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Sills, Beverly

SILLS, BEVERLY

SILLS, BEVERLY (née Belle Silverman ; 1929– ), U.S. soprano singer. Born in New York City, Sills made her first public appearance as "Bubbles," becoming a child radio star at the age of three; at six she was singing coloratura soprano arias on "Major Bowes' Capital Family Hour." Giving up radio at the age of 12, she began piano lessons with Paolo Gallico and studied singing with Estelle Liebling (the teacher of Galli-Curci). She made her début in opera in 1947 with the Philadelphia Civic Opera (Micaëla in Carmen). After joining the New York City Opera Company in 1955, she first sang the part of Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus; among many other parts, she created the title role in Carlisle Floyd's The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956). In 1961, she retired to care for her deaf child, but in 1965 was persuaded by Julius *Rudel, director of the company, to return to the stage in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann in which she sang all three soprano roles. In 1966, during the opening season at the Company's new Lincoln Center opera house, she was a much-praised Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare; and her playing the title role in Massenet's Manon in 1968 led several critics to hail her performance, as well as the entire production, as the best in New York since World War ii. Sills appeared at most of the major American and world opera houses, including the Vienna State Opera (1967); the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in Rossini's seldom performed L'Assedio di Corinto (1969); the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in Lucia di Lammermoor (1970); and the Teatro la Fenice, Venice, as Violetta in La Traviata (1972). In all these roles, audiences admired her coloratura technique if not always a perfect steadiness or sweetness of voice, and she was an excellent actress with a warm stage personality. Sills announced that she would retire from opera on attaining the age of 50, and after fulfilling an assignment to sing at the world premiere of Menotti's Juana La Loca in San Diego in May 1978, she was appointed general director of the New York City Opera (1979–89). In June 1980 she was awarded the Freedom Medal by President Carter and in October that year gave her farewell performance. Sills published an autobiography (1987) and became chairperson of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (1993).

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