everly Sills began life as Belle
Silverman, one of three children of
Russian-Jewish immigrant parents.
At the age of three, she adopted
the stage name "Bubbles" to launch
her singing career as a child star on
a local radio show in Brooklyn, New
Within ten years, she was studying
voice under Estelle Liebling and
piano with Paolo Gallico and
French and Italian
Graduating from the Professional Children's School in 1945, Miss
Sills plunged into the American musical world
of national touring
companies. She sang everything from Gilbert and Sullivan to Bizet
in a succession of
brief engagements and one-night stands that
required exhaustive repertory and made severe demands on
versatility and stamina. This apprenticeship provided her the
experience that eventually brought her star billing at
the New York
City Opera. Sills joined the opera house in 1955. While there, she
sang almost 90 roles during
She retired from the stage in 1980, but she continued to delight
operatic audiences as impressario of the
New York company.
Her performance as general director earned Miss Sills a reputation
as a dynamo in the world of the performing arts.
She was as much
admired for her drive, devotion and hard business head as for her
voice. She attracted
financial support and fans by re-molding the
image of the New York City Opera as an experimental company
to stage new operas and revive and revise unfamiliar but
For all the dazzle of Beverly Sills' career on stage, her life had its
share of heartache. In 1956, she met and
Greenough. Their two children, Muffy and Bucky, were born with
Miss Sills confronted her situation with characteristic courage and
the determination to attain as much independence
for her children
as they could possibly achieve. She and her husband became
active members of the March of Dimes.
"We both felt that it was probably one of the few subjects we could
talk about with total authority, having lived
through the problems
of birth defects," she said. "The March of Dimes being the only organization to have conquered
its problem - of polio - moved on
to the problem of birth defects. We thought we could make a
contribution even if we helped one other couple who was
in a similar situation to ours, at least they wouldn't feel
Beverly Sills received many prestigious awards, including the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, and, in 1985,
the Kennedy Center
Honors Award for her lasting contribution to the performing arts.
Her friend, comedienne
Carol Burnett, praised the opera star
during the celebration.
"She made opera come alive with character, drama, and humor," Burnett said. "And she taught a new audience
to love an old art
form and along the way, we all fell in love with her."
Sills appeared contented for many years in her role off-stage,
where her wit, warmth, and ready smile
blended compatibly with
her inner drive to succeed. Her performance, both before the
footlights and backstage,
gave America's public reason to shout "Brava!" Beverly Sills, dead at 78.