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Eleanor Steber


Singer Eleanor Steber (July 17, 1914-October 3, 1990) was born in Wheeling. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music, studied voice in New York City, and won the Metropolitan Opera radio auditions in 1940. In celebration of her achievements, Eleanor Steber Day was proclaimed in Wheeling, May 1, 1940, highlighted with an ‘‘Eleanor Steber Special’’ Baltimore & Ohio railroad car and the first of 16 annual homecoming concerts, attended by Governor Holt.

She made her debut at the Met as Sophie in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Steber performed for USO shows, bond drives, and at veterans’ hospitals during World War II; sang at the 1944 Democratic and 1948 Republican national conventions; and became a regular on NBC’s The Voice of Firestone on radio and later television. In 1948, she commissioned and premiered Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, for soprano and orchestra, and created and recorded the title role in Barber’s opera Vanessa 10 years later. Steber was Marie in the Met’s first performance of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, was the first American to sing at Bayreuth after World War II as Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, and performed in musical productions of Where’s Charley? and The Sound of Music at Lincoln Center.

She remained a leading soprano with the Metropolitan Opera until the 1960s, singing 404 performances of 33 roles, made more than 100 recordings and concertized around the world, returning to West Virginia for recitals and concerts with the Wheeling Symphony. Steber taught at the Cleveland Institute and Juilliard School and established the Eleanor Steber Music Foundation to aid young singers. She died in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and was buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling. She was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in November 2013.

Written by H. G. Young III


  1. Steber, Eleanor, with Marcia Sloat. Eleanor Steber: An Autobiography. Ridgeway, NJ: Wordsworth, 1992.

  2. Barber, Samuel. Vanessa, op. 32. 1958. .