Sills Selections for Newcomers

There are hundreds of recordings of Beverly Sills on YouTube, often duplicated by different uploaders in varying sound qualities. The YouTube audios and videos below are great examples of Sills’ artistry, in good sound, and selected especially for those new to her many talents.

NOTE: Because of the ephemeral nature of YouTube uploads, these listings may change over time. If any links are not functioning when you click on them, please let us know through the contact form.


This melody, known to many as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” is actually a 1761 French tune, “Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman.” Wolfgang Mozart arranged it in twelve variations for keyboard, which, in turn, was arranged for an operatic showpiece by Adolphe Adam. Listen to the freedom with which Sills executes complicated ornamentation and blazing-fast runs. You’ll never think of this music in the same way again. (Recorded in 1972 for the album, “Beverly Sills in Concert”)

Here’s the lovely, lilting “Vilja” from Lehàr’s “The Merry Widow.” Listen for the warmth in Sills’ vocalizing and for the breathtaking final high note. (Recorded in 1971 for the album, “Welcome to Vienna”)



In Gustave Charpentier’s opera “Louise,” the title character sings of her joy being in love. Hear how Sills imbues the aria, “Depuis le jour,” with a palpable combination of dreaminess and ecstasy. (Recorded in 1969 for the album, “Scenes and Arias from French Opera”)

In the American opera, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” by Douglas Moore, the title character has just arrived in a Colorado mining town to start a new life. She sits at a piano in her hotel’s lobby and sings “Willow, where we met together,” about being parted forever from a former lover. Listen how Sills fills her voice with wistful sadness and regret. And be prepared to experience a gripping high D in the final measures of the piece. (Recorded in 1959 for the complete opera)



Sills always conveyed a deep-seated joy in performing, no matter what the mood and message of the music. Although that quality comes through even in audio recordings, seeing her perform makes it irresistible. Happily there are videos of her singing to easily prove the point. Here are two examples, one in concert and one in staged opera.

Sills had a signature aria which she sang often in recitals and concerts. In Gaetano Donizetti’s “Linda di Chamounix,” the title character sings “O luce di quest’anima,” describing her beloved as the light of her soul. Sills also had a signature “bounce” in such numbers, as you’ll see here. (Video from the Ed Sullivan Show in May 1969)

One of the operas Sills sang most was Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” Violetta, a Parisian courtesan who enjoys the freedom to go from lover to lover, has just met a young man at her party who touches her heart. She wonders if she is in love, but then rejects the notion with the brilliant aria, “Sempre libera.” (Video from the production at Wolf Trap Farm Park, August 1976)


Sources for Photos of Beverly Sills

The vast resources available through the Internet now provide thousands of Sills photos, making it unnecessary to take the space and effort to duplicate them here. Below are links to several sources that should satisfy most searches for a Sills photo, from professional to casual, formal to candid, costumed to couturier-designed.

A motherload of Sills photos exists in this company’s vast collection. There are over 1,000 photos of every type and time period. Just type in her name in the big search window.

This wide-ranging search tool brings in hundreds of Sills photos, not only the expected costumed and casual photos of her, but also of LP & CD covers, posters, programs, newspaper and magazine articles, and drawings. The photos originate on other web pages, which Google conveniently assembles in one place. Clicking on each photo will take you to the website on which the photo was found.

A company similar to Getty Images, with approximately 750 photos of Sills, some from her singing career years but the majority from the 1980s to the 2000s, many of which are candid shots at various functions and ceremonies. NOTE: Use the link below to access the “Editorial Image” section of Shutterstock where the 750 photos reside (they appear on multiple pages – just kept clicking “Next”). If you use the general search window on the company’s home page, only about 10 photos show up.

This company is similar to Getty Images, with a smaller, but nicely varied collection of more than 100 Sills photos.

Additional Live Recordings Sources

In addition to several official live recordings and the handful of unofficial live recordings issued on commercial CDs, there are many more live recordings available with Sills in operas, concerts, recitals, and radio/TV appearances. These are too numerous to list separately here (over 200 separate performances in opera; more that 60 in concerts and recitals), but you can find confirmation of these existing live performances in the “Recordings” column of the Performance Annals on this website.

There’s a small group of online-only companies that supply live opera performances, including quite a lot with Sills. These recordings are not official or formally licensed. These companies complete their orders on demand, issuing them either on CDs or in digital files for downloading


The three companies below supply nicely packaged CDs, with printed labels and inserts, with reliably good sound quality.


This company currently has about 2 dozen live Sills performances, including some rare ones in “Aida,” “Hippolyte et Aricie” and “Lucrezia Borgia.” When searching, use only “Sills” to get the most results, due to inconsistent cast tagging).


