Beverly Sills

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Beverly Sills in 1956, photo by Carl Van Vechten Beverly Sills by Van Vechten.jpg
Beverly Sills in 1956, photo by Carl Van Vechten

Beverly Sills (May 25, 1929 July 2, 2007) was an American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

A soprano[soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) = 880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) = 1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which often encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.


Although she sang a repertoire from Handel and Mozart to Puccini, Massenet and Verdi, she was known for her performances in coloratura soprano roles in live opera and recordings. Sills was largely associated with the operas of Donizetti, of which she performed and recorded many roles. Her signature roles include the title role in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor , the title role in Massenet's Manon , Marie in Donizetti's La fille du régiment , the three heroines in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann , Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville , Violetta in Verdi's La traviata , and most notably Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux .

George Frideric Handel 18th-century German, later British, Baroque composer

George FridericHandel was a German, later British, Baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle-upon-Saale and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712; he became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Giacomo Puccini 19th and 20th-century Italian opera composer

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian opera composer who has been called "the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi".

The New York Times noted, "In her prime her technique was exemplary. She could dispatch coloratura roulades and embellishments, capped by radiant high Ds and E-flats, with seemingly effortless agility. She sang with scrupulous musicianship, rhythmic incisiveness and a vivid sense of text." [1] NPR commented, her voice was "Capable of spinning a seemingly endless legato line, or bursting with crystalline perfection into waves of dazzling fiorature and thrilling high notes." [2]

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S.

After retiring from singing in 1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the chairwoman of Lincoln Center and then, in 2002, of the Metropolitan Opera, stepping down in 2005. Sills lent her celebrity to further her charity work for the prevention and treatment of birth defects.

New York City Opera American opera company based in New York City

The New York City Opera (NYCO) is an American opera company located in Manhattan in New York City. The company has been active from 1943 through 2013, and again since 2016 when it was revived.

Metropolitan Opera Opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Birth defect condition present at birth regardless of cause; human disease or disorder developed prior to birth

A birth defect, also known as a congenital disorder, is a condition present at birth regardless of its cause. Birth defects may result in disabilities that may be physical, intellectual, or developmental. The disabilities can range from mild to severe. Birth defects are divided into two main types: structural disorders in which there are problems with the shape of a body part and functional disorders in which there are problems with how a body part works. Functional disorders include metabolic and degenerative disorders. Some birth defects include both structural and functional disorders.


Sills was born Belle Miriam Silverman in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York City, to Shirley Bahn (née Sonia Markovna), a musician, and Morris Silverman, an insurance broker. [1] [3] Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Odessa, Ukraine (then part of Russia) and Bucharest, Romania. She was raised in Brooklyn, where she was known, among friends, as "Bubbles" Silverman. As a child, she spoke Yiddish, Russian, Romanian, French and English. [1] She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, as well as Manhattan's Professional Children's School. [1]

Crown Heights, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Crown Heights is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Crown Heights is bounded by Washington Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Ralph Avenue to the east, and Clarkson Avenue/East New York Avenue to the south. It is about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 2 miles (3.2 km) long. Neighborhoods bordering Crown Heights include Prospect Heights to the west, Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Gardens to the south, Brownsville to the east, and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the north.

Odessa Place in Odessa Oblast, Ukraine

Odessa or Odesa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major tourism center, seaport and transport hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. It is also the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic cultural center. Odessa is sometimes called the "pearl of the Black Sea", the "South Capital", and "Southern Palmyra". Before the Tsarist establishment of Odessa, an ancient Greek settlement existed at its location. A more recent Tatar settlement was also founded at the location by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea in 1440 that was named after him as "Hacıbey". After a period of Lithuanian Grand Duchy control, Hacibey and surroundings became part of the domain of the Ottomans in 1529 and remained there until the empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792.

Bucharest Capital of Romania

Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. It is located in the southeast of the country, at 44°25′57″N26°06′14″E, on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, less than 60 km (37.3 mi) north of the Danube River and the Bulgarian border.

