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'America's Queen of Opera' - Time magazine, 1971
Born Belle Miriam Silverman on 25 May 1929 in New York to emigrants from Romania and Russia, the American coloratura soprano and arts administrator Beverly Sills spoke five languages as a child, and performed professionally on the radio programme Rainbow House from the age of four!
Sills made her professional stage début in 1945 with a G&S touring company, and her operatic stage début in 1947 with Philadelphia Civic Opera. She became well-known for her coloratura soprano roles in the 1960s and 70s. It was her role as Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare for New York City Opera in 1966 which began her international career. In 1969 she appeared at La Scala Milan as Pamira in The Siege of Corinth and as Zerbinetta in the American première of Ariadne auf Naxos with the Boston Symphony. The following year she made her Covent Garden début in Lucia di Lammermoor, but she had to wait another five years for her (official) Metropolitan Opera début, which was in The Siege of Corinth.
She retired from singing in 1980 and pursued a career as an arts administrator - as general manager of New York City Opera, and then chairman of first the Lincoln Center and then the Metropolitan Opera. She was also successful as a TV personality (including frequent appearances on The Muppet Show!), and as a charity worker, helping to prevent and treat birth defects.
Beverly Sills died in New York on 2 July 2007 aged 78.
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