Elizabeth Howell, singer, actress and singing teacher who played Mother Abbess in Broadway’s “The Sound of Music” and researched scientific aspects of singing, died July 14 of Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease at her home in New York City. She was 84.
Born in Provo, Utah, Howell began her music career when she won a scholarship to Chicago Musical College to study singing. In 1936, she was hired by the Chicago Opera Co., where she sang for five seasons. When World War II broke, the company shut its doors, and Howell moved to New York City in 1951.
There, Howell landed her first role on Broadway, in the musical “Damn Yankees.” By 1959, she won the role of Mother Abbess for “Sound of Music.” When that show closed its doors on Broadway in 1963, Howell went on to sing in “Anya,” her last Broadway musical.
In 1975, Howell joined the Voice Foundation, where she wrote articles on speech and voice, and researched the left vs. right brain functioning in singing. In 1979, she helped create the NYSTA Music Theater Committee and was given the Susan B. Anthony Award by the National Organization of Women. Over the next 10 years, she served on panels and taught singing while writing an unfinished autobiography.
Howell is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, a grandson and granddaughter.