Beverly Sills was one of the most beloved opera singers in American history. Her wide-ranging career saw her internationally celebrated as one of the greatest bel canto sopranos of all time, and later as a musical commentator and a driving force behind New York City's and the United States' performing arts scene. She made her stage debut in 1945 in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, amd ny the time of her New York City Opera debut in 1955, she had gravitated toward bel canto roles. Her long-overdue debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Rosalinde in Rossini's L'Assedio di Corinto, received an eighteen-minute ovation. Sills performed in most of the major opera houses in the world; her repertoire included over 70 roles, from the comic to the dramatic coloratura, and from the Baroque to the contemporary, and was a favorite guest on many America talk shows during and after her stage career.
From 1979 to 1989 she was General Director of the New York City Opera, reversing its dire financial situation and bringing fame to the company for adventuresome productions and the presentation of talented young singers. From 1994 to 2002, Sills was chairman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; in October 2002, she agreed to serve as chairman of the Metropolitan Opera. She resigned as Met chairman in January 2005, citing family reasons, but stayed on long enough to supervise the appointment of Peter Gelb to replace Joseph Volpe, and continued as a hostess of the Metroipolitan Opera's pioneering HD video broadcasts to a network of theaters. She died on July 2, 2007.
American contralto Florence Kopleff, born in 1924 in New York City, was hailed by Time magazine as the "greatest living alto." Kopleff began her professional singing career while still in high school. She specialized in concert and oratorio repertoire, appearing and recording with many of the great conductors of her era, particularly as a soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale and later a frequent soloist with the Atlanta Symphony during Shaw's tenure as music director. Kopleff also taught at Georgia State University starting in 1968, when she became a professor and the school's first artist-in-residence. The school's recital hall is named for her.
She made several recordings for Vanguard Classics, including Milhaud's Pacem in Terris.
Netania Davrath (1931-1987) was born in a small town in the Ukraine near the then Soviet-Polish border, lived in the Russian Caucasus during World War II, and, in 1948, emigrated to Israel. She studied in Jerusalem, Dusseldorf, at the Juilliard School of Music in New York with Jennie Tourel, and in Italy. She became an internationally admired operatic and concert performer; her artistry, command of styles ranging from Bach to Verdi and the moderns, and her fluency in eight languages brought her great admiration. Her career included appearances under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, Sir John Barbirolli, and Leopold Stokowski, and engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, the Aspen Festival, London Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic, and the Boston, Chicago Lyric, and Tel Aviv Opera Companies.
Folk song was second nature to Mme. Davrath, growing up with Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Israeli songs. She gained an unerring feeling for the nuances that give authenticity to a performance of foIk song, whatever its origin. Her pure voice is a perfect fulfillment of Mahler's request for "a cheerful, childlike expression."