Beverly Sills was one of the greatest sopranos of her time and she became an American icon, not only for her singing but also for her outreach and her work promoting young upcoming singers. While she died 10 years ago, her voice still lives on and in celebration of her birth on May 25, OperaWire takes a look at why Sills should be admired and why we all love the “bubbles.”
A Great Singing Actress
Sills was a great coloratura soprano who could reach some of the flashiest notes in the voice and could also dispatch coloratura without any issues. But it went beyond that. Sills cared about the text, parola scenica, and wanted to create the most dynamic characters she possibly could. That meant sometimes choosing roles that were a bit more dramatic. Take for insistence, the role of Giorgetta in “Il Tabarro” or even “Tosca.” No one would ever expect this of a coloratura soprano. But Sills knew that in order to be a complete artist she had to give it her all and later on she commented and said that taking on some roles like “Roberto Devereux” shortened her career.
Sills was not only an opera singer but also an avid business woman who went on to become the general manager of the New York City Opera, where she was the star for many years. During her time as general director, Sills turn around what was then a financially struggling opera company into a viable enterprise.
She was also devoted to helping the arts and worked with many fundraisers. She was also the chairwoman of Lincoln Center and served as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera, where she had been a board member since 1991. She also supervised the appointment of Peter Gelb.
A Great Host
There was a reason she was known as “Bubbles.” Sills had a wonderful personality that allowed her to host numerous television specials and opera interviews. She hosted the Live in HD of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and sat down with young singers to interview them about their roles. She not only created a wonderful environment but she was insightful and incredibly knowledgeable about each artist.
Opera in Pop Culture
Opera is going through a transition that is a bit concerning for some companies because audiences are not showing and are, in many cases, showing general disinterest. They are all probably wishing Sills was still around.
She was an expert at popularizing opera. She appeared on talk shows including Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, David Frost, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore. She also hosted her own talk show, “Lifestyles with Beverly Sills,” which ran on Sunday mornings on NBC for two years and also appeared on “The Muppet Show.” She turned the word Diva upside down and created an image of an approachable and down-to-earth woman.