At the age of three, Sills won a "Miss Beautiful Baby" contest, in which she sang "The Wedding of Jack and Jill". Beginning at age four, she performed professionally on the Saturday morning radio program, "Rainbow House", as "Bubbles" Silverman. Sills began taking singing lessons with Estelle Liebling at the age of seven and a year later sang in the short film Uncle Sol Solves It (filmed August 1937, released June 1938 by Educational Pictures), by which time she had adopted her stage name, Beverly Sills. Liebling encouraged her to audition for CBS Radio's Major Bowes' Amateur Hour, and on October 26, 1939 at the age of 10, Sills was the winner of that week's program. Bowes then asked her to appear on his Capitol Family Hour, a weekly variety show. Her first appearance was on November 19, 1939, the 17th anniversary of the show, and she appeared frequently on the program thereafter. [4]

Estelle Liebling American vocal coach

Estelle Liebling was a vocal coach who taught singing using the three-register method. She stressed the "unmusicalness" of the seventh octave, as well as the avoidance of the head register in men. One of Liebling's most famous pupils was Beverly Sills, a coloratura soprano. She also instructed Meryl Streep as a young girl as a singer.

Educational Pictures was an American film distribution company founded in 1916 by Earle Hammons (1882–1962). Educational primarily distributed short subjects, and today is probably best known for its series of 1930s comedies starring Buster Keaton, as well as for a series of one-reel comedies featuring the earliest screen appearances of Shirley Temple. The studio also distributed short comedies starring Lloyd Hamilton, who employed the blacklisted "Fatty" Arbuckle as a writer-director under the pseudonym William Goodrich.

CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.

In 1945, Sills made her professional stage debut with a Gilbert and Sullivan touring company produced by Jacob J. Shubert, playing twelve cities in the US and Canada, in seven different Gilbert and Sullivan operas. In her 1987 autobiography, she credits that tour with helping to develop the comic timing she soon became famous for: "I played the title role in Patience , and I absolutely loved the character, because Patience is a very funny, flaky girl. ... I played her as a dumb Dora all the way through and really had fun with the role. ... My Patience grew clumsier and clumsier with each performance, and audiences seemed to like her. ... I found that I had a gift for slapstick humor, and it was fun to exercise it onstage." [5] Sills sang in light operas for several more years.

On July 9, 1946, Sills appeared as a contestant on the radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts . She sang under the pseudonym of "Vicki Lynn", as she was under contract to Shubert. Shubert did not want Godfrey to be able to say he had discovered "Beverly Sills" if she won the contest (although she did not ultimately win). Sills sang "Romany Life" from Victor Herbert's The Fortune Teller.

In 1947, she made her operatic stage debut as the Spanish gypsy Frasquita in Bizet's Carmen with the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company. She toured North America with the Charles Wagner Opera Company, in the fall of 1951 singing Violetta in La traviata and, in the fall of 1952, singing Micaëla in Carmen. On September 15, 1953, she made her debut with the San Francisco Opera as Helen of Troy in Boito's Mefistofele and also sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni the same season. In a step outside of the repertoire she is commonly associated with, Sills gave four performances of the title role of Aida in July 1954 in Salt Lake City. On October 29, 1955, she first appeared with the New York City Opera as Rosalinde in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus , which received critical praise. As early as 1956 she performed before an audience of over 13,000 at the Lewisohn Stadium with the noted operatic conductor Alfredo Antonini in an aria from Bellini's I puritani . [6] Her reputation expanded with her performance of the title role in the New York premiere of Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe in 1958.

On November 17, 1956, Sills married journalist Peter Greenough, of the Cleveland, Ohio, newspaper The Plain Dealer and moved to Cleveland. She had two children with Greenough, Meredith ("Muffy") in 1959 and Peter, Jr. ("Bucky") in 1961. Muffy (died July 3, 2016) was profoundly deaf and had multiple sclerosis; Peter, Jr. is severely mentally disabled. Sills restricted her performing schedule to care for her children.

