Beverly Sills

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

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.

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]

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.

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


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]

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]

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.

Beverly Sills Tombstone 2011
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 described at the same time "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]

Composer Opera Role In repertoire Performed with Recorded
Bellini I Capuleti e i Montecchi Giulietta 1975 Opera Company of Boston Yes
Bellini I puritani Elvira 1972–1978 Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Tulsa Opera Yes
Bellini Norma Norma 1972–1978 Opera Company of Boston, Opera Theatre of New Jersey, Connecticut Opera, Ravinia Festival, San Diego Opera, San Antonio Opera Yes
Bizet Carmen Frasquita 1951 Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company No
Bizet Carmen Micaela 1952–1958 Charles Wagner Opera Company, Robin Hood Dell West, Cosmopolitan Opera No
Bizet Carmen Carmen 1956 Musicarnival No
Bizet Les pêcheurs de perles Leila 1956 DuMont Television Network Yes
Boito Mefistofele Helen of Troy 1953 San Francisco Opera No
Charpentier Louise Louise 1962–1977 New York City Opera Yes
Donizetti Anna Bolena Anna 1973–1975 New York City Opera Yes
Donizetti Don Pasquale Norina 1978–1980 Opera Company of Boston, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Diego Opera Yes
Donizetti La fille du régiment Marie 1970–1977 Opera 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 Opera Yes
Donizetti L'elisir d'amore Adina 1964 Opera Company of Boston No
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor Lucia 1968–1977 Fort 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 Opera Yes
Donizetti Lucrezia Borgia Lucrezia Borgia 1975–1976 New York City Opera Yes
Donizetti Maria Stuarda Maria Stuarda 1972–1974 New York City Opera Yes
Donizetti Roberto Devereux Elizabeth I 1970–1975 New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Yes
Gounod Faust Marguerite 1963–1970 Boston Opera Group, New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Orlando Opera, San Antonio Grand Opera Festival, Duluth Symphony Orchestra Yes
Handel Ariodante Ginevra 1971 Kennedy Center Yes
Handel Giulio Cesare Cleopatra 1966–1971 New York City Opera, Teatro Colón, Cincinnati May Festival Yes
Handel Semele Semele 1967–1969 Cleveland Orchestra, Caramoor Festival Yes
Hanson Merry Mount Lady Marigold Sandys 1964 San Antonio Symphony No
Hindemith Hin und zurück Helene 1965 WGBH-TV Yes
Kálmán Countess Maritza Countess Mariza 1946 Hartman Theatre in Columbus, Ohio No
Lehár The Merry Widow Sonia 1956–1965 Musicarnival, New York City Opera, Casa Mañana, Robin Hood Dell No
Lehár The Merry Widow Hanna Glawari 1977–1979 San Diego Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera Yes
Leoncavallo Pagliacci Nedda 1965 Fort Worth Opera No
Massenet Manon Manon 1953–1978 Baltimore Opera Company, New York City Opera, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Teatro Colón, San Francisco Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia Yes
Massenet Thaïs Thaïs 1954–1978 DuMont Television Network, San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera Yes
Menotti La Loca Juana La Loca 1979 San Diego Opera, New York City Opera Yes
Meyerbeer Les Huguenots Marguerite 1969 Carnegie Hall Yes
Montemezzi L'amore dei tre re Fiora 1956 Philadelphia Grand Opera Company No
Moore The Ballad of Baby Doe Baby Doe 1958–1969 New York City Opera, Musicarnival Yes
Moore The Wings of the Dove Milly Theale 1962 New York City Opera No
Mozart Der Schauspieldirektor Madame Goldentrill 1956 New York City Opera No
Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail Konstanze 1965–1975 Boston Opera Group, New York City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Grant Park, Tanglewood Music Festival, Frederic R. Mann Auditorium, Ravinia Festival Yes
Mozart Die Zauberflöte Queen of the Night 1964–1967 Boston 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 Elvira 1953–1955 San Francisco Opera, Chattanooga Opera Association No
Mozart Don Giovanni Donna Anna 1963–1967 New 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 Countess 1965 Miami Opera No
Nono Intolleranza 1960 The Companion 1965 Opera Company of Boston Yes
Offenbach Les contes d'Hoffmann Three Heroines 1964–1973 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 Musetta 1958–1963 Cosmopolitan Opera, New York City Opera No
Puccini La bohème Mimi 1965 Seattle Opera No
Puccini Gianni Schicchi Lauretta 1967 New York City Opera Yes
Puccini Suor Angelica Suor Angelica 1967 New York City Opera Yes
Puccini Il tabarro Giorgetta 1967 New York City Opera Yes
Puccini Tosca Tosca 1957–1960 Murrah High School Auditorium for the Jackson Opera Guild, Musicarnival No
Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie Aricie 1966 Opera Company of Boston Yes
Rimsky-Korsakov Le Coq d'Or Queen Shemakha 1967–1971 New York City Opera Yes
Romberg The Student Prince Kathie 1954 Chicago Theater of the Air Yes
Rossini The Barber of Seville Rosina 1974–1980 Opera Company of Boston, San Antonio Symphony, New York City Opera, Kennedy Center, Fort Worth Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Festival Internacional Cervantino, Robin Hood Dell Yes
Rossini Il turco in Italia Fiorilla 1978–1979 New York City Opera Yes
Rossini The Siege of Corinth Pamira 1969–1976 La Scala, Metropolitan Opera Yes
Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus Rosalinda 1955–1980 Musicarnival, New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company of Boston Yes
Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus Adele 1977–1980 New York City Opera, San Diego Opera Yes
Richard Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos (original version) Zerbinetta 1969 Boston Symphony Orchestra Yes
Richard Strauss Elektra Fifth Maidservant 1953 San Francisco Opera No
Sullivan H.M.S. Pinafore Josephine 1945 Providence, Rhode Island at the Metropolitan Theater and Hartford, Connecticut at the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium No
Sullivan The Pirates of Penzance Mabel 1945 Hartford, Connecticut at the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium No
Suppé Die schöne Galathée Galatea 1965 Fort Worth Opera No
Tchaikovsky Cherevichki (performed under the title The Golden Slipper) Oxana 1955 New York City Opera No
Thomas Mignon Philine 1956 New York City Opera No
Verdi Aida Aida 1954–1960 University of Utah football stadium, Paterson, New Jersey, Central City Opera Yes
Verdi La traviata Violetta 1951–1977 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 Opera Yes
Verdi Rigoletto Gilda 1957–1977 Grant Park, Opera Company of Boston Yes
Wagner Die Walküre Gerhilde 1953 San Francisco Opera No
Weisgall Six Characters in Search of an Author Coloratura 1959–1960 New York City Opera Yes

