Last night as I sat visiting with my grandparents, we talked a bit about opera singers who they have enjoyed listening to but who have since retired. Granddaddy was a big fan of the Three Tenors, back in their hay day, and he was excited to hear that I'll be (kind of) working with Domingo next year at the Met (I'll be covering in Iphigenie). The next singer to come up, of course, was Beverly Sills. "Is she still around?" he asked. I told him that we'd all been saying prayers for her for the past few days, as her publicist had just announced that she was ill, that we all were preparing to lose her. And sure enough, this morning, we woke to the news.
It always surprises me when I am moved by the death of someone I've never met, but in this case, I really shouldn't be surprised. Hers was the second biography I read when I started my "what's the life of an opera singer all about?" quest. (The first? Callas, natch.) I read her memoir, Bubbles, and was struck by her absolute love of singing. Her Joy! She sang because she was born with a song in her heart and she had no choice but to share it. Just look at the slideshow that accompanies the Times story; there is joy seeping out of every pore.
Every time I saw her on television or heard her on the radio, whether she was singing or conducting interviews, that smile blew me away. And she sang with Muppets! You can't tell me that she didn't relish the opportunity to be silly at work... Talk about living in Joy! More than in her singing, more than in her career, I desire to be like her in that.
Thank you, Ms. Sills, for your Joy. You have infused it deep into our hearts and into the heart of this profession. We have lost you, but you have given us so much.