened Otello, Turandot, Il Trovatore, and Anna Bolena in the first week of a very busy season. In October we opened Tannhäuser, Tosca, and Rigoletto. During the day, we rehearse for the next round of operas opening in the coming months.
Elinor Harper, Soprano, was a pioneer in the racial integration of the Metropolitan Opera Company. She was the first African American female to be granted a full-time chorus contract with The Metropolitan Opera in 1961. Elinor led a vibrant and distinguished career and retired in 1999.
Chorister Annette Spann Lewis introduces this important pioneering member of The Metropolitan Opera Chorus and her efforts to reform what is now the current Chorus contract. Ms. Harper was a significant force in leading the Met Performing Artists’ lock-outs of 1969 and 1980. She passed away January 30.
The Chorus remembers AGMA union leader, Alan Gordon
On the evening of January 6, 2016, The Metropolitan Opera dedicated its performance of La Boheme to the memory of Alan Gordon, who passed away on January 1st. Alan was the executive secretary of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the union which represents solo singers, choristers, stage managers, stage directors, dancers, choreographers and staff performers.
Below are some remembrances from Met Opera company members. Also be sure to read Alan's obituary in the New York Times, written by Michael Cooper.
We in the Chorus are mourning his loss and are thinking of Alan's family. Rest in peace, Alan.
From chorister Belinda Oswald:
Alan Gordon: a man who forever changed my view of AGMA.
I am involved with AGMA as a Board of Governor’s member. I have also served as Women’s Chorus Delegate, and am currently serving as Soloist Delegate at the MET.
My first encounter with Alan was in my initial Board of Governor’s meeting at the AGMA National office some 15 years ago. I had formed an opinion of Alan that is much like most artists: brash, quirky, and aggressive. Yet, as many opportunities presented themselves, I watched and learned greatness right before my eyes.
Over the course of many meetings, negotiations, and one-on-one chats, I gained invaluable knowledge through Alan’s brilliant mind. Even his adversaries admired his quick tongue and his intellect, and many went on to become good friends. There was no better champion for AGMA’s cause than Alan Gordon, and his no nonsense approach truly benefited our negotiations. Trust me: we asked him to "be nice" for part of a negotiation, but found that was not successful, so then we begged him to be Alan again...and that's when we started getting results.
Alan had a softer side too, with many stories, taking of pictures, and much laughter. He cared deeply for others and even sent me his written account of his near death experience when my husband had a health scare. I feel fortunate to have seen this warmer side of Alan, which he reserved for closer colleagues and friends.
Having represented both the chorus and soloists directly, I can attest to the tireless work Alan did on all these artists’ behalf. Thank you, Alan, for all you have done for AGMA and for us! You will be sorely missed.
From staff performer Mike Gomborone:
My name is Mike Gomborone and I am a Staff Performer at the Metropolitan Opera. I am one of several background actors seen in most operas playing anything from a soldier or waiter to a commedia player or court attendant working right along with the principal singers. Eight years ago my eight full-time colleagues and I were put under AGMA contracts for which Alan and his team negotiated very hard.
Alan recognized that with the time we were spending at the theater working in most of the opera repertoire, our desire to become contracted employees was completely warranted. I will be forever grateful to Alan for working on my part to give me equitable health and retirement benefits, along with a fulfilling career and lifestyle.
From chorister, David Frye:
Alan Gordon fought hard for performers and stage artists. Nationally he was known as fast and decisive and no nonsense, and AGMA became far stronger with his leadership. He protected the members at the Met from management’s harshest impulses. He will be greatly missed.