Beverly Sills - From First note to last

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rarities selections

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These are live vocal selections by Beverly Sills which fall outside the formal opera and concert stage categories. They include early radio appearances, one-time gala performances and other unusual items. To listen to these excerpts, click the play button on the music player


August 1937 - (released in June 1938)
Arditi: Il bacio - "Uncle Sol Solves It"
(short film from Twentieth-Century Fox)

At age eight, Sills apepared in this short film, playing a precocious singer whose family has various ideas about where she should study voice. They take her to sing for Uncle Sol in his "Problem Court." He decides, after her perky rendition of the Arditi classic, that she should study in America.

November 19,1939 -
Major Bowes Capitol Family Hour
broadcast from the Capitol Theater Building in New York City:
Verdi: Rigoletto - "Caro Nome" with Waldo Mayo & the Capitol Radio Orchestra/

After winning the Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour contest on October 26, 1939, Bowes invited Sills to appear on his other radio program, The Capitol Family Hour, three weeks later. She sang the same aria, "Caro nome," as she did on the Amateur Hour, but this time with orchestra instead of piano.

(To hear the Major Bowes interview that precedes this aria, click here. The complete transcript of this interview can be found here)

July 09, 1946 -
Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (radio) - contestant

Sills, appearing as Vicki Lynn, sings "Romany Life" from Victor Herbert's "Fortune Teller." Sills had to sing under a pseudonymn because she was under contract to J. J. Schubert for a Gilbert and Sullivan tour. Schubert did not want Godfrey to be able to say he had discovered "Beverly Sills" if she won the contest (she didn't).

1947 -
Liebling Singers

This group, made up of young singers taught by Estelle Liebling, went out on tour in 1947 and 1948, mostly to small towns in the mid-West. Baritone Garfield Swift often joined them. The two selections below were often featured on the group's programs. ( Recordings courtesy of Ted Swift, Garfield's son - exact date and place of recordings are unknown)

4. Donizetti: Don Pasquale - "Vado, corro" - with Garfield Swift
5. Bizet: Carmen -"Chanson bohème" - Liebling Singers with Garfield Swift - (Sills does not have a solo line but can be heard on the highest vocal line ("Frasquita") in the ensemble sections).

January 30,1955 -
Opera Cameo - Bizet's "Les Pêcheurs de Perles" - audio from the complete telecast on the Dumont TV Network

Léïla - Beverly Sills; Nadir -Gabor Carelli; Zurga - Martial Singher
Giuseppe Bamboschek, conductor.
Excerpts included:

"Dans le ciel sans voile.Ah, chante encore" - Léïla & Nadir
"Léïla! Léïla! Dieu puissant.Ton Coeur n'a pas compris" - Nadir & Léïla
"Je frémis, je chancelle" - Léïla & Zurga
"Ô lumière sainte" - Léïla, Nadir & Zurga

March 03,1955 -
Opera Cameo - Verdi's "La Traviata" - -audio from the complete telecast on the Dumont TV Network

Violetta - Beverly Sills; Alfredo - Paul Knowles; Germont - Ettore Bastianini Giuseppe Bamboschek, conductor.
Excerpts included:
"Un de felice"
" Follie! follie! ... Sempre libera"
"Madamigella Vale'ry? Son io"
"Ah! dite alla giovine"
"Ed ora si scriva a lui"

April 26,1959 -
Hugo Weisgall's "Six Characters in Search of an Author"
New York City, New York

The Coloratura - Beverly Sills; The Accompanist - Craig Timberlake; The Director - Ernest McChesney Sylvan Levin, conductor

8. "Good afternoon, miss. Good afternoon, sir."

9. "Help me on this scene"

June 17,1967 -
10. Caramoor Festival - Debussy's "L'Enfant Prodigue"

Lia -Beverly Sills; Azaël - Stanley Kolk; Simeon - William Metcalf
Julius Rudel, conductor.
Excerpts included:
"A chaque saison ramenée" - Lia
"Je m'en fuis de mes pleurs.Heure fortunée!" - Lia & Azaël
"Du côte du village.Gloire à toi, Seigneur!" - Lia, Azaël & Simeon

August 24, 1969 -
Beethoven Ninth Symphony - "Last Movement" -
Tangelwood, Massachusetts

Sills is accompanied by Florence Kopleff, John Alexander, Justino Diaz with Erich Leinsdorf, conducting.

October 03,1970 -
International Piano Library Gala Benefit -
Hunter College Auditorium, New York City: "Sillsiana"

For this concert, which was to raise funds for the IPL, an archive of recorded piano performances, Sills performed a humorous pastiche of operatic arias associated with Sills' career. It was put together by her long-time collaborator and ornamentation specialist, Roland Gagnon, who accompanied her for this performance.

April 18, 1971 -
New York City, Philharmonic Hall recital
Charles Wadsworth, acc.-

Portuguese Folk Song, titled "Tell Me Why" that Sills always used as an encore for her recitals. It was given to her at age 10 by her long-time and only teacher, Estelle Liebling.

(For the special version of this song that Sills sang at the end of her Farewell Gala at New York City Opera, see below at Oct. 27, 1980)

November 15, 1971 -
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson -
in the comic operetta - "Who?"

Sills joins Johnny Carson in a parody of the 1930's Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald movies. Sills and Carson sing "Who Stole My Heart Away?"

(Note: The original videotape of this program was not saved, according to the Johnny Carson production company. This audio and the few photos in Sills' two autobiographies are the only pieces left of the program.)

March 23,1973 -
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson -
Jerome Kern - "All the Things You Are"

This is the first of two performances of this song on the Tonight Show (the other was on September 16, 1976). Sills rarely had a chance to sing popular songs, which she did not program in recital or record. She used TV talk shows, including those hosted by Dinah Shore, Merv Griffith and Mike Douglas, to sing lighter fare.

December 10,1978 -
Cleveland Orchestra with Lorin Maazel -
60th Anniversary Celebration: "Happy Birthday Parody"

Maazel, at the piano plays Happy Birthday in the manner of Beethoven, then violinist Issac Stern plays a concerto cadenza parody , then Sills sings the lyrics of "Happy Birthday" to "Sempre Libera."

October 28, 1979 -
Frank Sinatra Concert at the Metropolitan Opera -
Benefit for Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Cultural Symphony Sills and Robert Merrill join Sinatra for a number from a "new opera" - "Guys and Dolls."

October 27, 1980 -
New York City Opera Gala Farewell

Sills fittingly ends her last public vocal performance by singing the Portuguese Folk Song, titled "Tell Me Why" that Estelle Liebling, her only voice teacher, gave her when she was ten. As a tribute to Liebling, Sills ended every recital with this song. Her long-time accompanist, Charles Wadsworth, plays for this final, moving performance.

(Note: Although Sills did not mention it in her introduction, the lyrics for the folk song were completely rewritten for this farewell performance. Click here for the complete text of the rewritten lyrics (as heard in this audio clip) and the usual lyrics that Sills sang on all other previous recitals (which can be heard in the clip above dated April 18, 1971).

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Total time = 2hr 07 minutes
Total files = 18