Beverly Sills may not have performed at the Metropolitan Opera House until age forty-five, but her impact on the opera world as both a singer and as the first female director of the New York City Opera Company (NYCO) was beyond measure. Singing on children’s radio shows as early as age four, Sills had memorized Italian arias by seven and entertained audiences in the Catskills at sixteen. In 1955, she joined the NYCO and became known for her masterful performance of Cleopatra in Handel’s Julius Caesar, as well as the three queens in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, Maria Stuarda, and Anna Bolena. In 1979, she became the first woman and the first singer to manage the NYCO, eliminating the company’s five million dollar deficit and making opera more accessible through her innovations of English supertitles and sign language translators as well as her support of modern American opera composers. In 1994, she became chair of the Lincoln Center board, once again the first woman and first singer to hold the position. The mother of two children with disabilities, Sills served as national chair of the March of Dimes and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, among other organizations.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Beverly Sills." (Viewed on December 3, 2016) <https://jwa.org/people/sills-beverly>.