Opera star soprano Evelyn Lear dies at 86 in Md.

WASHINGTON - American soprano Evelyn Lear, who became an opera star in Europe while singing some of the most difficult contemporary operas before returning to the U.S., has died. She was 86.

Longtime friend and collaborator John Edward Niles says Lear died Sunday at a nursing home in Sandy Spring, Md. He says she had been ailing for months after suffering a mild stroke.

Lear and her late husband Thomas Stewart, the acclaimed bass-baritone, settled in the Maryland suburbs near Washington after singing together for decades around the world. They wanted to be closer to their grandchildren.

After being overlooked by U.S. opera houses, Lear won fame in Vienna singing the title character in Alban Berg's "Lulu."

Leaders in the opera world are lauding her versatility, beauty, musicality and stage presence.

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