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Beverly Sills (1929 - 2007)

Sills’s parents were Jewish emigrés to the USA: her mother came from Odessa in Ukraine and her father, an insurance salesman, from Bucharest, Romania. Convinced that her blond daughter, nicknamed ‘Bubbles’, would be a show business success, her mother pushed the child into radio work when she was very young: she made her broadcasting debut at four, quickly becoming a regular in children’s shows and gradually moving up from dialogue to tap-dancing and singing. When she was twelve her father brought this work to an end so that she could concentrate upon her studies, but she continued to have singing lessons, begun when she was nine, with Estelle Liebling, who had coached Galli-Curci.

After completing her schooling when she was sixteen, Sills joined Jacob J. Shubert’s touring company performing Gilbert and Sullivan, in which she discovered her great talent for comedy. The following year, 1947, she made her operatic stage debut as Frasquita / Carmen with the Philadelphia Grand Opera. During 1951 and 1952 she toured the USA with the Charles Wagner Opera Company, singing Violetta / La traviata (1951) and Micaëla / Carmen (1952). She made her debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1953 as Helen / Mefistofele (Boito) followed by Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni and (unusually) tackled the title role of Aida at Salt Lake City in 1954.




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