Met Chorus Artists remember the life of Elinor Harper

By Annette Spann Lewis

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 Company in 1961. Elinor led a vibrant and distinguished career and retired in 1999. Well known, respected and revered by her colleagues for her strong leadership, knowledge of union contracts and worker’s rights, Elinor served and officiated on the AGMA Board of Directors for many years. She was the Secretary, Second Vice President, and also served on the Merger, and Administration and Policy committees.  Elinor was a significant force in leading the Met Performing Artists’ lock-outs of 1969 and 1980, which secured many of the current union benefits, and workers’ rights, to protect Artists and families. Due to these ‘hard fought’ battles, the Met Chorus contract became a ‘template’ for Opera chorus contracts worldwide. Elinor was passionate about service to others, and served with zeal as the Ladies Chorus Delegate for many years. Indeed, Elinor Harper was the right person, at the right time, for the challenges of the time.