Tuesday, July 03, 2007

One of my musical heroines is gone...

Apologies to those who do not approve of fur coats, but this ad shows Beverly Sills in one of her most beautiful photos...pelt or no pelt.

D called me this morning to tell me that Beverly Sills passed away last night from cancer. Apparently, her cancer came back and metastatized, and she was taken from this world.

For those of you who know me, read this blog, or both...Beverly Sills was one of my favorite musicians. She inspired me to think about a career in "serious" singing (opera, art songs, etc). Granted, meeting other opera students killed that desire, but the spark for performance was ignited in VERY LARGE part by Ms. Sills.

Sills was an American success story through and through. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and started studying voice at the age of seven. Here's a clip...

A quote from one of her obits:

Born Belle Miriam Silverman in Brooklyn, she was called Bubbles, an endearment coined by the doctor who delivered her. He noted that she was born blowing a spit bubble from her mouth.

She was a performer that had principles she stood behind. She had two special needs children, and put her own performing career on hold to take care of them. She faced her responsibilities, which others of her stature would have been hard pressed to do.

When she came back to the opera fold, she worked primarily with the New York Civic Opera, which she referred to as "the people's opera" or something like that. She was not ashamed of the American musical instruction she received, even when the opinions of it from Rudolf Bing (the head of the Met at one time) didn't take it as seriously as European pedagogy.

When she retired, it wasn't long before she was back in a different way - arts administration was her strength for two decades after her professional singing career ended. If you click on the quote above, the link will take you to her obit, listing her various accomplishments in the field of arts administration and fund-raising. She helped reincarnate the Metropolitan Opera to its current form without fear of breaking tradition.

I think what I appreciated about her most was her humor. Here are two clips displaying her delightful sense of humor...the first is from "The Muppet Show", circa 1978 (I think). I had a clip of this before in complete English, but it is no longer on YouTube. I hope this one will work in its place:

I still can't find the one where she's singing "When It's Round Up Time In Texas" and when she joins Gonzo the Great in hanging a spoon from her nose (something I haven't mastered, BTW). If those ever come on, you can bet I'll snatch 'em up quicker than Keith Richards snaps up bottles of scotch.

The second clip is one I was not familiar with, but one I think is just glorious:

Danny Kaye is one of my favorites anyway...and this pairing is nothing less than inspired.

I am sad about this passing, not just because she was a tremendous artist, but because of what she meant to me as a musician and as a person. Here is a tribute I wrote which incorporated both her and The Muppets...click this link to go there.

I am not alone in wanting to express tribute...here are two other bloggers who appreciated what Sills meant to the world. Click here and here to view. The last one contained this quote from Sills herself...

Beverly Sills, in the final performance of her singing career, spoke to the audience before she sang the piece with which she always ended her recitals, “Portuguese Love Song, Time Has Come For Me To Leave You.” She said, “I have yet to thank you all for a wonderful love affair. It had about as much joy and passion as this poor littlie heart could bear. I prefer to think the book isn’t finished, it’s just the chapter that’s finished, that we’re going on to another one. . . . So I can only hope that the best is yet to come.”
If I weren't at work right now, I'd be crying like a baby over this.

But yet...this world still pisses me off a little bit. Why, when Sills is gone...a celebrity who loved life and her art so vividly, and was never ashamed of the hard choices she made...does the media feel a photo retrospective for Lindsay Lohan's 21st birthday is necessary? I refuse to link to this...if you want to see for yourself, go to Yahoo's main page.

Big Ernie...you need to clue me in to this one, man. I just don't get it.

But please take care of Bubbles...she's one of the good ones.