In 1960, Sills and her family moved to Milton, Massachusetts, near Boston. In 1962, Sills sang the title role in Massenet's Manon with the Opera Company of Boston, the first of many roles for opera director Sarah Caldwell. Manon continued to be one of Sills' signature roles throughout most of her career. In January 1964, she sang her first Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute for Caldwell. Although Sills drew critical praise for her coloratura technique and for her performance, she was not fond of the latter role; she observed that she often passed the time between the two arias and the finale addressing holiday cards. [7]

Peak singing years

In 1966, the New York City Opera revived Handel's then virtually unknown opera seria Giulio Cesare (with Norman Treigle as Caesar), and Sills' performance as Cleopatra made her an international opera star. Sills also made her "unofficial" Met debut in its "Opera in the Parks" program as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni , though nothing further came of this other than offers from Rudolf Bing for roles such as Flotow's Martha . In subsequent seasons at the NYCO, Sills had great successes in the roles of the Queen of Shemakha in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel , the title role in Manon , Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor , and the three female leads Suor Angelica, Giorgetta, and Lauretta in Puccini's trilogy Il trittico .

In 1969, Sills sang Zerbinetta in the American premiere (in a concert version) of the 1912 version of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos with the Boston Symphony. Her performance of the role, especially Zerbinetta's aria, "Grossmächtige Prinzessin", which she sang in the original higher key, won her acclaim. Home video-taped copies circulated among collectors for years afterwards, often commanding large sums on Internet auction sites (the performance was released commercially in 2006, garnering high praise). The second major event of the year was her debut as Pamira in Rossini's The Siege of Corinth at La Scala, a success that put her on the cover of Newsweek .

Sills's now high-profile career landed her on the cover of Time in 1971, where she was described as "America's Queen of Opera". [8] The title was appropriate because Sills had purposely limited her overseas engagements because of her family. Her major overseas appearances include London's Covent Garden, Milan's La Scala, La Fenice in Venice, the Vienna State Opera, the Théâtre de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland, and concerts in Paris. In South America, she sang in the opera houses of Buenos Aires and Santiago, a concert in Lima, Peru, and appeared in several productions in Mexico City, including Lucia di Lammermoor with Luciano Pavarotti. On November 9, 1971, her performance in the New York City Opera's production of The Golden Cockerel was telecast live to cable TV subscribers.

During this period, she made her first television appearance as a talk-show personality in May 1968 on Virginia Graham's Girl Talk, a weekday series syndicated by ABC Films. An opera fan who was Talent Coordinator for the series persuaded the producer to put her on the air and she was a huge hit. Throughout the rest of her career she shone as a talk show guest, sometimes also functioning as a guest host. Sills underwent successful surgery for ovarian cancer in late October 1974 (sometimes misreported as breast cancer). Her recovery was so rapid and complete that she opened in The Daughter of the Regiment at the San Francisco Opera a month later. [9]

Following Sir Rudolf Bing's departure as director, Sills finally made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera on April 7, 1975 in The Siege of Corinth, receiving an eighteen-minute ovation. Other operas she sang at the Met include La traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor, Thaïs, and Don Pasquale (directed by John Dexter). In an interview after his retirement, Bing stated that his refusal to use Sills – as well as his preference for engaging, almost exclusively, Italian stars such as Renata Tebaldi due to his notion that American audiences expected to see Italian stars – was the single biggest mistake of his career. Sills attempted to downplay her animosity towards Bing while she was still singing, and even in her two autobiographies. But in a 1997 interview, Sills spoke her mind plainly, "Oh, Mr. Bing is an ass. [W]hile everybody said what a great administrator he was and a great this, Mr. Bing was just an improbable, impossible General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera.... The arrogance of that man." [10]

Sills was a recitalist, especially in the final decade of her career. She sang in mid-size cities and on college concert series, bringing her art to many who might never see her on stage in a fully staged opera. She also sang concerts with a number of symphony orchestras. Sills continued to perform for New York City Opera, her home opera house, essaying new roles right up to her retirement, including the leading roles in Rossini's Il Turco in Italia, Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow and Gian Carlo Menotti's La Loca , an opera commissioned in honor of her 50th birthday. La Loca was the first work written expressly as a vehicle for Sills and was her last new role, as she retired the following year. [11] Her farewell performance was at San Diego Opera in 1980, where she shared the stage with Joan Sutherland in a production of Die Fledermaus . [12]

Although Sills' voice type was characterized as a "lyric coloratura", she took a number of heavier spinto and dramatic coloratura roles more associated with heavier voices as she grew older, including Bellini's Norma , Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia (with Susanne Marsee as Orsini) and the latter composer's "Three Queens", Anna Bolena , Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux (opposite Plácido Domingo in the title part). She was admired in those roles for transcending the lightness of her voice with dramatic interpretation, although it may have come at a cost: Sills later commented that Roberto Devereux shortened her career by at least four years.