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:

  • Grammy Award nominations:
    • 1969 – Scenes and Arias from French Opera
    • 1970 – Mozart and Strauss Arias
    • 1976 – Music of Victor Herbert (winner)
  • Emmy Award nominations:
    • 1975 – Profile in Music: Beverly Sills, Festival '75 (winner)
    • 1977 – Sills and Burnett at the Met
    • 1978 – Lifestyles with Beverly Sills (winner)
    • 1980 – Beverly Sills in Concert
    • 1981 – Great Performances: Beverly! (her farewell performance)
  • Honorary doctorates in music:
    • 1972 – Temple University
    • 1973 – New York University and New England Conservatory of Music
    • 1974 – Harvard University
    • 1975 – California Institute of the Arts
  • Other music-related awards:
    • 1970 – Musical America – Musician of the Year
    • 1971 – Inducted as a National Patroness of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity on May 1[19]
    • 1972 – Edison AwardManon recording
    • 1973 – Handel Medallion from New York City for artistic achievement
    • 1979 – Recording Industry of America Cultural Award
    • 1980 – Golden Baton, American Symphony Orchestra League
    • 1985 – Kennedy Center Honors
    • 1990 – National Medal of Arts from National Endowment for the Arts
    • 1996 – The 2nd Annual Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities[20]
    • 2005 – Beverly Sills Artist Award established by the Metropolitan Opera ($50,000 annual award)
    • 2007 – Inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame
  • Charitable and humanitarian awards:

