Thursday, July 5, 2012

Evelyn Lear, Versatile Soprano who sang Lulu, Dies at 86

Today's New York Times ran an obit on Evelyn Lear, the versatile Soprano who sang the role of  Lulu in Alan Berg's great modern opera, Lulu. Lear was 86. The newspaper notes
Evelyn Lear, an American soprano who became a star in Europe in the 1950s and later won acclaim in the United States for singing some of the most difficult roles in contemporary opera, died on Sunday .... She was especially renowned as an interpreter of Alban Berg. In midcentury Europe, Miss Lear was considered one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Berg’s Lulu, the doomed, murderous prostitute at the heart of his 1937 opera of that name.... Her talent for quick study served her well two years later [in 1960], when the Vienna Festival asked her to take over the part of Lulu — a role she had never sung — on short notice. The opera is composed in the 12-tone or “serial” style, an eminently unhummable technique in which all 12 notes of the Western musical scale are used in rigorously equal proportion.... Her other Met roles include ... in later years, Countess Geschwitz in “Lulu.”
Berg's opera, like Pandora's Box — the G.W. Pabst film from 1929 (which stars Louise Brooks as Lulu), was based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind. Berg's opera, unfinished at his death, is considered one of the greatest opera's of the 20th century. I have seen it performed once, in San Francisco, and own a couple of different films of the opera. I have heard a radio broadcast of it, from the Met in New York. I also have four different recordings of Berg's Lulu, including Lear's. It is a riveting work. And her's is a riveting performance. Each is well worth checking out.

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