Skip To Content
Israel News

A Diva’s Life: Of High Notes And Low

At 77, opera legend Beverly Sills (née Bubbles Silverman) is still a dynamo with enormous energy. Her famous voice may not be heard much publicly anymore, but her legacy as both singer and opera house administrator (she has headed both the New York City Opera and the Met) is enormous. This week, she is the focus of the latest installment of PBS’s Great Performance series. The retrospective, titled “Beverly Sills: Made in America,” will premiere November 23. On the eve of its release, the Shmooze’s Ivor Davis caught up with the diva for a chat.

Q: Where did the name Bubbles come from?

A: I was born 10 3/4 pounds and with a big spit bubble in my mouth. My father said he had to pop it. Q: Can you talk about your early days?

A: I was a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn and came from a family that would not normally have been able to support a career like mine. In fact, they didn’t. They couldn’t.

Q: Why not?

A: I come from a European family where the boys are the focus. And if there was any money at all, and thank God for the GI Bill, it went to my brothers’ education and not mine. I barely got out of high school. I was on the road working and making money when I was 15.

Q: How did you feel when Rudolph Bing, the Metropolitan’s general manager, snidely said something like, “What is it about Bubbles Silverman from Brooklyn that made her think she can play an English queen?”

A: What is there about any of us that makes us think we can play an English queen? That’s all part of stage magic.

Q: Do you miss performing?

A: Not at all. I miss singing, of course. It was such a joyful thing, and to be so blessed to be able do that for a living, and a damn good living. So I was doubly blessed. I couldn’t wait to get on the stage to perform.

Q: Is this a good time in your life?

A: I’m quite content the way my life turned out, even though there were tremendous valleys. But there were also tremendous starry moments. It’s daunting to know that at some point in this TV program, you are going to be looking at a 30-year-old Beverly Sills. All the makeup and the pretty hairdos is not me anymore.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.