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

Recordings and broadcasts

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

  • The Ballad of Baby Doe (Bible, Cassel; Buckley, 1959)
  • Giulio Cesare (Wolff, Forrester, Treigle; Rudel, 1967)
  • Roberto Devereux (Wolff, Ilosfalvy, Glossop; Mackerras, 1969)
  • Lucia di Lammermoor (Bergonzi, Cappuccilli, Díaz; Schippers, 1970)
  • Manon (Gedda, Souzay, Bacquier; Rudel, 1970)
  • La traviata (Gedda, Panerai; Ceccato, 1971)
  • Maria Stuarda (Farrell, Burrows, L.Quilico; Ceccato, 1971)
  • The Tales of Hoffmann (Marsee, Burrows, Treigle; Rudel, 1972)
  • Anna Bolena (Verrett, Burrows, Plishka; Rudel, 1972)
  • I puritani (Gedda, L.Quilico, Plishka; Rudel, 1973)
  • Norma (Verrett, di Giuseppe, Plishka; Levine, 1973)
  • The Siege of Corinth (Verrett, Theyard, Díaz; Schippers, 1974)
  • Il barbiere di Siviglia (Barbieri, Gedda, Milnes, Raimondi; Levine, 1974–75)
  • I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Baker, Gedda, Herincx, Lloyd; G.Patanè, 1975)
  • Thaïs (Gedda, Milnes; Maazel, 1976)
  • Louise (Gedda, van Dam; Rudel, 1977)
  • Don Pasquale (Kraus, Titus, Gramm; Caldwell, 1978)
  • Rigoletto (M.Dunn, Kraus, Milnes, Ramey; Rudel, 1978)

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:

  • Ariadne auf Naxos (Watson, Nagy; Leinsdorf, 1969) [Concert Version]
  • La fille du régiment (Costa-Greenspon, McDonald, Malas; Wendelken-Wilson, Mansouri, 1974)
  • Roberto Devereux (Marsee, Alexander, Fredricks; Rudel, Capobianco, 1975)
  • La traviata (H.Price, Fredricks; Rudel, Capobianco, 1976)
  • Il barbiere di Siviglia (H.Price, Titus, Gramm, Ramey; Caldwell, Caldwell, 1976)
  • Manon (H.Price, Fredricks, Ramey; Rudel, Capobianco, 1977)

Others not available commercially include:

  • The Magic Flute (Pracht, Shirley, Reardon; NN, NN, 1966)
  • Le coq d'or (Costa-Greenspon, di Giuseppe, Treigle; Rudel, Capobianco, 1971)
  • Die lustige Witwe (Titus; Alcántara, Capobianco, 1977)
  • Il turco in Italia (Marsee, H.Price, Titus, Gramm; Rudel, Capobianco, 1978)
  • Don Pasquale (Kraus, Hagegård, Bacquier; Rescigno, Dexter, 1979)

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

  • Sills, Beverly (1976). Bubbles: A Self-Portrait. New York: Bobbs-Merrill. ISBN 0-446-81520-9. A revised edition was issued in 1981 as Bubbles: An Encore.
  • Sills, Beverly (with Lawrence Linderman) (1987). Beverly: An Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-05173-3.
  • Sills, Beverly (1987). Beverly Sills: On My Own. ISBN 0-553-45743-8. An audio book designated as a companion to Beverly: An Autobiography, with Sills speaking in interview about her life, interspersed with narration and live musical excerpts. There is no direct text from the printed autobiography.
  • Paolucci, Bridget (1990). Beverly Sills. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 1-55546-677-X.
  • Sargeant, Withrop (1973). Divas. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. ISBN 0-698-10489-7.
  • Beverly Sills: Made in America (2006). Deutsche Grammophon B0007999-09. A 90-minute documentary on Sills's singing career with many rare video performance and interview clips.
  • Guy, Nancy (2015). "The Magic of Beverly Sills". Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03973-7.


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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
  9. ^ Sills (1987) Beverly: An Autobiography, pp. 256–258
  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. ^ a b c "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

External links

Ailyn Pérez

Ailyn Pérez (born August 15, 1979) is an American operatic soprano known for her interpretation of Violetta, Mimì and Thaïs. She is a 2019 Opera News Awards Honoree, and the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. In 2016, she received the $50,000 Beverly Sills Award and the 2017 Sphinx Medal of Excellence from the Sphinx Organization.

Aldo Ceccato

Aldo Ceccato (born 18 February 1934) is an Italian conductor.

Ceccato was born in Milan. He worked as assistant to Sergiu Celibidache and was music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1973 until 1977. Then, from 1976 until 1982, he was music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic. He was also music director of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 until 1990. He is the son-in-law of conductor Victor de Sabata and has made a recording of de Sabata's compositions for the Hyperion record label. In 1971, he recorded Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and Verdi's La traviata, both with Beverly Sills.

Ambrosian Singers

The Ambrosian Singers are one of the best-known London choral groups, particularly appreciated for its great variety of recorded repertory.