Sills popularized opera through her talk show appearances, including Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, David Frost, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore. Sills hosted her own talk show, Lifestyles with Beverly Sills, which ran on Sunday mornings on NBC for two years in the late 1970s; it won an Emmy Award. [13] In 1979 she appeared on The Muppet Show . Down-to-earth and approachable, Sills helped dispel the traditional image of the temperamental opera diva.

Later years and death

In 1978, Sills announced she would retire on October 27, 1980, in a farewell gala at the New York City Opera. In the spring of 1979, she began acting as co-director of NYCO, and became its sole general director as of the fall season of that year, a post she held until 1989, although she remained on the NYCO board until 1991. During her time as general director, Sills helped turn what was then a financially struggling opera company into a viable enterprise. She also devoted herself to various arts causes and such charities as the March of Dimes and was sought after for speaking engagements on college campuses and for fund raisers.

From 1994 to 2002, Sills was chairwoman of Lincoln Center. In October 2002, she agreed to serve as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera, for which she had been a board member since 1991. She resigned as Met chairwoman in January 2005, citing family as the main reason (she had to place her husband, whom she had cared for over eight years, in a nursing home). She stayed long enough to supervise the appointment of Peter Gelb, formerly head of Sony Classical Records, as the Met's General Manager, to succeed Joseph Volpe in August 2006.

The tombstone of Beverly Sills in Kensico Cemetery Beverly Sills Tombstone 2011.JPG
The tombstone of Beverly Sills in Kensico Cemetery

Peter Greenough, Sills's husband, died on September 6, 2006, at the age of 89, [14] shortly before what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary on November 17, 2006.

She co-hosted The View for Best Friends Week on November 9, 2006, as Barbara Walters' best friend. She said that she didn't sing anymore, even in the shower, to preserve the memory of her voice.

She appeared on screen in movie theaters during HD transmissions live from the Met, interviewed during intermissions by the host Margaret Juntwait on January 6, 2007 ( I puritani simulcast), as a backstage interviewer on February 24, 2007 ( Eugene Onegin simulcast) and then, briefly, on April 28, 2007 ( Il trittico simulcast).

On June 28, 2007, the Associated Press and CNN reported that Sills was hospitalized as "gravely ill", from lung cancer. With her daughter at her bedside, Beverly Sills succumbed to cancer on July 2, 2007, at the age of 78. [15] She is buried in Sharon Gardens, the Jewish division of Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. She was survived by her two children and three step-children from Peter Greenough's first marriage. Her daughter Meredith ("Muffy") Greenough died on July 3, 2016 in New York City.


Sills's voice has been variously described as "rich, supple", "silvery", "precise, a little light", "multicolored", "robust and enveloping", with "a cutting edge that can slice through the largest orchestra and chorus," soaring easily above high C. [1] [16] [17] Her technique and musicianship have been much praised. Conductor Thomas Schippers said in a 1971 interview with Time that she had "the fastest voice alive." [16] The New York Times writes that "she could dispatch coloratura roulades and embellishments, capped with radiant high Ds and E-flats, with seemingly effortless agility. She sang with scrupulous musicianship, rhythmic incisiveness and a vivid sense of text." [1] Soprano Leontyne Price was "flabbergasted at how many millions of things she can do with a written scale." [16] Her vocal range, in performance, extended from F3 to F6, and she said she could sometimes hit a G6 in warm up.

Operatic repertoire

These are the roles that Sills performed on stage or for television or radio. [18]

