She was born in Belfast in 1930, where she received her early musical training. She studied piano at the Trinity College of Music in London, with voice as a second subject, and sang with the BBC chorus.
Her professional debut came in 1954 in Medea at the Oxford University Opera Club. From 1956 to 1975, she was a member of the English Opera Group. She is noted for her performance of Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, the title role in Strauss’s Arabella, Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes, and the Governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.
Harper has also had an extensive concert career, including singing in the premiere of Britten’s War Requiem in 1962, famously substituting for Galina Vishnevskaya on 10 days’ notice. She appeared at Covent Garden, Bayreuth, San Francisco and the Metropolitan Opera (Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and in Peter Grimes). At the Belfast Last Night of the Proms in 1985, she gave the world première of Malcolm Williamson’s song-cycle Next Year in Jerusalem to international critical acclaim.
Her recordings include Peter Grimes in both audio and video formats, as well as the War Requiem (Chandos More recently, a live concert performance of Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers has been issued on the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own label.
Edited by jonalone on 8 Jul 2010, 13:12
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