NOTE: This is an Italian company (prices are in Euros) and is not to be confused with Premiere Opera in the U.S. (see the separate listing further below for that U.S. company)

St-Laurent Studio:

This Canada-based company offers a range of classical music and opera based mostly around conductors. Currently, they offer four recordings with Sills. However, for some reason, the search function doesn’t search on vocal soloists. It’s best to use the catalog number in the listings below to find the Sills recordings on the site:

  1. YSL 0453 T – Haydn: Mass No. 13 (“Creation”) – Boston, Feb. 23, 1967 Leinsdorf/ Sills, Domingo, Wolff, Berberian
  2. YSL 0270 T – Mozart: Don Giovanni – Boston, Feb. 21, 1966 Calwell/ Sills, Gramm, Dooley
  3. YSL 0739 T – Schumann: Scenes From Goethe’s Faust – Boston, Feb. 25, 1966 Leinsdorf/ Sills, Bressler/Prey/Troyanos
  4. YSL 0412 T – R. Strauss – Finale Scene from “Daphne” – Boston, Feb. 24, 1967 Leinsdorf/ Sills


The two companies below have been much longer established and both have the largest selections of Sills live recordings. They sell their recordings “as is,” because the original sources can range from radio broadcasts and “house” recordings by opera companies to recordings made privately from the audience. The sound quality can vary from excellent to poor, which these companies do not attempt to enhance or upgrade. Their prices are low, and, accordingly, their products are more minimally produced. Each has a reputation for lengthy shipping times (can be a number of weeks) and the catalog listings are brief and imprecise, sometimes listing the same performance separately with different catalog numbers. Our Performance Annals can be useful in confirming more specific information about their listings.

Opera Vault (formerly Premiere Opera Intl.): (entering converts to this URL)

(NOTE: As of October 2023, Premiere Opera Intl. has rebranded as Opera Vault.) In order to search for performances, one much sign up for a free account. Currently there are over 100 Sills listings for audio and 40 for video. Because of the brief cataloging texts, search only on the last name Sills – do not use the full name Beverly Sills because that reduces the number of hits by 2/3.

Opera Passion (House of Opera):

Many of the performances offered here are duplicated at Premiere Opera (U.S.) and are from the same sources. NOTE: Oddly, the best search term for using Opera Passion is the whole name Beverly Sills, which brings up just over 100 performances. However, the same performances on CD and MP3 downloads are cataloged separately, making it seem as though there are more individual performances than there actually are. Use the “Categories” drop-down menu to find performances only on CDs, DVDs or MP3s.


Other Sources:

eBay: Live recordings with Sills regularly show up for auction or “Buy Now” from collectors and vendors. It’s best to activate an eBay “Saved Search” alert that will send you an email when any new Sills item appears, but directly checking every so often can usually turn up desirable performances.

Berkshire Record Outlet:

A long-established source for overstock and out-of-print recordings, usually including a few Sills titles (official and unofficial) at very good prices. It’s worth regularly checking because new stock being added, as well as the re-stocking of previously offered titles, mean different results with each search.

Facebook Page: The Beverly Sills Crazies

Despite the lighthearted name, this Facebook group is seriously devoted to all things Sills. It counts among its members those who were her colleagues on stage, family, close friends, artists involved with all aspects of opera, memorabilia collectors and, of course, fans, many of whom witnessed Sills artistry in live performances. The moderator runs a tight ship to ensure there is always respect for Sills and to keep the postings focused on her. This page is listed here because Sills’ recordings, including the live ones, are constantly being discussed, often with information about where recordings can be acquired.



Unofficial Live Recordings on Commercial CDs

Before streaming music became the norm, a number of companies (mostly from Italy and other European countries) issued CDs of live performances by Sills. These were not sanctioned or licensed but were usually issued based on the shorter copyright laws in those countries. They usually had good-to-great sound and represented many of Sills’ best performances. These were made with commercial grade CDs, booklets and cases, and were sold in CD stores. They are now all out-of-print but often can be found on Amazon, eBay, and other online CD sellers, as well as in second-hand CD stores. Below are the known CD sets issued in this manner (there are online-only companies that sell digital downloads and/or on-demand CDs of these same performances, which will be listed in a separate menu choice).