ComposerOperaRoleIn repertoirePerformed withRecorded
Bellini I Capuleti e i Montecchi Giulietta1975 Opera Company of Boston Yes
Bellini I puritani Elvira1972–1978 Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Tulsa Opera Yes
Bellini Norma Norma1972–1978Opera Company of Boston, Opera Theatre of New Jersey, Connecticut Opera, Ravinia Festival, San Diego Opera, San Antonio Opera Yes
Bizet Carmen Frasquita1951 Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company No
BizetCarmenMicaela1952–1958 Charles Wagner Opera Company, Robin Hood Dell West, Cosmopolitan Opera No
BizetCarmenCarmen1956 Musicarnival No
Bizet Les pêcheurs de perles Leila1956 DuMont Television Network Yes
Boito Mefistofele Helen of Troy1953 San Francisco Opera No
Charpentier Louise Louise1962–1977New York City OperaYes
Donizetti Anna Bolena Anna1973–1975New York City OperaYes
Donizetti Don Pasquale Norina1978–1980Opera Company of Boston, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Diego OperaYes
Donizetti La fille du régiment Marie1970–1977Opera Company of Boston, Carnegie Hall, San Antonio Opera, Philadelphia Lyric Opera, San Diego Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Edmonton Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Memphis, Palm Beach OperaYes
Donizetti L'elisir d'amore Adina1964Opera Company of BostonNo
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor Lucia1968–1977Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Edmonton Opera, Opera Company of Boston, New York City Opera, Palacio de Bellas Artes, La Scala, San Antonio Grand Opera, Ravinia Festival, Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, Covent Garden, Tulsa Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Mississippi Opera Association, Zoo Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, New Orleans Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Seattle Opera, Teatro Colón, San Francisco Opera, Opera Memphis, San Antonio Symphony, Florentine Opera, Opera Omaha, Metropolitan OperaYes
Donizetti Lucrezia Borgia Lucrezia Borgia1975–1976New York City OperaYes
Donizetti Maria Stuarda Maria Stuarda1972–1974New York City OperaYes
Donizetti Roberto Devereux Elizabeth I1970–1975New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Wolf Trap OperaYes
Gounod Faust Marguerite1963–1970 Boston Opera Group, New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Orlando Opera, San Antonio Grand Opera Festival, Duluth Symphony Orchestra Yes
Handel Ariodante Ginevra1971 Kennedy Center Yes
Handel Giulio Cesare Cleopatra1966–1971New York City Opera, Teatro Colón, Cincinnati May Festival Yes
Handel Semele Semele1967–1969 Cleveland Orchestra, Caramoor Festival Yes
Hanson Merry Mount Lady Marigold Sandys1964San Antonio SymphonyNo
Hindemith Hin und zurück Helene1965 WGBH-TV Yes
Kálmán Countess Maritza Countess Mariza1946Hartman Theatre in Columbus, Ohio No
Lehár The Merry Widow Sonia1956–1965Musicarnival, New York City Opera, Casa Mañana, Robin Hood DellNo
LehárThe Merry WidowHanna Glawari1977–1979San Diego Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City OperaYes
Leoncavallo Pagliacci Nedda1965Fort Worth OperaNo
Massenet Manon Manon1953–1978Baltimore Opera Company, New York City Opera, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Teatro Colón, San Francisco Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia Yes
Massenet Thaïs Thaïs1954–1978DuMont Television Network, San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan OperaYes
Menotti La Loca Juana La Loca1979San Diego Opera, New York City OperaYes
Meyerbeer Les Huguenots Marguerite1969Carnegie HallYes
Montemezzi L'amore dei tre re Fiora1956 Philadelphia Grand Opera Company No
Moore The Ballad of Baby Doe Baby Doe1958–1969New York City Opera, MusicarnivalYes
Moore The Wings of the Dove Milly Theale1962New York City OperaNo
Mozart Der Schauspieldirektor Madame Goldentrill1956New York City OperaNo
Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail Konstanze1965–1975Boston Opera Group, New York City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Grant Park, Tanglewood Music Festival, Frederic R. Mann Auditorium, Ravinia FestivalYes
