This Day in UMS History: Beverly Sills (September 23, 1977)
By Stephanie NormannTweet
This Day in UMS History – September 23, 1977
Beverly Sills, soprano
Charles Wadsworth, piano
Let the Bright Seraphim from Samson–Handel
Un moto di gioia, K. 579–Mozart
Bester Jüngling from Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486–Mozart
Alleluia from Exsultate Jubilate, K. 165–Mozart
Many artists presented by UMS over its 132-year history have a long and rich history of performances with the organization. Soprano Beverly Sills was certainly no exception. Throughout the 1970s, Beverly Sills made numerous appearances under UMS auspices, culminating with this, her final appearance in 1977, just a few short years before announcing her retirement in 1980.
The late 60s and early to mid 70s were considered the high points of Beverly Sills’ career, as evidenced by her appearance on the cover of Time magazine in 1971, where she was described as “America’s Queen of Opera.” Beverly Sills’ first UMS appearance on January 30, 1971 was also a solo recital with Charles Wadsworth accompanying her on piano. On that particular program, Sills sang three arias from Handel’s opera seria Giulio Cesare. It is interesting to note that in 1966, Sills’ performance as Cleopatra in the New York City Opera’s revival of Handel’s then virtually unknown Giulio Cesare, is what many argue made her an international opera star.
Her final UMS program featured an aria from Handel’s oratorio Samson, considered by many to be one of Handel’s finest dramatic works, as well as three pieces by Mozart: concert aria “Un moto di gioia”, “Bester Jüngling” from the comic singspiel Der Schauspieldirektor (one of the only four vocal numbers in that piece), and “Alleluia” from the final allegro section of Mozart’s religious solo motet Exsultate Jubilate.
Following her retirement from performing, Beverly Sills remained quite active with the New York City Opera, serving on their board until 1991. Following that, she also served as chairman of Lincoln Center until 2002, and then as chairman of the Metropolitan Opera. Beverly Sills lost her battle with lung cancer on July 2, 2007 at the age of 78.
I hope you will take a moment to enjoy the video below and hear for yourself (if you weren’t able to attend any of her UMS performances!) the beauty and purity of tone of Beverly Sills’ voice as she sings one of my all-time favorite Mozart arias “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben” from Zaide.