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Maria Ewing

Maria Ewing
Maria Louise Ewing - Finney HS - 1968.jpg
Ewing in 1968
Born(1950-03-27)March 27, 1950
DiedJanuary 9, 2022(2022-01-09) (aged 71)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
OccupationOperatic soprano
(m. 1982; div. 1990)
ChildrenRebecca Hall
RelativesBasil Norman (great-great-great grandfather)

Maria Louise Ewing (March 27, 1950 – January 9, 2022) was an American opera singer who sang both soprano and mezzo-soprano roles. She was noted as much for her acting as her singing.

Early life and education

Maria Louise Ewing was born on March 27, 1950, in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest of four daughters. Her mother, Hermina Maria (née Veraar), was Dutch, and her father, Norman Isaac Ewing, was African-American. Appearing on the television show Finding Your Roots, Ewing's daughter Rebecca Hall discovered that, while Norman had performed as a Sioux Native American figure and was reported as a Sioux chief in newspapers, he had been born to mixed race African-American parents, and had no Native American ancestry; his own father, John William Ewing, had been born into slavery, and became a prominent figure in Washington, D.C.'s black community. Her great-great-great-grandfather was Revolutionary War veteran Bazabeel Norman, a free black man.

Ewing graduated from Detroit's Finney High School in 1968. She later studied with Eleanor Steber at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and subsequently with Jennie Tourel and O. G. Marzolla.


Ewing made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1976 as Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Her first European performance was at La Scala, Milan, as Mélisande in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. Her repertoire included Bizet's Carmen, Dorabella in Mozart's Così fan tutte, the title roles of Salome by Richard Strauss, Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea and Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Marie in Alban Berg's Wozzeck. She was particularly well known for her portrayal of Salome. Oscar Wilde's stage directions for the play from which the opera's libretto was adapted specify that, at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils, Salome lies naked at Herod's feet: Ewing appeared nude at the end of this sequence, in contrast to other singers who have used body stockings. She also sang and appeared in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

Ewing's discography includes video versions of Salome, L'incoronazione di Poppea, and Carmen and audio versions of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Pelléas et Mélisande. She also recorded concert music by Ravel, Berlioz and Debussy and programs of popular American song. She played Rosina in a Glyndebourne production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (1982). Her starring performance in the Metropolitan Opera's 1987 production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites was also recorded and made available as a stream.

Ewing also sang jazz in live performance, including with the band Kymaera at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.

Personal life

In 1982, Ewing married the English theatre director Sir Peter Hall; during her marriage she was formally styled Lady Hall. The couple divorced in 1990. Their daughter is the actress Rebecca Hall. In 2003, Ewing lived in Sussex, England. She died of cancer at her residence near Detroit on January 9, 2022, at the age of 71.

This page was last updated at 2022-01-15 06:36 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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