Mozart Die Zauberflöte Queen of the Night1964–1967Boston Opera Group, Théâtre de Beaulieu, Tanglewood Music Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Vienna State Opera, New York City Opera, CBC Radio Yes
Mozart Don Giovanni Donna Elvira1953–1955San Francisco Opera, Chattanooga Opera Association No
MozartDon GiovanniDonna Anna1963–1967New York City Opera, Opera Company of Boston, Metropolitan Opera, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Théâtre de Beaulieu, Baltimore Opera Company Yes
Mozart Le nozze di Figaro Countess1965 Miami Opera No
Nono Intolleranza 1960 The Companion1965 Opera Company of Boston Yes
Offenbach Les contes d'Hoffmann Three Heroines1964–1973 New Orleans Opera, Grant Park, Opera Company of Boston, Cincinnati Opera, New York City Opera, Baltimore Opera Company, Palacio de Bellas Artes, San Antonio Grand Opera, San Antonio Symphony, Shreveport Opera, Municipal Theatre of Santiago, San Diego Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Symphony Yes
Puccini La bohème Musetta1958–1963Cosmopolitan Opera, New York City OperaNo
PucciniLa bohèmeMimi1965 Seattle Opera No
Puccini Gianni Schicchi Lauretta1967New York City OperaYes
Puccini Suor Angelica Suor Angelica1967New York City OperaYes
Puccini Il tabarro Giorgetta1967New York City OperaYes
Puccini Tosca Tosca1957–1960 Murrah High School Auditorium for the Jackson Opera Guild, MusicarnivalNo
Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie Aricie1966Opera Company of BostonYes
Rimsky-Korsakov Le Coq d'Or Queen Shemakha1967–1971New York City OperaYes
Romberg The Student Prince Kathie1954 Chicago Theater of the Air Yes
Rossini The Barber of Seville Rosina1974–1980Opera Company of Boston, San Antonio Symphony, New York City Opera, Kennedy Center, Fort Worth Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Festival Internacional Cervantino, Robin Hood DellYes
Rossini Il turco in Italia Fiorilla1978–1979New York City OperaYes
Rossini The Siege of Corinth Pamira1969–1976La Scala, Metropolitan OperaYes
Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus Rosalinda1955–1980Musicarnival, New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company of BostonYes
Johann Strauss IIDie FledermausAdele1977–1980New York City Opera, San Diego OperaYes
Richard Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos (original version)Zerbinetta1969 Boston Symphony Orchestra Yes
Richard Strauss Elektra Fifth Maidservant1953San Francisco OperaNo
Sullivan H.M.S. Pinafore Josephine1945 Providence, Rhode Island at the Metropolitan Theater and Hartford, Connecticut at the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium No
Sullivan The Pirates of Penzance Mabel1945Hartford, Connecticut at the Bushnell Memorial AuditoriumNo
Suppé Die schöne Galathée Galatea1965Fort Worth OperaNo
Tchaikovsky Cherevichki (performed under the title The Golden Slipper)Oxana1955New York City OperaNo
Thomas Mignon Philine1956New York City OperaNo
Verdi Aida Aida1954–1960 University of Utah football stadium, Paterson, New Jersey, Central City Opera Yes
Verdi La traviata Violetta1951–1977 Kingston High School, Charleston Municipal Auditorium, Orlando Municipal Auditorium, Saenger Theatre, Duke University, Academy of Music, Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, Portland Civic Opera Association, DuMont Television Network, New York City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Tulsa Opera, Cincinnati Opera, San Antonio Symphony, Grant Park, Teatro di San Carlo, Connecticut Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Opera Company of Boston, La Fenice, San Antonio Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Ravinia Festival, Palm Beach Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, San Diego OperaYes
Verdi Rigoletto Gilda1957–1977Grant Park, Opera Company of BostonYes
Wagner Die Walküre Gerhilde1953San Francisco OperaNo
Weisgall Six Characters in Search of an Author Coloratura1959–1960New York City OperaYes

