Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Beverly Sills, 1929-2007

I'm linking this obit from the L.A. Times because it's good and also because, as it happens, we were living in the L.A. area during the time that Beverly's career reached its zenith:
L.A. saw her in the '60s and '70s, when she sang at the Hollywood Bowl and with City Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
My father -- a free-lance opera critic in addition to his day job -- had discovered Beverly long before she was a star, and she never forgot. Though she was an A-lister by the time of those L.A. visits, she always made time to chill with us. If it was summertime, Muffy would be with her:
The couple [Sills and husband Peter Greenough, a jolly Boston Brahmin] had two children: a daughter, Meredith ("Muffy"), who was born deaf in 1959, and Peter Jr. ("Bucky"), born in 1961, who has autism.
Bucky had more than autism: "profound retardation" was the term used in those less sensitive times. One didn't see him. Muffy, on the other hand, was a gregarious, happily chattering pre-teen in those days (when I was a taciturn, misanthropic pre-teen, though Muffy got around my defenses, which in any case are never high when opera people are around), the only problem being the effort it took, at first, to understand her speech patterns: deaf people have difficulty in pronunciation, because they can't hear what the words are supposed to sound like.

"Muffy" may be the archetypal nickname for Boston-Brahmin girls, but the sad fact is, it may also have been the way she pronounced "Meredith" at some point. I didn't know it was a nickname until one fine L.A. day, Muffy and my sisters and I were looking at a copy of Opera News and she pointed to a reference to bass-baritone Morley Meredith. With her finger on his surname, she managed to convey "My name!"
To tend to her children, Sills began to curtail her professional activities. With her husband's encouragement, however, she returned to the stage in the mid-'60s....
and her international career followed. Obviously, I admire opera stars who put family first. The Greenoughs lived just ten blocks from the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, where the New York City Opera rehearses and performs, so the "commute" left Beverly plenty of family time.

Beverly retired from singing while she still had voice left, but she kept on with opera-managing and opera-fundraising almost up to her last illness. Peter Greenough died a couple of years ago. Muffy was at her mother's side all this week. Muffy, e-mail me if I can help....