They were founded after World War II in England. One of their co-founders was Denis Stevens (1922–2004), a British musicologist and viola player who joined the BBC Music Department in 1949 and developed programs of Renaissance and early Baroque music. The other was John McCarthy (1919–2009), a professional tenor soloist.

They organised and created the Ambrosian Singers as a small professional chorus in 1951. Ambrosian Singers has participated in numerous Christmas albums, appeared in albums with such pop and rock artists as Neil Diamond, Grace Jones, Talk Talk, Julie Andrews, etc., and sung in several studio cast albums of Broadway musicals.

They have participated in various film soundtrack scores such as Brainstorm, Empire of the Sun, Krull, Chariots of Fire, Children of the stones and The Secret of NIMH, and in some albums of Italian films: Film Scores of Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota (conducted by Henry Mancini, collections of Miklos Rozsa scores, and original scores from MGM classic musicals. They did the introduction vocals for the song "Inside" by Stiltskin in 1994. They also were the chorus that sang Mozart's Requiem in the film Amadeus.

Americans for Medical Progress

Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) is a charity that aims to protect and advocate for society's investment in medical research. As a specific goal, AMP states that it promotes "public understanding of and support for the appropriate role of animals in biomedical research so that scientists are able to continue their quest for cures and improved methods of treatment for illness, injury and disease." Although in favor of moderate animal welfare measures, the AMP is often sharply critical of more radical animal rights groups such as PETA and the similarly named Americans For Medical Advancement.

AMP issues the Albert. B. Sabin Hero of Science Award to honor leading medical scientists and advocates of biomedical research. Past recipients have included Dr. Sabin himself, Nobel laureate Joseph E. Murray, vaccine designer Maurice Hilleman, and herceptin developer Dennis Slamon, as well as opera legend Beverly Sills, actress Barbara Barrie, and former U. S. Representatives John E. Porter and Patricia Schroeder for their support and advocacy of medical research.

In Spring 2008 the organization awarded Tom Holder, the spokesman for Pro-Test, the Michael D. Hayre fellowship in public outreach. This allowed Holder to move to the United States, and with the support of AMP, set up Speaking of Research a campus-oriented group supporting animal research with similar tactics to Pro-Test. In July 2009 AMP announced three new Hayre Fellows to work on local and national advocacy efforts.In April 2009 Americans for Medical Progress launched the Pro-Test Petition in conjunction with Speaking of Research and UCLA Pro-Test. According to Holder the petition offered the public "[an] opportunity to show [their] support for the scientists and [their] opposition to the use of threats and violence". This petition, to defend animal research, is similar to The People's Petition which gained over 20,000 signatures in the United Kingdom. The Pro-Test Petition has accumulated over 10,000 signatures to date.

Estelle Liebling

Estelle Liebling (April 21, 1880 – 1970) 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.

Estelle Liebling had been a pupil of Mathilde Marchesi and carried forth the Manuel Garcia Jr. (Manuel Patricio Rodríguez García) tradition.

Liebling had been a favored soprano of John Philip Sousa earlier in her career.

La Loca (opera)

La Loca (The Madwoman), also known as Juana la Loca (Crazy Joanna), is an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, composed in 1979. It is a romantic drama about the life of Joanna of Castille (1479–1555). It was written as a vehicle for soprano Beverly Sills and received its premiere on June 3, 1979, at the San Diego Opera, followed by the New York City Opera. Critical response was largely negative, so Menotti completely reworked it. The revised version premiered in 1982 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The American premiere of the revised version took place at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 1, 1984.

Lawrence Linderman

Lawrence Linderman is a writer who has written extensively for Playboy and Penthouse magazines. He also helped Beverly Sills pen her autobiography.His article "Undercover Angel" in the July, 1981 issue of Playboy was the basis for Larry Ferguson's screenplay for the movie Beyond the Law.

Le siège de Corinthe

Le siège de Corinthe (The Siege of Corinth) is an opera in three acts by Gioachino Rossini set to a French libretto by Luigi Balocchi and Alexandre Soumet, which was based on the reworking of some of the music from the composer's 1820 opera for Naples, Maometto II, the libretto of which was written by Cesare della Valle.

Le siège was Rossini's first French opera (known also in its Italian version as L'assedio di Corinto) and was first given at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opéra on 9 October 1826

Live from the Metropolitan Opera

Live from the Metropolitan Opera (or: Live from the Met) was an American television program that presented performances of complete operas from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network.

