American soprano Evelyn Lear died quietly earlier this evening at at Brooke Grove nursing center in Sandy Spring, Maryland. She was 86. [Washington Post]
Terribly sorry to learn that. Cherished in Rosenkavalier, Wozzeck, Lulu , onny spielt auf.
Evelyn Lear was an amazingly intuitive, intelligent and discerning person, in addition to her artistic gifts. I remember an interview she did with Opera News, in particular her views and interpretation of Countess Geschwitz. Her psychological insight was devastatingly penetrating and almost ruthless; she was intent on not being sentimental, but truthful. It made me seek out her work. A force of nature, and a great artist.
Evelyn Lear right out of Juilliard, in the legendary flop musical Reuben Reuben, the manner recognizable but the tessitura higher than we later came to expect from her.
What a beautiful lady and voice and artist!
The one and only time I had the pleasure of hearing this artist in performance, was an occasion I was recalling to my husband just a day or two before the news of her death. It was the first concert of Wagner’s music I ever attended, and with a friend of mine. Back in 1968, a visitation at the Buffy Chandler Pavilion of opera+Wagner+distinguished artist, was cause for jubilation. The opera, such as it was, consisted of the first act of Die Walküre. Miss Lear sang a resplendent Sieglinde, alongside her husband, Thomas Stewart, as Hunding, mit Tenor X, as Siegmund. No longer do I recall if it were our resident Philharmonic and Mehta or a visiting orchestra.
No matter. It was positively thrilling and Miss Lear was a combination of beautiful that had great projecting power that took hold of the audience. Afterwards, my friend and I were exhilirated and about a foot off the ground, swearing we would try to get to know Wagnerian music more, having had such an inspiring example. Well, my interests turned elsewhere, away from Wagner. My friend, true to her word, became the Sieglinde in the Bayreuth Centennial Ring: Jeannine Altmeyer. Sometimes hearing a great artist at a very early age can have very far-reaching effects. I always have remembered Jeannine’s happiness at the discovery of Sieglinde, through the magical assumption of that role by the great Miss Lear.
In appreciation of Lear -- I saw her many times both here & in Germany. She was a great stage performer in live theater & opera. She could have been an actress instead of a singer. I first saw her in the 1960’s -- and she had very large, full reflugent tone. At that time she could have sung any of the dramatic soprano roles, but she carved her own rep & specialized in it. To my ears, by the mid-1970’s her voice & technique had changed quite a bit -- I was alarmed at her Met Marschallin, wherein she seemed to struggle too much (and not for dramatic purposes) -- that free-wheeling sweep of sound was now cautiously manipulated.
-- I’ll always remember her best as Tantiana in Eugen Onegin and Marina Mnischek in Boris Godunov -- particularly as Marina, where she was so vibrant, lovable & natural -- it was as if I woke up in Sandomierz Castle (near Krakowa) and there actually was Princess Marina, chatting & happy as in life.
Always thought it was interesting how she is the sole American on Cluytens’ Paris recording of Boris. When did she sing the role onstage?
Always admired how she “graduated” to other roles in the same operas . . . from Lulu to Geschwitz, from Cherubino to the Countess, from Octavian to the Marschallin.
From Sophie to Octavian to the Marschallin, indeed.
Reminds me of the quote attributed to Lotte Lehmann. “I sang all roles in Rosenkavalier. First I sang Sophie. Then when my voice got bigger I sang Octavian. Then when my arse got bigger I sang the Marchallin.” Anyone know if she actually said this? I hope so.
Also Micaela to Carmen.
Another Lear assignment that has always fascinated me: a 1977 production of FEDORA (in English, no less!) with Santa Fe Opera. May have been deficient in style but I bet she had the glamour and regal aspects of the character in spades. And the tessitura would not have been a stretch (assuming she didn’t go for the high C in the duet with Loris). Mrmystery, any memories of this?
She used to sing a lot in Berlin (Deutsche Oper) and at the Staatsoper in Hamburg. I’m not sure which one, but the first time I saw her Marina Mnischek was auf deutsche at one of these 2 houses. I don’t remember many details of that interpretation, I do remember she had a very powerful vocal projection and that impressed me. It was later in San Francisco when she sang it in the original Russian that I remember best. I don’t know whether it was the stage director or her own doing, but she played the role against type -- almost like an carefree ingenue -- and she was so disarming, like she was leading the audience thorugh the action.
-- I never heard the Cluytens studio recording -- how is it -- what kind of interpretation did she give? I didn’t collect recordings until my later years and rarely got studios. I used to record live myself at various venues, but I traded or gave them all away. I moved so much -- to say the least -- I got tried of trying to drag extra stuff around with me.
The Deutsche performance I saw with Lear as Marinia was heavily cut and I didn’t really care that much for the opera at that time -- in fact, I almost forgot about it completely until you asked. The performing styles in those days was drastically different for many works, particularly eastern European operas.
-- The San Francisco Boris she did was wonderful.
I remember Evelyn Lear as a wonderfully moving Marschallin at the Met thirty years ago; and she was in brilliant form a year and a half ago when she came to NYU (her alma mater, I think) in the middle of a snowstorm on January 26, 2011, for a symposium to mark the centennial of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’; though she was having trouble walking, at one point, discussing trouser roles, she jumped to her feet to demonstrate how she boyishly auditioned for the Ariadne composer half a century before in Berlin: “Sein wir wieder gut!” and she showed us how the Marschallin had to just delicately exhale the final note of “ja ja”
Let’s hope unitel will have the sense to seek releases and finally tranfer her Lulu to Dvd
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