Evelyn Lear (b. January 8, 1926) is an American soprano and opera singer. Lear was well known for her musical versatility, having sung all three main female roles in Der Rosenkavalier. She was also known for her work on 20th century pieces by Robert Ward, Martin Levy, Rudolf Kelterborn and Giselher Klebe. During her career between 1959 and 1992, Evelyn Lear appeared in more than forty operatic roles and appeared as a star with every major opera company in the US and has won a Grammy award in 1966.
Early operatic career
She was born in Brooklyn and completed her musical education at Hunter College, New York University and the Juilliard School of Music studying voice, piano, French horn and composition. While at Juilliard she studied under Sergius Kagen and met her future husband baritone Thomas Stewart. Both Lear and Stewart won Fulbright scholarships to study at Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin where she studied with Maria Ivogun.
She started her opera career as a member of the Berlin Opera Company in Richard Strauss’ ‘’Ariadne auf Naxos playing the composer, a lead role which she would later play at a number of leading opera houses. Miss Lear played the title role in Alban Berg’s Lulu for the Austrian debut in concert form in 1960. She had only three weeks to learn the role having been called in as a late replacement sick friend. Her performance was so strong that she played the role in the first staged version since World War II at the Theater an der Wien at the Vienna Festival of 1962 with Karl Bohm conducting with the performance repeated in 1964. She also performed in Lulu while making her stage farewell from opera in the late 1980's, this time in the mezzo-soprano role of Countess Geschwitz.
Creation of roles
Evelyn Lear has created a number of roles during her career. In 1961, she created the title role of Klebe's Alkmene in Berlin. Two years later, she created another role as Jeanne in Werner Egk's Die Verlobung in San Domingo in the reopening of the Munich Nationaltheater. Her debut with the Metropolitan Opera was creating the role of Lavinia in Martin Levy's Mourning Becomes Elektra. Unfortunately, she had vocal problems soon after, losing much of her upper range and clarity which she blamed on singing so much modern music.
However, this did not stop her performing modern roles. In 1974, she created the role of Irma Arkadina in Thomas Pasiateri's The Seagull in Washington DC. Lear created the role of Magna in Robert Ward's Minutes to Midnight in 1982 followed by creating the role of Ranyevskaya in Rudolf Kelterborn's Kirschgarten in Zurich in 1984.
Association with Richard Strauss
During her lengthy career in the opera, she has enjoyed success performing Richard Strauss's works. She made her London debut in a performance of the Four Last Songs. However, her longest association has been with Der Rosenkavalier having performed all three major female roles. She sang the role of Sophie in regional German opera houses with the Berlin State Opera progressing to sing the role of Octavian in major opera houses such as Vienna, Berlin and the Metropolitan. Her greatest success in this opera was her role as the Marschallin whch she debuted in 1971 and played in leading opera houses including La Scala and her farewell performance at the Metropolitan in 1985.
Evelyn Lear had a good reputation as an actress. She appeared as Nina Cavallini in the 1976 Robert Altman film Buffalo Bill and the Indians starring Paul Newman and Joel Grey. In 1984, she played the role of Queen Elizabeth I of England in a New York musical Elizabeth and Essex.
Honors and awards
The Senat of West Berlin gave her the title of Kammarsangerin for her contribution to the opera in that city while the Salzburg Festival honoured her with the Max Reinhardt Award. She won a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in the Grammy Awards of 1966 for her work with Karl Bohm, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Fritz Wunderlich and the German Opera & Chorus for their performance of Berg's Wozzeck
E xternal links
- All Music Guide's Evelyn Lear article (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=ADFEAEE4781ED947A57520EFB71670E1FA5CDE2DFE62D9BA5007656392940454880C71ED59E695CCB3E570AB7BAFFF2AE85E05D0CDE455FACC1740&sql=41:35998~T1/)
- Opera Music Theatre International article on Evelyn Lear (http://www.omti.org/mlivc2001/lear.html/)