The program began in 1977 and was telecast live for its first few seasons. The first telecast, La Bohème, featured Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo and Renata Scotto as Mimì, with James Levine conducting; all three were interviewed during the intermission. Celebrated singers featured on Live from the Met included Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, Samuel Ramey, Renée Fleming, Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Renata Scotto, Leontyne Price, and Sherrill Milnes. During the intermissions of its live broadcasts, the program offered interviews and other features on opera topics; these segments were often up to a half-hour in length.

Live from the Met functioned as a supplement to the company's regular Saturday Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. During its first fifteen years the program was frequently simulcast, enabling some audiences to hear the opera in stereo via radio as well. Hosts included Tony Randall, Speight Jenkins, Alexander Scourby, and Garrick Utley. The announcer was Peter Allen.

In 1988 the program title was changed to The Metropolitan Opera Presents to reflect the fact that the performances were now taped prior to broadcast.The Metropolitan Opera Presents was replaced on PBS in 2007 by Great Performances at the Met. Operas aired in this series are repeats of the performances presented live on video in movie theaters in the Met's "Live in HD" series. Not all PBS affiliate stations may carry the program.

Michael Fabiano

Michael Fabiano (born 8 May 1984) is an American operatic tenor. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, he has performed in leading opera houses throughout the world, including the San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Canadian Opera Company, Teatro Real, and The Royal Opera among many others. Fabiano is the 2014 Richard Tucker Award winner and the 2014 Beverly Sills Artist Award winner, making him the first singer to win both awards in the same year.

Nadine Sierra

Nadine Sierra (born May 14, 1988) is an American soprano. She is most well known for her interpretation of Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, and Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Currently performing in leading roles in the top opera houses around the world, she received the 1st Prize and People's Choice Award 2013 at the Neue Stimmen competition, is the 2017 Richard Tucker Music Foundation Award Winner, and was awarded the Beverly Sills Artists Award in 2018. Her debut album on the Universal Music Group label, "There's a Place for Us," was released on August 24, 2018.

New York City Opera

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 (when it filed for bankruptcy), and again since 2016 when it was revived.

The opera company, dubbed "the people's opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943. The company's stated purpose was to make opera accessible to a wide audience at a reasonable ticket price. It also sought to produce an innovative choice of repertory, and provide a home for American singers and composers. The company was originally housed at the New York City Center theater on West 55th Street in Manhattan. It later became part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts at the New York State Theater from 1966 to 2010. During this time it produced autumn and spring seasons of opera in repertory, and maintained extensive education and outreach programs, offering arts-in-education programs to 4,000 students in over 30 schools. In 2011, the company left Lincoln Center due to financial difficulties and moved its offices to 75 Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. In the 2011−12 and 2012−13 seasons, NYCO performed four operas at various venues in New York City, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On October 1, 2013, following an unsuccessful emergency fund-raising campaign, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.In January 2016, a nonprofit group, NYCO Renaissance, revived the opera company under new management when its reorganization plans for the company to leave bankruptcy and re-launch performances were approved in bankruptcy court. The group, led at the time by Roy Niederhoffer, a hedge fund manager and former board member of the NYCO, announced plans to present a season of opera in 2016−17. The first opera was Puccini's Tosca, presented at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center in January 2016.During its 70-year-plus history, the NYCO has helped launch the careers of many great opera singers including Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Maralin Niska, Carol Vaness, José Carreras, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey, and Gianna Rolandi. Sills later served as the company's director from 1979 until 1989. More recent acclaimed American singers who have called NYCO home include David Daniels, Mark Delavan, Mary Dunleavy, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, Bejun Mehta, Robert Brubaker and Carl Tanner. NYCO has similarly championed the work of American composers; approximately one-third of its repertoire has traditionally been American opera. The company's American repertoire has ranged from established works (e.g., Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, and Leonard Bernstein's Candide) to new works (e.g., Thomas Pasatieri's Before Breakfast and Mark Adamo's Little Women). NYCO's commitment to the future of American opera was demonstrated in its annual series, Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab, in which operas-in-progress were showcased, giving composers a chance to hear their work performed by professional singers and orchestra. The company has also occasionally produced musicals and operettas, including works by Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert and Sullivan.

