Mastodon Evelyn Lear - A Celebration. Washington DC 12 Oct 2012 - The Wagnerian

Evelyn Lear - A Celebration. Washington DC 12 Oct 2012

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 29 September 2012 | 10:58:00 pm

Presented by the Wagner Society of Washington. Included below a brief bio from Opera News. Images and video added by TW


When: 12 October 2012
Time: 7:30 pm
Location:  George Washington University
Tickets: Free and open to the public
Full Details: Wagner Society of Washington

If any artist could be said to have had it all, it was Evelyn Lear — a striking beauty, a masterful musician and a singing actress of startling imagination.

Lear had brains, heart and courage in equal and abundant measure; her personal warmth, professional generosity and passionate curiosity were nonpareil. And — no small matter when creating a professional legacy — she was a woman for whom honesty and frankness were almost a compulsion. Born Evelyn Shulman, the soprano was raised in Brooklyn, the daughter of a musical family. She studied piano and French horn — an instrument she played in the Tanglewood orchestra under Leonard Bernstein during her student days. She did not seriously consider a singing career until her early first marriage, to physician Walter Lear, brought her to the Washington, D.C. area, where she made her nonprofessional opera debut in Weill's Down in the Valley. After her marriage to Lear ended in the early 1950s, Evelyn Lear — by then the mother of a son and a daughter — returned to New York, where she studied at Juilliard. It was there that she met Texas- born baritone Thomas Stewart, who was to be the love of her life. Lear and Stewart were married in 1955, marking the start of a union that endured for more than fifty years, until Stewart's death, in 2006.

In 1962, Lear's reputation kicked up a notch when she was asked to sing a concert performance of

Berg's Lulu in Vienna — on very short notice. As she told OPERA NEWS in 1967, "I was recommend- ed as the only person in the world who could learn the role in three weeks. Of course, I dropped dead when I saw the score, but I did it." Two years later, Lear sang Lulu in a production staged for the reopening of Vienna's Theater an der Wien, with Karl Böhm conducting; such was Lear's success that there were to be six other new productions of the Berg opera mounted for her Lulu within the decade. She made her Salzburg Festival debut in 1962, as Cherubino, and the following year created Jeanne in Egk's Die Verlobung in San Domingo for the gala reopening of the Munich Nationaltheater. Rudolf Bing offered Lear the chance to sing three roles at the Met in the 1964-65 season — Octavi- an, Marie in Wozzeck and Vanessa — but the soprano chose instead to make her Covent Garden debut, as Donna Elvira, during the period in question. She did not arrive at the Met until the 1967 world premiere of Mourning Becomes Electra, Marvin David Levy's opera of Eugene O'Neill's cycle of plays about murder and re- venge in a nineteenth-century New England family.

Lear sang fifteen seasons with the Met, where her ninety-three performances in New York and on tour ranged from Cherubino,

Octavian and the Composer to Donna Elvira, Alice Ford, Sophie and Marie in Wozzeck. She made her unannounced Met farewell in 1985, as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, a role that had become one of her specialties since her first performance of it , in Berlin in 1972 .

After Lear stopped singing, she remained active as a teacher, working with students privately, on faculty at the University of Maryland and in master classes throughout North America. In 1999, Lear and Stewart established the Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart Emerging Singers Program (ESP) in partnership with the Wagner Society of Washington, D.C., dedicated to identifying singers with the potential for a career sing- ing Wagner. It was a subject in which Lear remained fiercely interested until the end of her life: in late May, just six weeks before her death, Lear was in the audience at the Washington Chorus's Wagner program, The Essential Wagner, applauding the artists from the program that she and her late husband founded together.