Opera singer Maria Ewing, wife of Peter Hall, has died at 71

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DETROIT (AP) – Maria Ewing, a soprano and mezzo-soprano known for her intense performances who became the wife of director Peter Hall and mother of actress-director Rebecca Hall, has died aged 71 .

Ewing died at her Detroit home on Sunday, spokeswoman Bryna Rifkin said on Monday.

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, catapulted herself to the most rarefied heights of the world of international opera,” her family said in a statement.


Ewing made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1976 in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro (Les Noces de Figaro)” and played the role of Blanche de la Force in a new John Dexter production of Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites” in 1977. She sang 96 performances of the Met until her finale as Marie in Berg’s “Wozzeck” in 1997, a period that included a six-year hiatus sparked by a feud with Met Artistic Director James Levine .

Ewing met Peter Hall in 1978 when she sang Dorabella in a production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” at the UK Glyndebourne Festival conducted by Hall and conducted by conductor Bernard Haitink. Ewing married Hall, one of the founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company and later director of the National Theater of Great Britain, in 1982.

Four years later, her husband directs her to the Met where she sings the title role in a new production of “Carmen” by Bizert.

“Far from the usual attempt at a fiery sexpot, her Carmen was easily bored, if not brooding, her advent challenging men to arouse her interest,” wrote Associated Press reviewer Mary Campbell.

But Ewing cut ties with the Met after the company dropped a planned TV show of “Carmen” with her, and then aired a 1987 performance of the production with Agnes Baltsa. Ewing responded by withdrawing from appearances at the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago, where Levine was musical director.

“The Met doesn’t have good manners,” Ewing and Hall told the Chicago Tribune.

Hall directed Ewing in 1986 in the title role of Strauss’ “Salome” at the Los Angeles Opera, in which she stripped completely undressing at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils. The production traveled in 1988 to the Royal Opera in London and the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and a television show of the production was released commercially on DVD.

“Maria Ewing, who ventured Thursday night in the title role of Richard Strauss’ ‘Salome’ for the new Music Center Opera, is a Theaterviech,” Martin Bernheimer wrote in the Los Angeles Times, using a German word for “beast of the theater”. “She is, in fact, a perfect and wonderful example of the rare breed. She is a charming, frail young woman, apparently nervous, with a devastating pout, hypnotic eyes and a clairvoyant mind. She also happens to command a rather smooth, slender, pink mezzo-soprano that tapers a bit at the elongated top.

Hall also directed Ewing in “Nozze” in Chicago in 1987.

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

Rebecca Hall, born in 1982, has appeared in films such as “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” by Woody Allen, “Frost / Nixon” by Ron Howard and “The Awakening”. Its first director “Passing” was released last year.

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

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