Beverly Sills: An Appreciation

Beverly Sills made her 1975 metropolitan Opera debut in Rossini's "The Siege of Corinth"—almost a decade later than she should have. The audience went wild. They knew that the soprano, born Belle (Bubbles) Silverman in Brooklyn, had pulled off a rare feat: an American singer had made it to the top, had an international career and had been on the covers of NEWSWEEK and Time years before scaling the operatic Everest, the Met. The company's general director, Viennese-born Rudolf Bing, had kept...

Remembering Beverly Sills

The late Beverly Sills, a peerless soprano, did everything she could—and there wasn't much she couldn't do—to make people fall in love with opera

Noteworthy

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song," Goethe once said. During summer in Europe, it's hard not to, and at this year's music festivals you're almost bound to hear at least one piece--a little song, perhaps--inspired by Goethe. Festival planners miss no opportunity to mark a musical anniversary, and 1999 is a mother lode. It's the 250th birthday of Goethe--the muse for composers as varied in style as Mozart, Schubert, Boito, Gounod, Berlioz, Liszt and Richard Strauss--and the...

A Hot Trio Of Gumshoes

IN A LONG LINE OF droll and deftly written crime novels, Elmore Leonard does for the music business what he did for the movies in ""Get Shorty.'' That is, he unleashes Chili Palmer. The hero--using that word advisedly--of ""Get Shorty'' makes a memorable return in Be Cool (290 pages. Delacorte. $24.95), due in stores Feb. 9. Of all Leonard's charming and unflappable protagonists, Chili just might be the most charming and unflappable. In any situation or milieu, he is always at home.As Leonard...

Tweety And Sylvester, Meet Mozart And Eigar

SO YOU THINK YOU HAVE WORK-ANX-iety dreams? Try this nightmare, which Gil Shaham had a year ago and is recounting at an Indian restaurant in New York. In the dream he realizes that he has to play a concert in 15 minutes. He jumps into a taxi, which creeps through traffic and stops at the main entrance to the hall. "I'm carrying my tails and violin," Shaham says, "and I have to change as I walk through the audience. The orchestra is already playing. I'm almost at the first row and I say, "What...

A League Of Her Own

WHEN DEAD PEOPLE TALK TO Patricia Cornwell, she doesn't just listen, she takes notes. It's not Eleanor Roosevelt she communes with, it's anonymous stiffs, especially ones who met a particularly ghastly end. But the creator of the wildly popular crime-novel series about Dr. Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner, insists she's not ghoulish. "If I were just interested in dead bodies, I might have a funeral-home director as the main character. But it's the dead speaking, telling us what happened and...

Gambling On A Career? Say It Ain't So, Luciano.

ON A NARROW ROAD in the Connecticut woods, where the ice lay thick as a Neanderthal skull, a long line of cars snaked toward the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Inside, the audience began filling the cavernous bingo hall, made over for the evening as a concert space at the country's most profitable gambling joint. When word came that traffic would delay the main event, some people stirred restlessly. These were high rollers who had coughed up $500 for a seat down front and $150 to sit 175 rows back,...

Leaving The Country Behind

MICHAEL REID IS NOT a freak. But judging from the hoopla surrounding his first opera, the aptly named ""Different Fields,'' you might think so. In this crossover era, it should be no surprise if a Grammy-winning songwriter with a string of country hits (Bonnie Raitt's ""I Can't Make You Love Me,'' Wynonna's brand-new ""To Be Loved by You'') bolts from the stable to compose a classical piece. The really freaky thing, see, is that Reid used to play football, big time. He was a defensive lineman...

D-Major Disney

The classical-record industry has developed a small but noble niche: pastiche. There's Joshua Rifkin's inspired "Baroque Beatles Book" (regrettably out of print) and the Hampton String Quartet's antidote to holiday goop, "What If Mozart Wrote 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'." Now there's another smart and loving parody, "Heigh-Ho! Mozart" (Delos), 16 Disney tunes arranged by Donald Fraser in the manner of 16 composers."The Second Star to the Right," a la Thomas Tallis (born about...

To See, Or Not To See?

Fox took five years to make the latest "Die Hard," while Bruce Willis's image faltered. Now he's cleansed himself in the purifying waters of "Pulp Fiction" and "Nobody's Fool." One eleventh-hour ending was believed too soft, another thought too explosive after Oklahoma City. Explosive won. Expect a hit. Don't expect subtlety.Mel Gibson directs himself as a medieval Scottish hero, but there's no vanity here: he's dirty and he's having a hell of a bad hair day. Will anyone go? "Rob Boy" did...

The Bartoli Express

It was just a little patch of grass, not even a park, in downtown Pasadena. But when Cecilia Bartoli reached the edge of it, she stopped, whisked off her shoes and began to run around. "Excuse me," said the mezzosoprano, who was in town to give a sold-out recital, "but it's very important for me to feel the ground under my feet."At 28, an age when most singers are barely past toddlerhood, she is the hottest Italian export since risotto. And in an operatic era dominated by the fractious...

Star-Driven To The Box Office

In hollywood, practice sometimes actually can make perfect. Harrison Ford has made a career of playing the same guys, but giving them a variety of textures. In the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" trilogies, his Han Solo and Indy had a slightly different warp and woof every time. Ford took on CIA superhero Jack Ryan in "Patriot Games" (1992); in _B_Clear and Present Danger, _b_he recuts Ryan's suit, and his elegant tailoring saves the movie.When James Greer (James Earl Jones), the CIA's...

Other People's Money

Seen many good new American musicals lately? If you've been looking on Broadway, probably not. You should try an opera house. The energy and inventiveness that once fueled that native theatrical form is now combustion for American opera. There's a kaleidoscope of composers, including John Adams, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Robert Moran and Anthony Davis, creating works as accessible as "Grand Hotel"--and a lot more imaginative.In the last 11 months, having ignored new American music for...

