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The ‘uncompromising’ and versatile opera singer Maria Ewing dies at 71

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Maria Ewing, a daring and unique American mezzo-soprano, recognized for risk-taking roles and an unwavering dedication to her artwork, died at dwelling outdoors Detroit. She was 71.

The trigger was most cancers, in keeping with a consultant for Ewing’s daughter, actress and director Rebecca Corridor.

In a profession that spanned a long time, Ewing turned recognized for her dramatic skills and vocal versatility. She may sing in as many as eight languages and appeared in a variety of roles, together with “Carmen” and “Salome.” Her tackle the latter in Richard Strauss’ eponymous opera remains to be maybe her most generally recognized efficiency, incomes excessive reward when the present debuted on the Music Middle in Los Angeles in 1986.

Ewing took a cue from Oscar Wilde’s unique play that Salome ought to seem nude after “Dance of the Seven Veils.” The place different performers opted for a physique stocking, Ewing took the literal route.

Former Instances classical music critic Martin Bernheimer found her performance dazzling, describing her as “command[ing] a somewhat tender, slender and reedy mezzo-soprano that thins out a bit on the prolonged high…. She provides every part she has, after which some. She phrases thoughtfully, expressively. She colours the textual content knowingly. She sustains pressure within the grand strains, paces herself cannily within the violent outbursts.”

A woman sings.

Maria Ewing circa 2000.

(David Redfern/Redferns)

Corridor described her mom as “uncompromising” in an electronic mail, writing that Ewing discovered an enormous launch in music.

“She was fearless in her method to discovering the emotional reality of a chunk of music — no matter it was — if it was ugly, scary or brutal she would make sure that she would sing it ugly, scary or brutal.”

Critics didn’t at all times perceive the depth of Ewing’s devotion and her want to uncover the typically disagreeable coronary heart of a task. In 1986, when she and her then-husband, theater director and Royal Shakespeare founder Peter Hall, staged “Carmen” on the Metropolitan Opera, their manufacturing met with unfavorable opinions. A critic for the New York Times wrote, “A extra eccentrically sung and acted Carmen has in all probability by no means been heard and seen on this opera home than the one delivered by Miss Ewing on this opening evening.”

Ewing’s followers remained legion, nevertheless, and she or he was beloved for her unstable, passionate, typically unpredictable performances.

Maria Louise Ewing was born in Detroit on March 27, 1950. Her mom was Dutch and her father was African American. Her household’s expertise and lineage serves as the inspiration for Hall’s 2021 Netflix film, “Passing,” which facilities on the tales of two light-skinned Black ladies, one in all whom passes for white.

Corridor tells The Instances that Ewing at all times beloved music, and that though her nice love was to sing opera, she by no means actually listened to it. Ewing had a particular relationship with jazz, Corridor stated, noting that Ewing sang jazz for a time frame in London, an expertise that remained expensive to her coronary heart. She additionally beloved dwell recordings of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

Corridor writes that Ewing felt a specific kinship with Garland and that one in all her favourite songs was Garland singing “The Man That Bought Away.” Different favorites included Claude Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune,” Invoice Evans taking part in “Right here’s That Wet Day” and Grover Washington Jr.’s “Ardour Flower.”

“After I was a baby, we’d dance rather a lot collectively — it could be Stevie Marvel, Prince, typically Whitney Houston, who she additionally beloved,” Corridor says. “These are a few of my fondest reminiscences. She was totally herself when she danced.”

Ewing studied on the Cleveland Institute of Music earlier than making her 1976 debut on the Met in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” She went on to sing in practically 100 performances on the Met, and appeared in opera homes and festivals around the globe, together with La Scala in Milan, Italy, and England’s Glyndebourne Competition, the place she met her future husband Peter Corridor in 1979.

The pair married in 1982, the identical 12 months that daughter Rebecca was born. The couple divorced in 1990.

In a 1992 profile for The Times, Barbara Isenberg described an artist fiercely devoted to discovering the reality in her roles with a view to uncover the reality about herself, even when the method was uncomfortable at occasions.

“I do what I imagine is true,” Ewing informed Isenberg. “If this seems to be danger taking or daring, so be it. The theater is supposed to be a spot the place feelings are unleashed and the place one reveals oneself.”

Ewing stays a “dazzling enigma,” Corridor says. “She was stuffed with contradictions. However she was splendidly alive to all of them,” she provides. “She was fiercely passionate, but additionally light and caring, sophisticated and but at all times loving. She was a typically harmful perfectionist whose dedication to inventive reality knew no bounds.”

Along with Corridor, Ewing is survived by three sisters and a granddaughter.