Beverly Sills was an American operatic soprano between the 1950s and 1970s.
Although she sang a repertoire from Handel and Mozart to Puccini, Massenet, Wagner, and Verdi, she was known for her performances in coloratura soprano roles in live opera and recordings. Sills was largely associated with the operas of Gaetano Donizetti, of which she performed and recorded many roles. Her signature roles include the title role in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, the title role in Massenet’s Manon, Marie in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, the three heroines in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata.
After retiring from singing in 1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the Chairman of Lincoln Center and then, in 2002, of the Metropolitan Opera, stepping down in 2005. Sills lent her celebrity to further her charity work for the prevention and treatment of birth defects.
Sills was born Belle Miriam Silverman in Brooklyn, New York to Shirley Bahn, a musician, and Morris Silverman, an insurance broker. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Odessa and Bucharest, Romania. She was raised in Brooklyn, where she was known, among friends, as “Bubbles” Silverman. As a child, she spoke Yiddish, Russian, Romanian, French and English. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, as well as Manhattan’s Professional Children’s School.