Evelyn Lear, an American soprano who became a preeminent interpreter of contemporary opera and enlivened the international stage with her commanding portrayal of characters she called “neurotic modern heroines,” died July 1 at Brooke Grove nursing center in Sandy Spring. She was 86.
Her son Jan Stewart confirmed her death but did not provide the medical cause. Mrs. Lear had settled in Rockville about two decades ago with her now-late husband, the acclaimed Wagnerian bass-baritone Thomas Stewart. For decades they performed together around the world.
(Ray Lustig/THE WASHINGTON POST) – Evelyn Lear is shown here performing with her husband, Thomas Stewart.(Photo by Ray Lustig/The Washington Post)
Mrs. Lear built a repertoire that spanned centuries — from the classical purity of Mozart to the technical fireworks of 20th-century composers such as Alban Berg. Her signature role, and the one that catapulted her to fame in the early 1960s, was the title character of Berg’s “Lulu.”
Based on two plays by the late 19th and early 20th century German dramatist Frank Wedekind, “Lulu” tells the story of a reckless vamp ultimately killed by Jack the Ripper. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, another celebrated soprano, once called Mrs. Lear’s portrayal of the femme fatale “one of the supreme achievements of the operatic stage anywhere in the world.”