I Puritani – January 18, 1972 – Philadelphia Lyric Opera, Academy of Music

Legato Classics LCD 176-2



La Fille du Régiment – Feb. 13, 1970 – American Opera Society, Carnegie Hall

Legato Classics LCD-238 (2 CDs) issued 1998 (note: transferred from private LPs, not original tape, resulting in some clicks and pops on the recording)

Opera D’Oro OPD-1275 issued 2000 (performance year is incorrect on the back cover)


Lucia di Lammermoor – November 3, 1970 – Philadelphia Lyric Opera, Academy of Music

Giuseppe Di Stefano Records GDS 21040 issued 1991


Lucia di Lammermoor – June 25, 1972 – Buenos Aires, Teatro Colòn

Arkadia CDMP 474.2 issued 1994


Lucia di Lammermoor – July 4, 1972 – Buenos Aires, Teatro Colòn

West Hill Radio Archives WHRA-6013 issued 2003


Lucia di Lammermoor – November 17, 1972 – San Francisco Opera

Golden Melodram GM 5.0072


Lucia di Lammermoor – August 28, 1974 – New York City Opera, State Theater

On Stage! OS4721


Lucia di Lammermoor – January 15, 1977 – Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Myto 022.262 issued 2002


Roberto Devereux – October 24, 1970 – New York City Opera, State Theater

Melodram CDM 270107 issued 1993

Giuseppe Di Stefano Records GDS 21029 issued 1990



Manon – February 20, 1969 – New York City Opera, State Theater

IMC (Italian Music Company) CDI 205008 issued 1995

Melodram MEL 27058



Les Huguenots – May 14, 1969 – American Opera Society, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Voce Della Luna VL2016-2



Le Coq D’Or – November 9, 1971 – New York City Opera, State Theater

Gala GL 100.740 issued 2003



L’assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth)

Legato Classics LCD 135-2

Opera D’Oro OPD 1271 issued 2001

Opera D’Oro Grand Tier OPD 7065 issued 2008

Opera D’Oro OPD 1134 issued 1998

NOTE: Opera D’oro first issued this performance as catalog number 1134, in 1997, with the covers shown below, incorrectly identifying the conductor as Carlo Franci.

Notes Opera PGP 21002 issued 1992

Arkadia CDHP 573.2

NOTE: This Arkadia issue mis-dates the recorded performance as April 11, 1969, which was the production’s opening night. All CD versions of this recording are the same RAI radio broadcast of April 14, 1969, the second night of the run.



La Traviata – January 17, 1970 – Naples, Italy, Teatro San Carlo

Melodram MEL 27063 issued 1989

Opera D’Oro OPD-1263 issued 2000


Aria Compilations:

Beverly Sills – Opera Arias: Concerts in Paris 1971, Cologne 1968

Arkadia GI 804.1 issued 1994

NOTE: The Paris concert took place on Januay22, 1971 at the Salle Peyel. The Cologne (Köln) concert was not a live broadcast but a recording in the studios of the Cologne Radio Orchestra held over two days (April 9 & 10, 1967). Sills recorded eight arias altogether, to be broadcast at a later date. The Arkadia CD includes only five of the eight. The incorrect date of “May 1968” for the “performance” is likely the date of the delayed broadcast (or possibly even a repeat of an earlier broadcast soon after the recording sessions).


Beverly Sills: Sillsiana (arias from concerts and fully stage performances between 1966 and 1976)

Gala GL 100.576 (2 CDs) issued 2000

NOTE: The final selection on CD 2 is the delightful and hilarious parody, “Sillsiana,” a six-minute jumble of aria and song snippets created for Sills by Roland Gagnon. It was sung on a program at Hunter College on Oct. 3, 1970, as benefit for the International Piano Library, which had suffered a devastating fire. It also included four of the five arias from the 1967 Cologne recording sessions which are on the Arkadia compliation disc above.

Sills Operatic Debut: 1947 or 1951?

Verifying Beverly Sills’ Official Operatic Debut: 1947 or 1951?

In Beverly Sills’ obituaries, her official operatic debut is noted as an important entry among her significant career events. The debut is also included in most reference books about her, as well as in her own autobiographies and in hundreds of her media interviews and performance program bios. The year of the debut has always been listed as 1947, but now, with more access to information and sources online, the correct year has been verified as 1951. This misinformation came about from a single press release that set the incorrect date in stone for all subsequent references published and has continued up to the present. However, extensive research has produced multiple sources that confirm the correct date, while finding no independent sources for the incorrect date. A detailed report on this verification follows.

References to Sills’ operatic debut first began to appear in newspaper and magazine articles in the early 1950s. The common element in all these was that it took place in a production of “Carmen” by the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company. The other details often varied and were sometimes contradictory, particularly concerning which role she sang in the opera. However, up through the mid-1960s, whenever the debut was mentioned, there was never a year attached, only a listing of the debut within an overview of her career thus far.

