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Beverly Sills, 1929-2007 July 3, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Beverly Sills, In memoriam, Opera, Theater.

Beverly Sills cover of <i>Time</i> Magazine, November 22, 1971

My dad never believed it.

It didn’t matter how many times we argued the point, how many books and magazine articles I showed him about her. He could never accept that an opera singer as good as Beverly Sills had never been trained in Europe.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Sills blazed a trail — the first great American opera singer who didn’t have to cross the Atlantic to become a world-class star. In fact, she didn’t even have to cross the courtyard of Lincoln Center — she acquired her well-earned reputation at the New York City Opera while Rudolf Bing and the Eurocentric snobs at the Met looked down on “Bubbles” Silverman from Brooklyn, who made her European debut at the age of thirty-six.

The third live opera performance I ever saw — and the first not at the Met — was the only time I ever saw her live. It’s still my favorite of her roles, as Marie in Donizetti’s comic opera La Fille du Regiment. This February 13, 1970 performance at the American Opera Society in New York was her debut in the role. Courtesy of Parterre Box.

Act I:

Act II:

In 1974, a few months before she finally debuted at the Met, she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time, but she beat it. I had heard a week ago she was in the hospital and that her condition was terminal, but that doesn’t lessen the shock. She was, quite simply, the #1 reason I became an opera queen. We will never see her like again.

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

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