Heather Harper (Soprano)
Born: 8th May 1930, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died: 22nd April 2019, London, England
Heather Harper was born in Belfast in 1930 and trained at Trinity College of Music London, initially as a first-study pianist; she began her singing career as a mezzo but by 1954 had transitioned to soprano and made her debut as Lady Macbeth for Oxford University Opera Club. Soon afterwards she joined the English Opera Group, with whom she sang for two decades; she was closely associated with Benjamin Britten, and recorded the roles of Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes), Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (conducted by the composer), Miss Jessel (The Turn of the Screw) and Female Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia), as well as Les illuminations and the War Requiem. (Harper sang in the premiere of the latter work at Coventry Cathedral, a late replacement for Galina Vishnevskaya, and recorded it a second time for Richard Hickox in the early 1990s – the recording won two Gramophone Awards).
Her repertoire also included Strauss’s Arabella, Wagner’s Elsa, Britten’s Governess, Gounod’s Marguerite and Mozart’s Countess as well as the Verdi Requiem, the Bach Passions, Delius’s Requiem, and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, which she recorded with Sir Georg Solti.
Harper retired from singing in 1995; her final concert was a BBC Prom of Berg’s Altenberg Lieder and Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music.
Further Reading: Heather Harper
The Belfast-born soprano, who sang in the premiere of Britten's War Requiem and created the role of Mrs Coyle in his Owen Wingrave, has died aged 88.