The Beverly Sills Phenomenon (II)

The first section of this article showed how Beverly Sills was by far, in America, the most famous American opera singer of her generation.  She was, however, completely unsuccessful in imposing herself on the international operatic public. I recall an Italian friend asking me in 1984 about a record made by some strange American soprano who sang all kinds of weird cadenzas and ornaments. I knew he meant Sills’ Bellini and Donizetti arias record, which was a commonplace among AmericanRead more

The Beverly Sills Phenomenon (I)

If you grew up loving opera in the United States in the 1970s, your American diva of the period was – without question – soprano Beverly Sills. You read her “self portrait” Bubbles, you collected her recordings, you watched her on television, and you heard her sing live. She performed extensively in the American hinterlands, so you didn’t have to live in New York to see her onstage. Sills was a late 1970s phenomenon, and the most phenomenal thing aboutRead more

The Shirley Verrett Conundrum

(as Lady Macbeth at La Scala, 1975) One of the more important – and, ultimately, most puzzling — operatic careers of the second half of the 20th century was that of mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett (1931 – 2010.) Yes: I wrote mezzo-soprano. I harbor not the slightest doubt that Verrett was a mezzo, and that she’d have done well to have remembered it. She may have harbored ambitions in the soprano repertory, and she did find ways to sing several sopranoRead more