Nina Lawson

Nina Lawson (27 July 1926 – 9 September 2008) was a Scottish wigmaker who ran the Metropolitan Opera wig department from 1956 to 1987. She was responsible for cleaning up to 750 wigs a week in her early tenure, from every chorus member's wig to those of stars including Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, and Plácido Domingo.

Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company

The Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company was an American opera company located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that was active between 1958 and 1974. The company was led by a number of Artistic Directors during its history, beginning with Aurelio Fabiani. Other notable Artistic Directors include Julius Rudel and Anton Guadagno (1966–1972). The company produced between four and six of their own operas every year in addition to sponsoring numerous traveling productions from the New York City Opera. In 1975 the company merged with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company but retained its original name. With the combined resources of both companies, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company began producing higher quality productions with name artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Roberta Peters, Montserrat Caballé, and others. For the bicentennial year 1976, the company commissioned famed opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti to create a new opera. The work, The Hero, premiered on June 1, 1976. In 1980, the company artistically reorganized to form the Opera Company of Philadelphia.The company's first production, Giacomo Puccini's La bohème, was held on February 10, 1958 at the Academy of Music. The production starred Elaine Malbin as Mimì and John Alexander as Rodolfo. Although the company performed works from a variety of composers and musical periods, for the most part the company concentrated on Italian grand opera and verismo opera; particularly operas by Giuseppe Verdi and Puccini. The company notably presented the United States premiere of Renzo Rossellini's Uno sguardo dal ponte on October 17, 1967 with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni as Eddie Carbone and Gloria Lane as Beatrice.Many notable singers performed leading roles with the company including Luigi Alva, Carlo Bergonzi, Grace Bumbry, Montserrat Caballé, José Carreras, Elisabeth Carron, Richard Cassilly, Franco Corelli, Phyllis Curtin, Plácido Domingo, Simon Estes, Eileen Farrell, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda, Peter Glossop, Marilyn Horne, Alfredo Kraus, James King, Albert Lance, Leon Lishner, Catherine Malfitano, Robert Merrill, Sherrill Milnes, Anna Moffo, Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti, Roberta Peters, Leontyne Price, Louis Quilico, Samuel Ramey, Judith Raskin, Regina Resnik, Seymour Schwartzman, Renata Scotto, Cesare Siepi, Beverly Sills, Eleanor Steber, John Stewart, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Richard Tucker, Theodor Uppman, Cesare Valletti, Shirley Verrett, Camilla Williams, and Frances Yeend to name just a few. The final opera performance by the company was held on November 22, 1974. Another staging of La bohème, it starred Jean Fenn as Mimì and Luciano Rampaso as Rodolfo.

Roberto Devereux

Roberto Devereux (or Roberto Devereux, ossia Il conte di Essex [Robert Devereux, or the Earl of Essex]) is a tragedia lirica, or tragic opera, by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's tragedy Elisabeth d'Angleterre (1829), and based as well on the Historie secrete des amours d'Elisabeth et du comte d'Essex (1787) by Jacques Lescéne des Maisons, although Devereux was the subject of at least two other French plays: Le Comte d'Essex by Thomas Corneille and Le Comte d'Essex by Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède.

The opera is loosely based on the life of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, an influential member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The plot of Roberto Devereux was hardly original, mainly derived from Felice Romani's libretto Il Conte d'Essex of 1833, originally set by Saverio Mercadante. Romani's widow charged Cammarano with plagiarism, although the practice of stealing plots was very common between rival Italian opera houses.

It is one of a number of operas by Donizetti which deal with the Tudor period in English history and include Anna Bolena (named for Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn), Maria Stuarda (named for Mary, Queen of Scots) and Il castello di Kenilworth. The lead female characters of the operas Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Elisabetta are often referred to as the "Three Donizetti Queens." They earned some degree of fame in the 1970s, when the American soprano Beverly Sills promoted them as a series at New York City Opera.

It has been noted that, "although the plot plays fast and loose with history, the opera carries its own brand of dramatic conviction".

