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Beverly Sills' O.C. Comeback

The diva, whose famed soprano helped open the Performing Arts Center, returns for an Opera Pacific fund-raiser.

July 16, 1998|ANN CONWAY

Famed American soprano Beverly Sills returned to Orange County on Tuesday as guest speaker for a luncheon to benefit the Opera Pacific Guild Alliance.

"It's always fun to come back to a place where I've either sung or played a small part in the history of the community," said Sills, once a star of the New York City Opera and now chairwoman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. "It was our New York City Opera that was one of the opening-night performances in your Performing Arts Center here."

Sills regaled 400 guests at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Tennis Club with humorous accounts of her music-soaked childhood and her ascent into the world of opera, where she became one of the world's great divas.

"My mother was an opera lunatic," she said. "The first thing she did each morning was to wind up the Victrola and put on an opera recording. . . . It was the beginning of a perfect day."

Not having sung in 20 years presents her with "a bit of an identity crisis," Sills said. "Occasionally, I turn on PBS and see this very skinny young woman singing, and she's using my name."

In her concluding remarks, Sills encouraged

the crowd to continue their support of opera: "Here you are, 400 people in a room, and you're not here

for lunch," she said. "You're here because there

is a common binding--and that is a need to have some beauty in your life."

Gross proceeds of about $50,000 from the event will be used for Opera Pacific productions at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. Sills' $17,500 speaking fee, underwritten by Carole and Robert Follman and Laila and Bill Conlin, will go to charity, event organizers said.

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