Opera Singer Evelyn Lear Passes Away at 86

Opera Singer Evelyn Lear Passes Away at 86

Lyric Opera of Chicago joins the rest of the international operatic community in mourning the death of the legendary American soprano Evelyn Lear, whose career was one of the most varied and distinguished of any American singer of her time. She died in Sandy Spring, Maryland, at the age of 86.

Lear appeared in three leading roles at Lyric Opera:

Title role in The Coronation of Poppea (Monteverdi), 1966
Hanna Glawari (title role) in The Merry Widow (Lehár), 1981
Countess Geschwitz in Lulu (Berg), 1987

During 2004-05, the company’s 50th-anniversary season, Lear – along with her husband and colleague, baritone Thomas Stewart (who died in 2006) – was one of 25 “Jubilarians, ” special honorees associated with Lyric’s early years. Lear and Stewart both attended the 50th-anniversary gala on October 30, 2004.

Lear starred at virtually all the world’s major opera companies, among them the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and the leading houses of London, Milan, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, and Paris, as well as the major American and European festivals. The Brooklyn-born singer made her international reputation in 20th-century works; she created a sensation singing the title role of Alban Berg’s Lulu in Vienna in 1962 and the central role of Lavinia Mannon in Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra (world premiere) for her 1967 Met debut. In mid-career she turned more frequently to the standard repertoire, scoring great successes as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (in which she made her Met farewell in 1985), Tosca, and many other roles.

Lear’s artistry is amply documented in her discography, highlighted by complete recordings of Der Rosenkavalier under Edo de Waart and The Magic Flute, Wozzeck, and Lulu, all under Karl Böhm. The Met recently released on DVD her portrayal of Countess Geschwitz in Lulu (opposite Julia Migenes in the title role), preserved in a 1980 telecast conducted by James Levine.