It's A Boy! Oops, A Girl!

Believe it or not, her parents didn't name her Eve. But Sara Kobitz is something out of Ripley's: on her father's side, she's the first female in at least eight generations. Melissa and John Kobitz of Portage, Ind., who already have a son, Adam, 3, were so sure a boy was on the way that they bought everything in blue. They were thrilled when Sara arrived last week-and John's mother is still so taken aback she keeps calling her "him." What to do with all those baby blue duds? Melissa has sent...

As Fast as You Can Say 'Jackie Robinson' . . .

In 19 years in the big leagues, he got 255 hits and batted in 1,276 runs. Go figure. OK, 255 was the number of times Don Baylor got hit by a pitch-a bruising major-league record. He's never backed off the inside fast ball-and that's just one reason he's eminently qualified to be a manager. Last week, having narrowly missed the to s a few times elsewhere, he finally connected. The Colorado Rockies, one of two National League expansion teams making their debuts next spring, named Baylor, 43, as...

The Election Connection

In 1990, Arizonans approved a holiday to honor Martin Luther King, by a 3-to-1 margin. This is not a misprint. The catch: the ballots didn't count. The people casting them, all participants in the Kids Voting program, were under 18. While the state's "real" electorate defeated the King referendum and a school-funding issue, children approved both, though they knew that King Day would simply replace another school holiday.American electoral apathy is acute, particularly among 18-to...

Santa Maria And Spaceships

During an early rehearsal of Philip Glass's "The Voyage" at the Metropolitan Opera, one orchestra member asked conductor Bruce Ferden how long the first act would run. " Forty-five minutes," the maestro replied. "Oh," said the musician. "So if we played it without repeats it would last five?"Commissioned for the quincentenary of Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, "The Voyage" sailed into the Met right on schedule last week, exactly 500 years after the famous landing....

The Books Of Summer

It used to be easy to hype each summer's novels. A TAN-FASTIC FUN-IN-THE-SUN FICTION FIESTA. Or, HAVE A BALL WITH THIS BEACH-BAG BOOK BONANZA. This year, as the ozone layer melts away like a TV addict's attention span, all we can responsibly say is: here are some new books which you must under no circumstances take outdoors for more than five minutes without a hat and sunblock.Later this summer, we'll see a second wave of fiction, from crowd-pleasing old reliables Stephen King, Jack Higgins,...

Domesticated Bliss

Lee Ryan and Robin Leonard have lived together for eight years. Last July they went to city hall in San Francisco and made it legal. While a friend took photographs, Ryan hummed wedding marches in Leonard's ear. It was, says Leonard, 31, a lawyer and editor at Nolo Press, "a wonderful emotional experience." At work, colleagues hung up streamers and put a JUST DOMESTICATED Sign over the door. Leonard and Ryan, a 33-year-old law librarian, are lesbians, and the license they picked up at city hall...

Dancing In The Dark

Will you serve the nuts-I mean, would you serve the guests the nuts?--MYRNA Loy in "The Thin Man" (1934)Asta as a main event? That was just one clue that the show was, if not a dog, certainly in trouble. Close to four years in the making, "Nick & Nora" finally opened last week on Broadway. Despite a seasoned creative team, two fine stars (Barry Bostwick and Joanna Gleason) and a swell terrier, the kick in the "Thin Man" cocktail is gone. The story of how "Nick & Nora" arrived is much livelier...

The New Oral Tradition

If you log endless hours behind the wheel of a car or on a stationary bicycle, you've probably heard a lot of good books lately. The audio-book business is thriving, with annual sales approaching $1 billion. Before the mid-'80s, when publishers woke up to the boom in portable cassette players and automobile tape decks, it scarcely existed. Since then, business has grown so quickly that there has been almost no market research. "What we find," says Leslie Nadell, director of publicity, promotion...

Just The Way Walt Made 'Em

Studios used to have traditions, and pride in them. MGM had its musicals, and now it's tuneless and hobbling. Warner Bros., once famous for its gangster movies, has become an impersonal corporate giant. But at least one tradition survives in Hollywood. When it comes to animation, nobody's done it longer--or better--than Disney. Though this has been a year in which the fortunes of the Walt Disney Co. have been sputtering-and it's looking as though Disney's "Billy Bathgate" will take a bath-it's...

And Donor Makes Three

When Karen James* was pregnant, she wondered what her baby would look like. Unlike most expectant mothers, she was positive it wouldn't take after her side of the family, not "my sister, my father, my mother. I would look at this child and wouldn't see my nose." Now, James gazes at her 20-month-old daughter and does indeed wonder about her "cute turned-up nose. I know it's not from my husband's side." The toddler inherited the feature from her "other" mother, an anonymous woman who voluntarily...

The Making Of An Ensemble

One evening in 1988, Raymond Gniewek took time off from his job and got a ticket to Debussy's "Pelleas and Melisande" at the Metropolitan Opera. "I was floored," he says. "I was transfixed. I couldn't believe the colors, the sound, being washed over with waves of water, the breeze." Gniewek is the Met's concertmaster; at "Pelleas" he was, for a change, on the outside listening in. That night, he realized what he had previously only suspected: the Met orchestra, led by James Levine, had turned...

Last Rights

Marie was dying. Her 69-year-old body, wasted by incurable emphysema and inoperable lung cancer, could no longer function on its own. As her family stood by her hospital bedside on a hot summer morning, the doctor suggested hooking her up to life-sustaining equipment. Marie looked beseechingly at her daughter Rose. "What do you think?" she asked. "No, Mom," Rose answered. Marie nodded. The doctor bristled. "If that were my mother, I'd do it," he said. But the family stood firm. The following...