Beverly Sills

Beverly Sills
Wyatt Counts / Associated Press


Beverly Sills
Music: East side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Opera Singer
Born Belle Silverman on May 25, 1929 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Died July 2, 2007 of lung cancer in New York, NY

Beverly Sills' sparkling coloratura soprano and warm, spunky personality made her an international opera celebrity.

Dubbed "America's Queen of Opera" by Time magazine, the Brooklyn-born Sills, widely known as "Bubbles," was an American success story. She rose to stardom without receiving what was considered mandatory — training in Europe. Moreover, she made her career essentially outside the sacred portals of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, paving the way for generations of wholly American-trained singers to succeed in the field without Met certification.

Her repertoire eventually encompassed more than 70 roles, and she recorded 18 full-length operas and several solo recital discs. Her "Manon" received the Edison Award for best operatic album of 1971, and her Victor Herbert album won a Grammy Award in 1978.

After she retired from the stage at 50, she spent a decade as an exceptionally capable administrator of New York City Opera, turning around the financially beleaguered company that gave her a career and to which she remained faithful as her reputation soared. Later, she assumed the volunteer post of chairman of Lincoln Center in New York City, which she held from 1994 to 2002, and then accepted the volunteer post of chairman of the Metropolitan Opera. In both positions, she proved a master fundraiser.

Sills also starred in several operas broadcast on television, including "The Daughter of the Regiment," "The Barber of Seville," "La Traviata" and "Manon." She costarred with Carol Burnett in a TV special, "Sills and Burnett at the Met," and hosted and appeared on "The Tonight Show" numerous times. She won four Emmys for her interview show, "Lifestyles With Beverly Sills," which ran twice weekly on NBC over a two-year period in the late '70s.

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