Beverly Sills

Beverly Sills


May 25, 1929

Beverly Sills Biography, Life, Interesting Facts

Beverly Sills was an opera soprano from the United States.  Beverly Sills dedicated her life to the world of opera.

Childhood And Early Life

Beverly Sills was born on May 25, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York.  Her name at birth was Belle Miriam Silverman.  Her father Morris was an insurance broker while her mother Shirley Bahn was a musician. 

Both of her parents were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine and Romania. Beverly Sills was known as Bubbles by her friends.



Growing up, Beverly Sills learned five languages early on.  Beverly Sills could speak English, French, Russian, Romanian, and YiddishBeverly Sills attended Erasmus Hall High School as well as the Professional Children's School, both in New York.



Beverly Sills started performing early in life.  Beverly Sills won a Miss Beautiful Baby competition that included a talent category.  Beverly Sills performed on a radio show called “Rainbow House” at the age of four. 

At the age of seven, she was taking singing lessons.  The short film Uncle Sol Solves It in 1938 was just the first of her acting credits.  It was at this time that she started using the stage name, Beverly Sills.  Beverly Sills continued appearing on some radio programs in the 1930s.

Beverly Sills started performing professionally on stage in 1945 with the Gilbert and Sullivan touring company.  In 1947, Beverly Sills started performing with the opera in Philadelphia.  By the 1950s Beverly Sills was performing major characters such as Violetta in La Traviata and Micaëla in Carmen. 

In San Francisco in 1953, Beverly Sills portrayed Helen of Troy and Donna Elvira.  In her return to New York, Beverly Sills sang at the New Your City Opera in Die Fledermaus.  In the premiere of The Ballad of Baby Doe in 1958, she was the title character.  

While living near Boston, Beverly Beverly Sills performed with the Opera Company of Boston.  She sang as Manon, the title role of the opera by Jules Massenet.  This role became her signature role. Beverly Sills continued to rise into stardom with major opera roles in the 1960s and 1970s.  Beverly Sills became known as America's Queen of Opera according to the 1971 Time magazine cover. 

Beverly Sills focused her schedule more to the venues in the United States, but Beverly Sills did travel to some of the top opera houses in the world in London, Paris, Milan, Venice, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Lima, and Mexico City.  Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1975 in The Siege of Corinth was well received.  

During the 1970s, Beverly Sills was in some TV movies including La Traviata in which Beverly Sills performed as Violetta.  Beverly Sills was also featured in three performances on the TV series Live from Lincoln Center performing with the New York City Opera

Beverly Sills also made appearances on the talk show circuit and even hosted her talk show called Lifestyles with Beverly Sills for two years. Beverly Sills also appeared on The Muppet Show. On her 50th birthday, Gian Carlo Menotti's opera La Loca was a gift commissioned in her honor.  It was written for her vocals, and it would be her last role before retiring.  


Later Life

Beverly Sills was the manager of the New York City Opera after her retirement in 1980.  Beverly Sills was the chairwoman of the Lincoln Center in 2002 and the Metropolitan Opera.


Personal Life And Legacy

In 1956, Beverly Sills married journalist Peter Greenough.  The couple had two children.  Her daughter Meredith was profoundly deaf and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her son Peter, Jr. was born with severe mental disabilities.  Beverly Sills continued to perform, but not on as strict of a schedule.  The family moved near Boston, Massachusetts in 1962.

Beverly Sills died on July 2, 2007, at the age of 78.  The cause of death was complications from lung cancer.



Beverly Sills was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1974.  Beverly Sills underwent surgery which was successful.  She later died of lung cancer.

Philanthropic Works / Humanitarian Work

Beverly Sills was active in charity work for the arts, but she was also involved in organizations for children.  One such charity was the March of Dimes

Beverly Sills was the national chair for the Mothers' March on Birth DefectsBeverly Sills has been recognized for her charitable and humanitarian works with awards including:

•    Pearl S. Buck Women's Award, 1979
•    Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1980
•    Barnard College Medal of Distinction, 1981
•    Charles S. Hughes Gold Medal Award – National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1984
•    Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences, 1985

Awards And Achievements  

•    Primetime Emmy Award winner, Outstanding Classical Music Program, Profile in Music: Beverly Sills Festival, 1975

•    Daytime Emmy Award winner, Lifestyles with Beverly Sills, 1978
•    Four-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee
•    Grammy Award winner, Music of Victor Herbert, 1976
•    Three-time Grammy Award nominee
•    Four honorary doctorates in music
•    Star on the Walk of Fame, Recording, 1977
•    Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of the Year, 1978
•    Kennedy Center Honors, 1985
•    National Medal of Arts from National Endowment for the Arts, 1990
•    Two-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee in the category of Outstanding Special Class Special, Live from Lincoln Center, 2002 and 2004
•    Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductee, 2007

Summary Of Major Works

Opera soprano in roles such as:

•    Giulietta in I Capuleti e I Montecchi
•    Micaela in Carmen
•    Anna in Anna Bolena
•    Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor
•    Juana La Loca in La Loca
•    Manon in Manon


•    Bubbles:  A Self-Portrait, 1976
•    Beverly:  An Autobiography, 1987
•    Beverly Sills:  On My audiobook with Sills speaking, 1987