Beverly Sills - From First note to last

music room -
ten best for beginners

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Because the many hours of audio clips on this website might be overwhelming to the Sills newcomer, we have asked John Carroll, creator of the web sites Vinyl Divas and found of the Yahoo Group Coloratura, to suggest ten clips that will give the listener a quick introduction to what makes Sills unique.

I've admired Sills with devotion for over 25 years. I just missed out on hearing her sing live, so as great as most of her studio recordings are, I'm often drawn to live material, especially music that she did not record commercially, which accounts for 8 of these 10 selections.
- John Carroll, August 2006

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Dec. 28, 1967; - Cleveland
"Myself I shall Adore” - Handel's "Semele"

Impeccable coloratura filigree that dazzles and astounds, partly due to the uncanny feeling that she is making these surreal embellishments up on the spot.

From the same performance, I have to mention her beguiling rendition of the short aria "O jove in pity teach me" with a jaw-dropping interpolated high D.)

Feb. 13, 1970; - Carnegie Hall
"Il faut partir” - Donizetti's "La Fille du Régiment"

In the middle of this delightful comedy where Sills shines at every moment, she somehow manages to suspend time in this sweet aria of hushed melancholy. She sustains the most beautiful melodic line imaginable with a light, evocative touch. How many beats does your heart skip when she sails up to her distinct high variation in the coda?

Jan. 07, 1969; - Boston
"Großmächtige Prinzessin” - R. Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos"

Sills' effortless dance on this vocal tightrope is legendary. She cuts the two high F-sharps, but still leaves us with the definitive performance of this gravity-defying coloratura circus act.

Sept. 16, 1971; - Washington, DC
"Il mio crudel martoro” - Handel's "Ariodante"

You can hear her voice has matured ever so slightly, in all the right ways. A royal display of elegant, poised, highly personal baroque singing.

Oct. 26, 1970; - Chicago
"The Nightingale and the Rose" (Saint-Saens),
"The Rose Captivates the Nightingale" (Rimsky-Korsakoff),
"The Maja and the Nightingale" (Granados)

In this piano recital, Sills delivers a group of old-fashioned bird songs that soars miles above anyone's preconceived notions of twittering, trilling coloratura ditties.

Oct. 03, 1970; - New York
"Sillsiana pastiche ” - International Piano Guild Gala

Sills' infectious sense of humor and self-satire on full display. The laughter in the audience is audible, the smiles palpable.

Date and venue not yet determined
"Tales of the Vienna Woods waltz” - J. Strauss, Op.325

As with the Chicago bird songs, Sills elevates the old staple of the florid Strauss waltz to new artistic heights. This is one of her most charming performances, imbued with an uncanny sense of elegance and style (and chock full of high suspensions).

May 14, 1969; - Carnegie Hall
"O beau pays” - Meyerbeer's "Les Huguenots"

This dynamite live version of an aria Sills recorded commercially in the studio keeps you on the edge of your seat. It contains one of the only live mistakes she ever made (a small, barely noticeable glitch at the top of a run that catches slightly and falls short of pitch), which makes it even that much more fascinating. The crowd goes insane at the end.

Jan. 22, 1971; - Paris Concert
"Ruhe sanft” - Mozart's "Zaide"

Sills had such affinity with this aria. It is a phenomenal display of her ability to use impossible breath control to stop time and weave a Mozartian spell.

1962; - American Musical Theater series, WCBS-TV Broadcast
"Willow Song” - Moore's "The Ballad of Baby Doe"

Sills owned the role and this aria is the epitome of why. Her earlier studio recording is superb, but this rare live performance from 1962 amazes. As the host Earl Wrightson asks after she tosses this off: "How do you DO that?" It's the question that keeps us coming back for more and more, over and over again.

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Total time = 1hr 20 minutes
Total files = 12