Beverly Sills (May 25, 1929 – July 2, 2007) was an American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s.
Although she sang a repertoire from Handel and Mozart to Puccini, Massenet 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 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, Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, and most notably Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux.
The New York Times noted, “In her prime her technique was exemplary. She could dispatch coloratura roulades and embellishments, capped by radiant high Ds and E-flats, with seemingly effortless agility. She sang with scrupulous musicianship, rhythmic incisiveness and a vivid sense of text.” NPR commented, her voice was “Capable of spinning a seemingly endless legato line, or bursting with crystalline perfection into waves of dazzling fiorature and thrilling high notes.” After retiring from singing in 1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the chairwoman 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.