The late Beverly Sills made opera something that everyone could enjoy, and her effervescence and kindness were infectious.
She was given the affectionate nickname of "Bubbles" at birth and, in her 78 years, Beverly Sills justified that moniker in many different ways by lighting up the stage as an opera star and displaying her warm personality in many other venues.
The doctor who delivered Belle Miriam Silverman in the Bronx noted she was born blowing a spit bubble from her mouth. Ultimately, that described the engaging and uplifting personality and artist she became.
Sills died recently at the age of 78 after overcoming one major obstacle after another. She had a terrible time breaking into the Metropolitan Opera in New York because Rudolph Bing, who was in charge at the time, was hostile to people who had not at least trained in Europe. Despite her American roots, however, she persevered and succeeded in becoming one of our nation's top cultural icons.
There were other stern challenges for Beverly Sills. She had two children who were handicapped and her husband recently died of Alzheimer's disease. Sills herself had a long battle with cancer.
But nobody ever did more to popularize opera than she did. Under her expert stewardship, the City Opera of New York was the first company in the nation to use English supertitles, projecting translated lyrics onto a screen above the stage. Many will say that innovation "opened the door" for them to enjoy opera.
Eventually, the dynamic Sills performed with distinction in virtually every type of opera venue and had an outstanding career overseas, where she helped pave the way for other American performers. But far beyond her talents as an entertainer and executive in her field, she was a warm and inspiring human being who could "light up a room" and make everyone with whom she came in contact feel at ease.
Said one admirer, "She had a mission to bring the joy and love of our great art form to as many people as possible." Sills did it with care and warmth and patience.
Even though her nickname was assigned for different reasons, Beverly Sills justified the title with her bubbly outreach. She was a leading light for opera not only in America but throughout the world. Her effervescence combined with tenderness and understanding of family, artists and acquaintances will be remembered fondly.