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Beverly Sills Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (15) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 25 May 1929Brooklyn, New York, USA
Date of Death 2 July 2007New York City, New York, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameBelle Miriam Silverman
Nickname Bubbles
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

This vibrant, fine-humored coloratura was able to accomplish what most others of her ilk could or would not do -- she humanized opera and made it approachable to the masses. There were no diva-like traits in this star and the public absolutely adored her for it. Dubbed "America's Queen of Opera" in 1971 by Time magazine, Beverly Sills, the lovely blonde with the toothy smile and fireplace-warm personality, also gained notice for her rise to stardom without benefit of European training, eventually paving the way for other American-trained singers to succeed without the accustomed "Met certification". During her career she recorded 18 full-length operas as well as numerous recital discs. A Victor Herbert album she recorded won a Grammy Award in 1978. If not one of its most distinctive and charismatic voices, she certainly became opera's most accessible figurehead and with it enticed a surprisingly wide audience who would have typically turned away from the long-haired art form.

Brooklyn-born Belle Miriam Silverman arrived on May 25, 1929, to Russian-Jewish émigrés and the good humor already started at birth when she was nicknamed "Bubbles" due to bubbles emanating from her mouth as she arrived. At age 3 she made her debut on a kiddie show and won a Brooklyn "beautiful baby" contest as well. Her singing gifts were detected early on and she began to study at age 7. Performing increasingly on various radio shows well into her teen years, she made her operatic debut at age 18 singing the role of Frasquita in "Carmen" with the Philadelphia Civic Opera.

In the early 1950s Beverly toured with the Charles L. Wagner Opera Company and established herself in the roles of Violetta in "La Traviata" and Micaela in "Carmen". The highlight during this time came with her role as Helen of Troy in "Mephistopheles" with the San Francisco Opera in 1953. She met future husband Peter Greenough, an associate editor, while touring with the New York City Opera in 1955 (she had auditioned unsuccessfully for the company for nearly 4 years). The couple married a year later and went on to have two children: Meredith and Peter Jr. Despite her sunny, optimistic demeanor, Beverly had her fair share of misfortune. Her daughter was born deaf and son born autistic. For the remainder of her life she became an avid spokesperson for children with particular needs.

Her buildup on the opera scene was surprisingly gradual. Over the years she developed a strong repertoire of leading roles in the works of Mozart, Handel, Offenbach, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi. Stardom came with the role of Cleopatra in Handel's "Julius Caesar" in 1966 at Lincoln Center, and she confirmed it with subsequent roles in "Le Coq d'Or, "Mamon", "Lucia di Lammermoor" "The Siege of Corinth" and "Il Trittico".

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she made herself available to the public in lighter forums at such open venues as the Hollywood Bowl. She willingly shared both the stage and small screen with such unlikely co-stars as Carol Burnett ("Sills and Burnett at the Met"), Danny Kaye, John Denver, Tony Bennett, Johnny Carson and even the Muppets. She won four Emmys for her interview show "Lifestyles with Beverly Sills" in the late 70s. On the operatic side, some of her televised performances included that of "The Barber of Seville", "La Traviata" and "Manon".

Beverly's lyric soprano began to falter at around age 50 in the late 1970s. She bid her audiences adieu in a 1980 performance of "Die Fledermaus" with Joan Sutherland for the San Diego Opera. Later that decade she was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 and was paid tribute at the 1985 Kennedy Center Honors for her lifetime of contribution to the arts.

In later years Beverly worked behind the scenes after taking over the mismanaged City Opera Company and turning things around as its general director. She retired successfully from that leadership post in 1989 and five years later became chairman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Retiring in 2002, she took over the chair for the Metropoliatan Opera itself until 2005 due to family obligations and health issues. Her husband Peter died in September of 2006; ten months later Beverly would follow.

(Obviously) a non-smoker all her life, Beverly nevertheless developed lung cancer. Her father had died of the same disease back in 1947. She died on July 2, 2007 at her Manhattan residence. Her two children and one grandchild survive.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Peter Greenough (17 November 1956 - 6 September 2006) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (15)

She retired from performing at the age of 50, with an appearance in Menotti's La Loca, and accepted the position of General Manager of the New York City Opera. In 1991, she joined the board of the Metropolitan Opera, and four years later became head of New York's Lincoln Center.
Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
Her professional debut at the age of three was as Bubbles Silverman on the Uncle Bob's Rainbow House radio show.
Acclaimed soprano.
The first woman General Director and then President of the New York City Opera.
She was the first woman chair of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (1993).
A member of the New York City Opera from 1955 to 1980.
Is deeply involved with fund raising for research into curing multiple sclerosis, as her daughter, Muffy, is afflicted with the disease.
Close friend of Barbara Walters and Carol Burnett.
She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1990 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C.
Critically ill with cancer [June 28, 2007].
Her son is autistic, and her daughter has MS.
Never smoked.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1750 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
Upon her death, her remains were interred at Sharon Gardens Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York. Her location plot is Memory Garden 3, Lot 320, Grave 1.

Personal Quotes (4)

It was never part of my plan to retire as a prima donna. I never thought the day I stopped singing would be the day I stopped working. - 2000 interview
One of the things that separates the two-legged creatures from the four-legged ones is compassion. - 2005 benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
On ambition: I've always tried to go a step past wherever people expected me to end up.
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

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