Evelyn Lear dies at 86

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Evelyn Lear

The celebrated American soprano Evelyn Lear died Sunday in Sandy Spring, Maryland at the age of 86.

Among her most celebrated roles were two dramatic unhinged heroines: the title femme fatale in Alban Berg’s Lulu, which sparked her career in 1960, and the role of Lavinia Mannon in Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra, which served as her Metropolitan Opera debut.

“I doubt that I’ll ever hear Lavinia sung with such beauty, intelligence, and dramatic honesty,” said Levy, a Fort Lauderdale resident. “She set the standard for the role.”

Like her husband, acclaimed Wagnerian baritone Thomas Stewart who passed away in 2006, the Brooklyn-born singer built her career in Europe before being recognized at home. Lear later turned to more traditional opera roles, achieving successes as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (her Met farewell role in 1985).

Lear and Stewart were married 51 years and the long-time Florida seasonal residents were often in attendance at local classical events. The couple also gave regular master classes for Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artist studio.

“If Evelyn thought a young singer had talent and a genuine passion for singing, she could be fiercely loyal and supportive, making sure they were heard by the ‘right people,’ said Justin Moss, director of Broward operations for FGO.

“On the other hand, if she felt a singer was less than serious about working hard and developing their talent, she was quick to point that out to them, sometimes scaring the daylights, or worse, out of him or her in the process.  Her career and her life were incredibly rich and productive.”

She is survived by her son Jan Stewart, daughter Bonni Stewart and two grandchildren.

Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart. Photo; Dario Acosta

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Tue Jul 3, 2012
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