After 1966, the year in which Sills had her “overnight stardom” at New York City Opera in Handel’s “Julius Caesar,” her bios in performance programs and media articles began listing her debut as Frasquita (and sometimes as Micaela) in “Carmen” at age 17 with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. This appears to have originated from a nine-page press release in mid-1967 from Sills’ newly-acquired publicity agent, Edgar Vincent, who continued in that role throughout the rest of her singing career. The year of debut was not mentioned in that release, but Sills would have been 17 on May 25, 1946. The only stage performances she sang in 1946 after that were the Shubert tour of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and a run of “The Merry Widow” in Detroit. Therefore, if shere were 17 at her operatic debut, it would have to have been sometime between January and early May, 1947.

At BeverlySillsOnline.Com, we have documented over 1,400 different performances by Sills, confirming them in newspaper interviews and reviews, performance programs, and annals of various opera companies. In all that research, there is no evidence of a performance of “Carmen” with Sills in the cast by any company in any year in the late 1940s.

On the other hand, what can be fully confirmed is a performance by Sills as Frasquita in a production of “Carmen” in Philadelphia, presented by the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company on February 14, 1951. Through in-depth research, the accumulated evidence now clearly points to that 1951 “Carmen” as Sills’ actual operatic debut.

The Debut According to Sills’ Autobiographies

Sills’ two autobiographies contain contradictory statements about her operatic debut in Philadelphia. Here are the significant points from each book, which are fact-checked further below.

In Chapter 3 of Sills’ 1976 autobiography, “Bubbles” (pages 34-35), she states that in 1946 at age 17, she ended her career in operetta at her father’s insistence and began concentrating exclusively on operatic training with Estelle Liebling.  Sills then states she finally made her operatic debut in the role of Frasquita in “Carmen” for the Philadelphia Opera Company, conducted by Giuseppe Bamboschek. She identifies the leads as Winifred Heidt and Eugene Conley, whom Sills mentions were a married couple at the time. She does not give a date for the performance, but the chronology in her text implies it was after Sills was 19. Then Sills states she saw her first “Thaïs,” performed by the Philadelphia Opera Company with Florence Quartararo, a statement that will prove significant in verifying Sills’ actual debut date.

A decade later, in Chapter 3 of “Beverly,” Sills’ 1987 autobiography (pages 41-43), Sills recounts a somewhat different version of her debut. She mentions going back to studying opera with Liebling in 1946, stating that Liebling began sending her down to Philadelphia every Saturday to be coached for an hour by Bamboschek, whom Sills identifies as a conductor for the Philadelphia Opera Company. Sills says Bamboschek told her it would be helpful if she observed other singers in performance with the company, hiring her to understudy Florence Quartararo in “Thaïs.” Sills says that, after working as the understudy for only a couple of weeks, Bamboschek gave her a big break by casting her as Frasquita in the Philadelphia Opera Company production of “Carmen” in February 1947.

Opera Companies Active in Philadelphia in 1947 and 1951

There were only two opera companies in Philadelphia in 1947: the Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company (for which Giuseppe Bamboschek conducted) and the Cosmopolitan Opera Company. The Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company was not formed until 1950 and had seasons through 1955 (for which Giuseppe Bamboschek also conducted). When an opera company was mentioned in connection with Sills’ operatic debut in articles and magazines, it was usually stated as the Philadelphia Opera Company or the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company, both a slight shortening of the correct full name, the Philadelphia Civic Grand OperaCompany.

Performances of “Carmen” in Philadelphia in 1947 and in 1951

An invaluable resource for verification has been the work of the late Frank Hamilton, a highly respected, extremely conscientious compiler of operatic annals (including the definitive set for Maria Callas). One of his projects was an attempt to document every operatic performance occurring in Philadelphia. He spent years going through resources in libraries and opera company archives. He looked through the microfilm for every Philadelphia newspaper, as well as programs and documents from all the opera companies in the city. Much of the evidence presented here is confirmed in his “Opera In Philadelphia” annals for 1925-1949 and for 1950-1974.

Frank Hamilton’s annals have no listings for any performance of “Carmen” in February 1947 in Philadelphia by any company.Those annals also list no “Thaïs” productions by any company in 1947 in Philadelphia. This has now been independently verified by searches in online newspaper indexing services.

