Maria Ewing, renowned opera singer and actress Rebecca Hall's mother, dies at 71
Maria Ewing, an opera singer and mother of actress Rebecca Hall, died Sunday at the age of 71. The Associated Press confirmed through the singer's spokesperson, Bryna Rifkin, that Ewing died in her home in Detroit.
"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," Ewing's family said in a statement.
Hall posted a performance of her mother's on instagram Monday.
Born in 1950 and the youngest of four, Ewing — the daughter of a white Dutch mother and African-American father — made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1976 via Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). She continued to perform at the Met, culminating in 96 performances that concluded with her role as Marie in Berg's 1997 opera Wozzeck. Although Ewing's history with the Met was lengthy, it wasn't without conflict — the singer severed ties with the opera house after they scrapped a telecast of Carmen that was supposed to have her in the lead role, airing a different production of the show instead with Agnes Baltsa in the title role.
Ewing met her future husband, Peter Hall, in 1978 while performing in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte at Britain's Glyndebourne Festival. A founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the director of Britain's National Theatre at the time, Hall would go on to direct Ewing in muliple performances throughout her career, including 1986's Salome at the LA Opera and 1987's Nozze. The two married in 1982 and divorced in 1990.
Shortly after their marriage, Ewing and Hall gave birth to thier daughter Rebecca, who would go on to become notable in her own right as an actress for her work in films like Vicky Christina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon, The Awakening, and her recent directorial debut, Passing.
Last year, Hall spoke to The Guardian about how her mother's mixed heritage personally connected her to the film about racial identity, which she adapted from the 1929 novel by Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen.
"I think in any family that has a legacy of passing, it's very tricky, because, sadly, you inherit all of the shame and none of the pride," she told The Guardian, noting that although she was aware of her family history, it was never discussed. "I was in these fancy private English boarding schools and everyone gets picked up in Range Rovers, y'know? I'm going to and fro in a taxi and everyone looks at my mother and it's like, 'Ooooh! Isn't she exotic!'"
In the interview, Hall also mentioned that although the COVID-19 pandemic kept her from experiencing the film with Ewing in person, she still got to share her work with her mother.
"She watched it in not ideal circumstances, from my perspective, on her laptop," said Hall. "But then she called me and she was very emotional and very proud. She said that she felt that it was like a huge release for her father — of what he could not say — and, in turn, her, and it was like being given a late-in-life gift."
Peter Hall died in 2017 at age 87. In addition to her daughter, Ewing is survived by sisters Norma Koleta, Carol Pancratz, and Francis Ewing.