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)
THE PURE JOY OF SINGING:
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)