Evelyn Lear (1926-2012)

The soprano who appeared with every major opera company in the US dies aged 86

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Soprano Evelyn Lear was famous for her role in Berg’s Lulu and for having sung all three main female roles in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.

The operatic soprano famously played the title role in Berg’s Lulu in 1960, having been called in as a late replacement with just a few weeks’ notice. And her performance was so well received that it was repeated at the Vienna Festival in 1962, with Karl Böhm conducting, before she went on to make a recording for Deutsche Grammophon (DG). Soon after this she won a Grammy Award in 1966 for her DG recording of Berg’s Wozzeck.

Born in Brooklyn, Evelyn Lear studied at the Julliard School where she met her second husband, the US bass-baritone Thomas Stewart. They travelled to Europe to take up scholarships at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, before becoming members of the city’s Städtische Oper. Lear made her professional debut in 1959 in the role of ‘The Composer’ in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. She built a reputation as an interpreter of Strauss throughout her career.

Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1967 as Lavinia Mannon in Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra. Her farewell role at the New York Met was as the Marschallin, from Der Rosenkavalier, in 1985.