However, the Hamilton annals do list a performance of “Carmen” by the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company in Philadelphia on February 14, 1951, in which Sills sang Frasquita, with Winifred Heidt as Carmen and Giuseppe Bamboschek conducting.The annals also list a “Thaïs” with Florence Quartararo on February 27, 1951, conducted by Bamboschek for the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company. Therefore, Sills’ anecdote about understudying Quartararo for a few weeks before being cast in “Carmen” can only be true if placed in the context of Sills’ performance as Frasquita in “Carmen” on February 14, 1951, along with Quartararo’s performance on February 27, 1951, in “Thaïs.” Further confirmation comes from the February 28th, 1951, Philadelphia Inquirer review of that  “Thais,” which states it was the first Philadelphia performance of the opera since 1923.

Additional confirmation comes from Sills’ undated reference in “Bubbles” to Winifred Heidt (as Carmen) being married to Eugene Conley at the time of Sills’ debut. That could only be true for the 1951 performance, because the two singers did not marry until 1948.

Also of note is the 1984 book, “Within These Walls: A History of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia” by John Francis Marion. The 1951 “Carmen” performance by the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company is noted on page 258, where Marion writes, “One reviewer happily mentioned a young singer, who would be world famous 20 years later. She wrote, ‘Beverly Sills…sang well as Frasquita….'”  It would seem odd, in this context, that Marion would not have included a reference to Sills having first sung Frasquita in “Carmen” at the Academy of Music in 1947 with the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company, if Sills had actually done so.

Finally, the most concrete confirmation of the 1951 date comes from a Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company performance program for the January 30, 1951, production of “Don Pasquale.” An ad on the program’s back page announces the upcoming performance of “Carmen” by the company on Feb. 14, 1951, conducted by Giuseppe Bamboschek, with Winifred Heidt in the title role and Hallie Nowland as Frasquita. Two weeks later, the cast that performed that night was the same as in the ad, except for the role of Frasquita, which was sung by Beverly Sills. That performance fits Sills’ own description of getting a break from Bamboschek by his giving her the role at the last minute.

Additional Evidence from Sills’ Personal Scrapbooks

Additional evidence supporting the 1951 debut date comes from Sills’ personal scrapbooks (now housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.), which preserve almost every program, clipping, and photo concerning her singing career. Although virtually every other major event in her career is documented in great detail in these scrapbooks, there is no performance program, no review, no clipping, no photo, and no other reference to a 1947 “Carmen.” If Sills had made her operatic debut in “Carmen” in 1947, it seems odd that her scrapbooks would not have some reference to that signal event, especially that early in her career.

There are clippings in the scrapbooks about Sills’ performances in July 1947 as the lead in “The Merry Widow” in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Those clippings mention her performance history up to that point, but nothing is stated about an operatic debut, an odd omission if such a debut was supposed to have happened in nearby Philadelphia earlier in that same year.

Unfortunately, the Sills scrapbooks have no coverage of the period from January 1948 through September 1951. A notation at end of the 1947 scrapbook states that no scrapbooks were kept for that missing period because Sills was concentrating on studying with Liebling and Sills had “few professional appearances in that span.”

Research confirms that, in that period, Sills had only a few short concert tours with the Liebling Singers, some minor recital performances, and the aforementioned Philadelphia “Carmen” in February 1951. It’s understandable, given her reduced schedule, that keeping a scrapbook might not have seemed worth the effort. However, it means the verified 1951 “Carmen” operatic debut is not represented in Sills’ scrapbooks, leaving it up for speculation what Sills might have annotated about that official operatic debut.

The Origins of the 1947 Debut References

The tradition of publicity agents stretching the truth for their clients to put the best spin on their accomplishments was still in play in 1967 when Edgar Vincent sent out the nine-page press release on Sills’ career up to that point. Touting her operatic debut as being at age 17 fits in with the listing of her earlier accomplishments, such as winning singing contests on the radio as a pre-teen and touring the East Coast in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas at age 15.

The misinformation was further perpetuated in 1987 by  Sills in “Beverly,” listing the debut date as February 1947. Sills “wrote” the book by using a tape recorder, into which she spoke her recollections on the go whenever she had a few minutes. It appears her recordings were transcribed verbatim without fact-checking, because “Beverly” has a number of  other verifiably incorrect statements about her performances, especially those in the early decades of her career.

How much Sills knowingly perpetuated the misinformation by repeating what Vincent set in motion in 1967 cannot be determined. However, it’s likely she was comfortable with the traditions of celebrity publicity, confirmed by numerous print and television interviews she gave perpetuating other misrepresented or unverifiable dates and anecdotes that made for entertaining press.

This debut date clarification is not put forth as a criticism of Sills or her management, but simply as a verification of her true operatic debut in its correct place in her performance chronology. While this clarification is likely to be of little significance to the general Sills fan, it should be of interest to biographers and researchers as a cautionary note when attempting to determine the facts of a celebrity’s life.

 [Revised September 23, 2023]