Honors and awards

Sills received many honors and awards from the 1970s through her final years. Here are a list of her major awards, divided by category:

Sills was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. [22]

Recordings and broadcasts

During her operatic career, Sills recorded eighteen full-length operas:

Sills also recorded nine solo recital albums of arias and songs, and was soprano soloist on a 1967 recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 2.

She starred in eight opera productions televised on PBS and several more on other public TV systems. She participated in such TV specials as A Look-in at the Met with Danny Kaye in 1975, Sills and Burnett at the Met, with Carol Burnett in 1976, and Profile in Music, which won an Emmy Award for its showing in the US in 1975, although it had been recorded in England in 1971.

Some of those televised performances have been commercially distributed on videotape and DVD:

Others not available commercially include:

After her retirement from singing in 1980 up through 2006, Sills was the host for many of the PBS Live from Lincoln Center telecasts.

Further reading/listening/viewing

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John Alexander was an American operatic tenor who had a substantial career during the 1950s through the 1980s. He had a longstanding relationship with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, singing with that company every year between 1961 and 1987 for a total of 379 performances. He also periodically performed at the New York City Opera during his career and was a frequent presence at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company during the late 1950s and 1960s. Although he spent most of his career in New York City, Alexander occasionally traveled to perform as a guest artist with many of the world's leading opera houses, both in the United States and Europe. He was also an active concert singer throughout his career.

Nancy Shade is a spinto soprano, best known as a singing-actress. She made her formal debut as Leonora in Il trovatore, in Louisville, in 1967. In 1971, she made her first of many appearances at the New York City Opera, as Musetta in La bohème. She also sang there in Mefistofele, Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci, Susannah, and Die tote Stadt.

Enrico Di Giuseppe American opera singer

Enrico Di Giuseppe was a celebrated American operatic tenor who had an active performance career from the late 1950s through the 1990s. He spent most of his career performing in New York City, juggling concurrent performance contracts with both the New York City Opera (NYCO) and the Metropolitan Opera during the 1970s and 1980s. In the latter part of his career he was particularly active with the New York Grand Opera.

Henry Price III is a well-known American operatic tenor, who was a pupil of the tenor Eugene Conley. He made his formal debut with the Goldovsky Opera Theater in 1970, as Alfredo Germont in La traviata.

Joy Clements Operatic soprano

Joy Clements was an American lyric coloratura soprano who had a substantial opera and concert career from 1956 through the late 1970s. She notably sang regularly with both the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s through the early 1970s. She also traveled regularly for performances with opera companies and orchestras throughout the United States but only appeared in a relatively few number of performances internationally.

Thomas T. Hayward was an American operatic tenor. He was a cousin of opera singer Lawrence Tibbett.

Richard Fredricks is an American opera singer, and was one of the leading dramatic baritones of both the New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. He has also appeared on network television, performing on NBC's The Tonight Show, and was the featured guest star on ABC's The Odd Couple.

Joshua Hecht was an American operatic bass.


Salvador Novoa is a Mexican dramatic tenor. He is especially known for the operas of Alberto Ginastera.

Knud D. Andersson was a German-born American conductor. He enjoyed a long association with the New Orleans Opera where he served as first assistant conductor and choral director from 1953-1965 and then music director and resident conductor from 1965 until his retirement in 1983. The city of New Orleans honored him with certificates of merit in 1957 and 1967.

Arthur Cosenza was an American impresario, stage director, and baritone of Italian heritage, who was particularly associated with the New Orleans Opera Association.

David Morelock is an American stage director of opera.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tommasini, Anthony (July 3, 2007). "Beverly Sills, All-American Diva, Is Dead at 78". The New York Times.
  2. Libbey, Ted (2006). “The NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Music.” New York: Workman Publishing, p. 782.
  3. "Beverly Sills Biography (1929–)". Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  4. The dates of the first Bowes appearances are incorrect in most printed sources about Sills.
  5. Sills (1987), Beverly: An Autobiography, pp. 29–32
  6. The New York Times, July 9, 1956, p. 26
  7. Sills (1976) Bubbles: A Self-Portrait, p. 98
  8. Time Magazine, 22 November 1971
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  10. Strange Child of Chaos: Norman Treigle (pp. 176–177), by Brian Morgan, iUniverse, 2006.
  11. Rich, Alan (June 25, 1979). "Opera: No Reign in Spain". New York Magazine. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  12. Pasles, Chris (July 3, 2007). "Soprano brought opera home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  13. Tommasini, Anthony (March 20, 2005). "Wanted: A New Cheerleader for Opera". The New York Times . pp. 24AE.
  14. Staff (September 8, 2006). "Peter B. Greenough, 89, Former Columnist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  15. Feeney, Mark (July 3, 2007). "Beverly Sills, people's diva, dies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  16. 1 2 3 "Music: Beverly Sills: The Fastest Voice Alive". Time. November 22, 1971.
  17. "Music: Sutherland: A Separate Greatness". Time. November 22, 1971.
  18. "Beverly Sills Performance Annals". 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  19. Delta Omicron In Memoriam Archived 2010-06-20 at the Wayback Machine
  20. The Heinz Awards, Beverly Sills profile
  21. National Women's Hall of Fame, Beverly Sills
  22. "Behind the Scenes" by Ethel Payne, Baltimore Afro-American , p. A5, April 22, 1989