Cher Public

“I like melody!”

Born on this day in 1926 soprano Evelyn Lear.

Ms. Lear’s Metropolitan Opera debut was in the world premiere of Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra in 1967, and her farewell was as the Marschallin in 1985.

  • Camille

    She was a beautiful lady and she sang beautifully,
    as well. Saw her only once, and singing a role she was not usually associated with-Sieglinde-, in one of those orchestrally excerpted first act only concerts, which philharmonic societies just love to put on. She made enough impression to have it last all these years, as that was spring of 1968(!), at the Dot with the LAPhil. Her husband was, actually her husband Hunding along mit, but I’ve now forgotten the Siegmund in any event.

    Her Lulu is something else again, and helped,
    I think, the opera enormously to get a foothold in the repertory.

    • Dan Patterson

      I saw her only three times. A Community Concert in Louisville was just marvelous and she was so charming and friendly backstage. As my friend and I were walking away from the hall, she passed in a limousine, rolled down her window and asked if she could give us a lift somewhere. Stupidly, we explained we were only going about a block. A little later, she sang the Final Scene from SALOME with the Louisville Orchestra -- she was thrilling, but I thought it was probably a mistake -- youngsters know everything, of course. Then, decades later, I saw her farewell to the Met, the Marschallin, and that too is a very special memory. I do wish some CD company would release her recording of Sondheim and Bernstein songs. That was real good!

      • Camille

        Never turn down a ride with a diva in a limousine, THAT being the moral of this story!!!

        Yes, youth is wasted on the young, and I should know because I could not begin to enumerate all the FOLLIE I committed. I wonder about the Salome, though, and as it was only the Final Scene, well now, it was probably perfectly all right in concert, nix? I mean, I heard Sieglinde in concert and she sang through it just beautifully and that was not really where she ‘lived’ vocally, was it?

        • Dan Patterson

          I had heard Nilsson sing the Final Scene from SALOME in Cincinnati not long before, so that would have been pretty hard to surpass. Later I saw Felicia Weathers sing the role at the Cincinnati Zoo Opera, and that sold me on the viability of a non-Wagnerian approach. Lear certainly made her mark with Lulu (and later, Geschwitz), albeit in the two act version, originally. She was a real artist.

          • Bill

            Lear was one of the earlier American singers to go to Europe and make her mark -- first in Berlin in 1958 (apparent debut as the Komponist) and in 1964 or so was Lulu in a celebrated production in Vienna with Boehm
            conducting. I saw her as Fiordiligi in Salzburg also conducted by Boehm (she was the first Fiordilgi in Salzburg from the 1944
            planned Cosi through 1964 who was neither Seefried nor Schwarzkopf. She also bravely gave an all Wolf lieder recital in 1965 in Salzburg.
            Later some of her performances were
            variable -- an effective Marschallin after having been a soprano Octavian.
            She had at least one lieder recital at Philharmonic Hall where she sang the Strauss Ophelia songs. Her later Komponist at the Met was a major disappointment and her last Marschallins were done with great style but more of a wisp of a voice. She was dramatically effective as Geschwitz and as Marie in Wozzeck but not in freshest voice when she recorded Pamina on DGG circa 1964. Later she said she thought perhaps she took on too many modern roles which helped aid in the deterioration of the freshness in her voice -- who knows why one singer can endure a lengthy career with only some vocal decline and others have more difficulty as their careers progress. Lear was obviously a gifted intelligent singer, something of a pioneer for focusing her earlier career in Europe ( like Dobbs, Stich-Randall, Claire Watson) rather than in America (Lear was born in Brooklyn and her original name was Schulman). Many many young American singers followed in her footsteps joining ensembles in Germany or Austria to build up repertory and their craft

            • Bill

              Dan Patterson -- I did not see Weathers often,
              a delicious Butterfly with di Stefano in Vienna.
              Weathers was petite but moved deliciously also as Aida in Stockholm where she sang
              in Italian and all the others (Kerstin Meyer as
              Amneris, Sigurd Bjoerling as Amonasro and a decent Swedish Rhadames plus the chorus all sang in Swedish. -- (in the same fortnight I also saw Mattiwilda Dobbs singing Rosina
              in Barbieri in Italian in Helsinki wherein everyone else was not singing in Italian. It is interesting that singers such as Weathers, Bumbry, Dobbs, Leontyne Price later Grist seemed to be readily accepted in European opera houses while still not being overly welcome in all regions of the USA at the same time.
              Weathers did eventually sing Lisa in Pique Dame at the Met but we saw her first at the Met when the Hamburg Opera visited with
              The Visitation a work I remember little about.
              I am sure Weathers slithered tantalizingly as Salome. She seemed to be a singer who instinctly moved well on the stage,

  • Kenneth Conway

    Lear: great singer, great lady. I worked on a book years ago that required her permission to reproduce a photograph of her (actually more as a courtesy, to let her know what we were doing). A colleague called her at home (in Maryland, I believe) and left a voicemail message (remember voicemail machines?) … When Lear returned the call, she said, “Hello? This is Evelyn Lear. Remember me? I used to be famous.” She was of course more than gracious and granted us permission to use her portrait photograph in our book. For me, Lear was and will always be famous, not only for her magnificent Lulu (the cover of that DG box set!), but for those final, ineffable Marschallins at the Met.