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Opera star Beverly Sills (Belle Miriam Silverman, nicknamed “Bubbles” at birth) was born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents on this date in 1929. She was singing professionally on the radio from the age of 4, and she appeared for the first time with the New York City Opera in 1955. She would not appear on the Metropolitan Opera Stage until 1975, after the retirement of General Manager Rudolf Bing, who almost exclusively used Italian singers. (Sills’ debut fetched an eighteen-minute ovation.) During her peak singing years, between the 1950s and 1970s, she traveled widely as a recitalist and brought the music to many Americans who would never view a full-scale opera production. She also became a television talk show personality and was identified on a Time magazine cover in 1971 as “America’s Queen of Opera.” Sills had a warm, down-to-earth image that ran opposite to the stereotype of the imperious diva. The deafness of her daughter and the autism of her son were both diagnosed within six weeks of each other in 1962, which prompted Sills to take a hiatus of several months. “After I came back, I talked back,” she said. “I stopped caring what anyone else thought. . . . Onstage I was uninhibited, and I began to have a good time.” Following her retirement from the stage in 1980, she became general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994 she became the chair of the board of Lincoln Center, and in 2002 of the Met. To see her carrying on with Danny Kaye, see below. To see her as Cleopatra singing Handel, see below that.
“You don’t always get what you ask for, but you never get what you don’t ask for, unless it’s contagious!” —Beverly Sills