I encourage all Sills admirers to watch the
upcoming WNET/PBS 90-minute program "Beverly
Sills: Made in America" Thursday night for the
opportunity to see her at her best in some very
rare clips from the 1950s and 1960s. While there
are, of course, many familiar clips from the
1970's PBS broadcasts (Manon,Devereux, Traviata,
Barber, Pasquale) there also are a handful of
clips to treasure from her prime years.
I know this because I have had the privilege of
seeing an advance copy of the program (flagrant
self-promotion note: I am listed as one of the
consultants in the credits crawl of the program,
as I helped the producers locate some of these
rare items). Gerald Waldman has already posted
the full list of musical numbers from the
program, but here are the details about the
1955 - Opera Cameo (Dumont TV network) excerpt
from La Traviata - the end of the Act II
Alfredo/Violetta duet, including the "Amami
Alfredo" (with tenor Paul Knowles) : although in
black and white and a kinescope, this live clip
gives a hint of how Sills looked and sounded
around the time of her first years with NYCO.
1962 - CBS American Musical Theatre: Profile of
Douglas Moore - Sills sings the complete Willow
Song from the Ballad of Baby Doe -black and white
- Sills sings one of her signature pieces with
endearing purity and simplicity (some may have
seen this at the Museum of Television and Radio,
but it has not been otherwise seen since 1962.)
1966 - Canadian Broadcasting Company - Magic
Flute - from a black and white complete studio
production in English, Sills as Queen of the
NIght sings the complete "Hölle Rache" to
stunning effect - the only known video of her in
1969 -Dick Cavett show- Je suis Titania/Mignon -
color - the aria is performed complete with
delightful bounce and fresh exuberance.
1969 -Camera Three: Da Tempeste/Guilio Cesare -
This is the best of the lot as far as I'm
concerned. Sills sings the complete aria in her
original costume from the NYCO production -a
great souvenir of her breakout role.
1971 - BBC profile - the full second half of the
Lucia mad scene - although this has been floating
around on non-commercial video in a bad copy, it
is thrilling to see and hear this in first rate
picture and sound.
There are other, lighter numbers as well, mostly
sung complete, from various talk shows and
variety shows, the most unfamiliar being a
soft-shoe song and dance with Lily Tomlin.
The program, by Emmy-award winning producer John
Walker, is a model of its kind. The 90 minutes
are packed with solid singing and pertinent
interview clips (all from previously recorded
material - no new interviews have been done for
this program). There is no narrator (Barbara
Walters only introduces the program briefly).
Instead John Walker has cleverly excerpted Sills'
story from all the many interviews she gave over
the years, so the narration is actually by Sills
in chronological order of her career.
There is a very good web companion site for the
program with lots of information and links at
And finally, those who won't get a chance to see
the program on Thanksgiving night (or whenever
other PBS stations may be scheduling it or
repeats), don't despair, the whole program is
available on DVD from DG (release date is
actually today) - it's already listed on Amazon
and other DVD suppliers' websites. The DVD
boasts the bonus of the complete half-hour of the
1955 Opera Cameo La Traviata highlights.
Roy C. Dicks
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