Beverly Sills

Opera | 2008

Beverly Sills was born Belle Miriam Silverman and raised in Brooklyn. At three years old, she was provided with lessons in dance, voice, and elocution after winning a talent contest. In the 1930s, Sills performed professionally on radio and in the 1936 short film Uncle Sol Solves It. In 1936, she auditioned for CBS Radio’s Major Bowes Amateur Hour, became a member of the company, and was heard every Sunday across the nation. In 1945, Sills made her professional stage debut with a Gilbert & Sullivan touring company and sang operetta for several years. In 1947, she made her operatic stage debut as Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. In 1955, she first appeared with the New York City Opera as Rosalinde in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. The performance drew raves from the newspaper critics, as did her follow-up work in the title role in Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe. In 1966, the New York City Opera revived Handel’s then virtually unknown opera masterpiece Giulio Cesare, and Sills’ performance as Cleopatra made her an international opera star. After retiring from the stage in 1980, Sills served as general director of the New York City Opera until 1991 and as chairman of Lincoln Center from 1994 to 2000. During her career, she recorded 18 full-length operas and starred in eight televised opera productions and specials. Sills died in 2007 at the age of 78.

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