Opera singer Maria Ewing dies aged 71

11 January 2022, 09:24

Maria Ewing
South Bank Maria Ewing. Picture: PA

She was the wife of director Sir Peter Hall and mother of actress Rebecca Hall.

Maria Ewing, the opera singer who was noted for intense performances and became the wife of director Sir Peter Hall and the mother of actress Rebecca Hall, has died at the age of 71.

Soprano and mezzo-soprano Ewing died on Sunday at her home in the US city of Detroit, her spokeswoman Bryna Rifkin said.

Born in Detroit to a Dutch mother and an African American father, Ewing was the youngest of four daughters.

“She was an extraordinarily gifted artist who by the sheer force of her talent and will catapulted herself to the most rarefied heights of the international opera world,” her family said in a statement.

Rebecca Hall, Maria Ewing and Leslie Caron
Rebecca Hall leaves her father’s memorial service with her mother Maria Ewing and Leslie Caron (Yui Mok/PA)

Ewing made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1976 in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and starred as Blanche de la Force in a new John Dexter production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites in 1977.

She sang 96 Met performances until her finale as Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck in 1997, a span that included a six-year interruption triggered by a spat with Met artistic director James Levine.

Ewing met Sir Peter Hall in 1978 when she sang Dorabella in a staging of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at Glyndebourne Festival, directed by Sir Peter and led by conductor Bernard Haitink.

Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall (Yui Mok/PA)

Ewing married Sir Peter, a founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and then director of the National Theatre, in 1982.

Four years later, her husband directed her at the Met where she sang the title role in a new staging of Bizert’s Carmen.

“Far from the usual attempt at a fiery sexpot, her Carmen was easily bored, even sullen, her come-hither being a challenge to men to awaken her interest,” Associated Press critic Mary Campbell wrote.

But Ewing severed ties with the Met after the company scrapped a contemplated telecast of Carmen with her, then broadcast a 1987 performance of the production starring Agnes Baltsa.

Ewing responded by withdrawing from appearances at the Ravinia Festival outside Chicago, where Levine was music director.

“The Met has no manners,” Ewing and Sir Peter told the Chicago Tribune.

Maria Ewing at Westminster Abbey
Maria Ewing was married to Sir Peter Hall from 1982 to 1990 (Yui Mok/PA)

Sir Peter directed Ewing in 1986 in the title role of Strauss’ Salome at the LA Opera, in which she stripped to fully nude at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The staging travelled in 1988 to London’s Royal Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and a telecast of the production was released commercially on DVD.

“Maria Ewing, who ventured the title role in Richard Strauss’ Salome for the new Music Centre Opera on Thursday night, is a Theatreviech,” Martin Bernheimer wrote in the Los Angeles Times, using a German word for “theatre beast”.

Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall (Ian West/PA)

“She is, in fact, a prime and wondrous example of the rare breed. She is a lovely, frail, seemingly nervous young woman blessed with a devastating pout, hypnotic eyes and a searing mind.

“She also happens to command a rather soft, slender and reedy mezzo-soprano that thins out a bit at the extended top.”

Sir Peter also directed Ewing in Nozze in Chicago in 1987.

They divorced in 1990 and Sir Peter died in 2017 at the age of 87.

Their daughter Rebecca Hall, born in 1982, has starred in films including Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon and horror movie The Awakening. She also starred in last year’s blockbuster monster movie Godzilla Vs Kong.

Her directing debut, Passing, was released last year.

Ewing is also survived by her sisters Norma Koleta, Carol Pancratz and Francis Ewing.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Krisztina plays with her children on their balcony in Budapest, Hungary

In Pictures: How people in Budapest are keeping cool amidst heatwave

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, leaves a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Wednesday August 10 2022

Photographs of basketball star Kobe Bryant’s body were ‘shared for a laugh’

Courtney Clenney has been arrested on suspicion of murder

Social media model Courtney Clenney arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of murder

Virus Outbreak North Korea

Kim Jong Un ‘suffered fever’ during North Korea’s Covid wave, says his sister

Russia Ukraine War

Satellite images show Crimea airbase damaged after apparent Ukrainian attack

The Spanish government has limited air conditioning and heating

Spain cracks down on air conditioning and heating in bid to save energy

Former US national security adviser John Bolton

Iranian operative charged in plot to murder Trump security adviser John Bolton

A resident sits on the sea wall as smoke rises in the background from a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba

Firefighters subdue deadly blaze at key oil facility in Cuba

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea

Ukraine says nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in Crimea blasts

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany

Fears mount that water levels in Rhine river could fall below critical mark

Former US president Donald Trump gestures as he departs Trump Tower on Wednesday August 10 2022 in New York

Donald Trump says he took the fifth amendment in New York investigation

Former US president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, late on Tuesday August 9 2022, in New York

Donald Trump arrives to give evidence in New York investigation

Taiwan’s military conducts artillery live-fire drills at Fangshan township in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, Tuesday, August 9, 2022

China appears to wind down threatening war games near Taiwan

People line up to enter an H&M shop and buy items on sale in the Aviapark shopping centre in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday August 9 2022

Russians buy last goods from H&M and Ikea as stores wind down

Tom Daley blames 'legacy of colonialism' for homophobia in the Commonwealth

Tom Daley blames British Empire's legacy of colonialism' for homophobic laws in Commonwealth nations

France Whale in Seine

Beluga whale stranded in French river dies, authorities say