Belle Miriam Silverman, best known as gifted operatic performer Beverly Sills, was born May 25, 1929. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York. While her insurance salesman father would have preferred she become a teacher, her mother encouraged Sills’ voice career. Sills won a radio contest at the age of three and began her world renowned singing career.
By four years old she was singing as a regular on a Saturday morning radio program. Her job doing laundry soap commercials earned the nickname “Bubbles Silverman” and by seven years old she sang in a movie. She continued to work on radio until she was twelve when she decided to pursue her interest in opera.
Sills studied voice with Estelle Liebling and piano with Paolo Gallico. She joined Gilbert and Sullivan touring company at age seventeen. By the time she was nineteen she had memorized over fifty operas and by the age of twenty she was touring with several small opera companies.
In 1955 Sills played the role of Rosalinde in “Die Fledermaus” with the New York City Opera. Critics loved her and predicted a successful career.
Sills married Peter B. Greenough in 1956. They had two children; a daughter born hearing impaired and a son born developmentally disabled. Sills took time out of her career and focused on the needs of her family. Her son required so much care that he was institutionalized at the age of six. Sills began wearing two watches; one to keep track of her son’s life and the other to follow her life and whatever time zone she might be travelling in.
In 1966 Sills returned to the stage in the New York City Opera production of Handel’s “Julius Caesar”. Her career skyrocketed as she became one of the most famous sopranos in the world.
Sills debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City was in 1975. Her voice began to decline a few years later, and on October 27, 1980 she gave her last performance.
The day after retiring from singing Sills took over general directorship of the New York City Opera. She proved to be skilled handling the institution’s finances as well as increasing attendance. She was also longtime chairwoman on the Board of Trustees for the March of Dimes and continued to promote philanthropic causes.
Beverly Sills died after battling lung cancer on July 2, 2007 at the age of 78.