The internationally celebrated soprano, Evelyn Lear, sang more than forty operatic roles in the great opera houses of the world. She appeared as a star with virtually every major opera company in the USA, from the Metropolitan Opera to San Francisco Opera, and in Europe appeared at La Scala, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, and the Berlin, Hamburg and Munich Operas. She sang with the Canadian Opera, and in Buenos Aires with Teatro Colon. She also appeared in major festivals from Edinburgh, Holland, Salzburg, Munich and Florence to Tanglewood, Ravinia, Blossom, Aspen and the Hollywood Bowl.
Evelyn Lear was educated at Hunter College, New York University, and the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied piano, composition, French horn, percussion and voice. In 1957 a Fulbright fellowship enabled her to study at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. In 1959 she became a member of the Berlin Opera Company. Her first performance there was as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, a role she later repeated at Vienna, Hamburg, Munich, and the Metropolitan Opera. In 1960, on three weeks notice, Lear learned the title role in Alban Berg's Lulu for the Austrian premiere (in concert form) in Vienna. The performance proved so successful that the first staged version since World War II was presented at Theater an der Wien during the Vienna Festival of 1962, with Evelyn Lear in the title role, under the baton of Karl Böhm. The triumphant production was repeated in 1964. In 1965 she made her Covent Garden debut as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. That same year she was invited to make her American debut as Cleopatra in George Frideric Handel's Giulio Cesare at the gala opening of the Kansas City Performing Arts Center, as well as her debut at the San Francisco Opera as Lulu. In 1966 she made her Chicago Lyric Opera debut as Poppea in Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea.
Evelyn Lear's debut with the Metropolitan Opera came in 1967, when she created the role of Lavinia in Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra. In the meantime, she was in constant demand throughout the world repeating her success in Lulu, an opera she recorded along with Alban Berg's Wozzeck.
Evelyn Lears extensive discography includes complete recordings of Der Rosenkavalier, The Magic Flute and Boris Godunov, as well as song literature from Robert Schumann to Sondheim for such companies as Polydor, DGG, Philips, EMI and CBS (see discography). In addition to Mourning Becomes Electra at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Lear has created leading roles in world premieres including Klebe's Alkmene (Berlin), Pasatieri's The Seagull (Washington, D.C.), Kelterborn's The Cherry Orchard (Zürich), and Werner Egk's Verlobung in Santa Domingo (Münich).
Evelyn Lear's versatility was evident when she sang both Cherubino and Countess Almaviva in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Despina and Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Carmen and Micaela in Carmen, Lulu and Countess Geschwitz in Lulu, the Composer and Zerbinetta in Aradne auf Naxos, and the Dido of both Berlioz's Les Troyens and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
In Evelyn Lear's extensive career as a recitalist, Richard Strauss was always a favored composer. She made her London debut in a performance of the Four Last Songs, which became an important part of her orchestral repertoire. She appeared with every major symphony orchestra in Europe and America and worked with such renowned conductors as Claudio Abbado, Karl Böhm, Pierre Boulez, Sir Adrian Boult, James Conlon, Colin Davis, Carlos Kleiber, Erich Leinsdorf, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Edo de Waart.
Evelyn Lear's association with Der Rosenkavalier in particular was a long one. Early in her career she sang the role of Sophie in provincial German opera houses. Later she sang Octavian in the major opera houses of the world such as Vienna, Berlin, and the Metropolitan. Her greatest triumph with Der Rosenkavalier came, however, with her portrayal as the Marschallin. She made her debut in this role in Berlin in 1971, and in the years that followed sang the Marschallin in Brussels, Buenos Aires, the Metropolitan Opera, and La Scala among other houses. It was at the Metropolitan that she sang her farewell performance in this role in 1985.
Evelyn Lear appeared as Nina Cavallini in the 1974 Robert Altman film Buffalo Bill and the Indians, and in 1984 starred in a new musical in New York entitled Elizabeth and Essex, in which she portrayed Elizabeth. Among her many awards, Evelyn Lear was honored with the title of Kammersängerin by the senate of West Berlin, with the Max Reinhardt Award in Salzburg, as well as many Grammy awards for her operatic recordings.