The great Beverly Sills is dead. The American soprano was 78 years old and had lung cancer.

I am not an opera fan by any stretch of the imagination, but Sills - born Belle Silverman, but always known as Bubbles - was a New York City icon. Born in Brooklyn and trained in the United States at a time when it was thought that serious opera study could only be done in Europe, Sills sought to demystify opera, and to bring music to ordinary people. While she was still singing, she hosted her own talk show, and then went on to direct New York City Opera, and later to be chairperson of Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera.

She was a regular guest on "The Tonight Show," the only opera star Johnny Carson ever had on, was a frequent guest of Carol Burnett, and famously appeared with the Muppets.

Sills didn't have an easy life, but she was a quintessential survivor, reaching out to others and channeling personal tragedy into work. She had a great sense of humour, loved New York and contributed to her city in so many wonderful ways. She'll be greatly missed.

New York Times obituary here.

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