San Antonio Grand Opera Festival

The San Antonio Grand Opera Festival (sometimes referred to as the San Antonio Opera Festival or just the San Antonio Opera) was an annual opera festival presented by the San Antonio Symphony from 1945 to 1983.The festival presented four operas over two consecutive weekends each spring with leading international opera stars in the principal roles. Notable singers to have performed at the festival include Rose Bampton, Muriel Costa-Greenspon, Margaret Harshaw, Brenda Lewis, Mildred Miller, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Norman Treigle, Richard Tucker, and Frances Yeend among others. Initially the festival was housed at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium which sat 5,000 people, but in 1968 the festival moved to the newly built Theatre for the Performing Arts (which would later be renamed the Lila Cockrell Theatre).Conductor Max Reiter, who envisioned the festival, served as Artistic Director from 1945 until his death in 1950. Victor Alessandro then took the helm, and continued to run the festival successfully until his death in 1976. After the death of Alessandro, the festival floundered under the leadership of first François H. Huybrechts (1978–1980) and then Lawrence Leighton Smith (1980–1983). Facing financial losses, the San Antonio Symphony ceased presenting the festival after 1983.

San Diego Opera

The San Diego Opera Association (SDO) is a professional opera company located in the city of San Diego, California. It incorporated in 1965, presenting operas under the name of the San Diego Opera. It is a member of the professional association OPERA America, which ranked it among the top ten opera companies in the United States.

The company was founded in 1950 as the San Diego Opera Guild, originally to present traveling productions by San Francisco Opera in the San Diego area. SDO began to stage its own productions in 1965, its first one being La bohème. From the beginning, the company performed at the San Diego Civic Theatre in Downtown San Diego. Until the 2008 recession, it presented five operas each season; in 2008 this was reduced to four productions, scheduled from January to April.

In March 2014 the opera board announced that the 2014 season would be its last, but this decision was later rescinded by the company's board of directors, and a cut down version of the already planned 2015 season was announced, reducing the number of titles from four to three. David Bennett of the Gotham Chamber Opera was hired as general director.

Thaïs (opera)

Thaïs (French pronunciation: ​[]) is an opera, a comédie lyrique in three acts and seven tableaux, by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, based on the novel Thaïs by Anatole France. It was first performed at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on 16 March 1894, starring the American soprano Sibyl Sanderson, for whom Massenet had written the title role. The original production was directed by Alexandre Lapissida, with costumes designed by Charles Bianchini and sets by Marcel Jambon (act 1, scene 1; act 3) and Eugène Carpezat (act 1, scene 2; act 2). The opera was later revised by the composer and was premiered at the same opera house on 13 April 1898.

The work was first performed in Italy at the Teatro Lirico Internazionale in Milan on 17 October 1903 with Lina Cavalieri in the title role and Francesco Maria Bonini as Athanaël. In 1907, the role served as Mary Garden's American debut in New York in the U.S. premiere performance.

Thaïs takes place in Egypt under the rule of the Roman Empire, where a Cenobite monk, Athanaël, attempts to convert Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan and devotee of Venus, to Christianity, but discovers too late that his obsession with her is rooted in lust; while the courtesan's true purity of heart is revealed, so is the religious man's baser nature. The work is often described as bearing a sort of religious eroticism, and has had many controversial productions. Its famous Méditation, the entr'acte for violin and orchestra played between the scenes of act 2, is an oft-performed concert music piece; it has been arranged for many different instruments.

The role of Thaïs, similar to another Massenet heroine also written for Sibyl Sanderson, Esclarmonde, is notoriously difficult to sing and is reserved for only the most gifted of performers. Modern interpreters have included Carol Neblett, Anna Moffo, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, Renée Fleming, and Elizabeth Futral. Géori Boué was the first to record the opera, in 1952.

The Ballad of Baby Doe

The Ballad of Baby Doe is an opera by the American composer Douglas Moore that uses an English-language libretto by John Latouche. It is Moore's most famous opera and one of the few American operas to be in the standard repertory. Especially famous are the title heroine's five arias: "Letter Aria," "Willow Song," "I Knew it Was Wrong", "Gold is a Fine Thing", and "Always Through the Changing." Horace Tabor's "Warm as the Autumn Light" is also frequently heard. Distinguished sopranos who have portrayed Baby Doe include Beverly Sills (Moore's favorite interpreter of the role), Karan Armstrong, Faith Esham, and Elizabeth Futral.

The opera's premiere took place at the Central City Opera in Colorado in 1956. Hanya Holm and Edwin Levy directed the production, and sopranos Dolores Wilson and Leyna Gabriele alternated in the title role. The opera's New York premiere, directed by Vladimir Rosing, was presented at the New York City Opera in 1958 in a revised version which added the gambling scene in Act 2 and an additional aria for Baby Doe. At the time, further revisions were being considered, but these were abandoned upon the sudden death of Latouche.

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