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Soprano Beverly Sills' Art, Jewelry For Sale In NY

An auction of the late soprano Beverly Sills' estate fetched more than a half-million dollars Wednesday _ far more than expected for the costume designs, art and other personal items.

Sills, known for her dazzling voice and bubbly personality, died in July 2007 after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

On the block at Doyle New York auction house were more than 460 lots from the soprano's home overlooking Central Park in the grand Beresford building.

With a standing-room-only crowd of fans competing with bidders on the Internet and telephone, the auction exceeded the pre-sale estimate of about $253,000 to $378,000.

The highest price, $27,500, went for a pencil on paper sketch of a family by Fernando Botero, the Colombian artist noted for the exaggerated proportions of his figures.

About 70 sketches for opera costumes Sills displayed in her apartment _ going for up to $3,400 each _ had escaped a 1985 fire that destroyed the actual clothing at a New Jersey warehouse used by the New York City Opera, the musical launching pad for Sills' international career.

Among other auctioned items was a photo of Sills as Queen Elizabeth that graced a 1971 cover of Time magazine, which called her "America's queen of opera." The photo sold for $437.

A collection of forty-five opera scores she used _ many with her notations or inscriptions by friends and composers _ went for $8,750.

And the diva's two full-length Russian sable coats sold for $5,625 and $2,813.

The prices include the auction house premium of 25 percent.

In the 1960s, Sills drew worldwide attention with her vocal pyrotechnics in George Frideric Handel's then virtually unknown "Julius Caesar." The Brooklyn-born singer nicknamed "Bubbles" also triumphed in roles including the 16th century Scottish queens portrayed by Gaetano Donizetti in three operas.

Sills made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1975 in Gioachino Rossini's "The Siege of Corinth."

After her retirement from singing in 1979, Sills became City Opera's general director, then served as chairwoman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and later as the Met's chairwoman.

She was a powerhouse on the American cultural scene, hosting TV broadcasts and raising funds for both the arts and people with disabilities. Her daughter, Muffy Greenough, suffers from multiple sclerosis and was born deaf and son Bucky Greenough is autistic.

Sills could raise millions of dollars, often with just a few phone calls, tapping wealthy friends and public figures like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

She earned recognition far beyond the music world with her appearances on "The Tonight Show," "The Muppet Show," and the "Sills and Burnett at the Met" television broadcast from the Met stage with her friend and comedian Carol Burnett.

Written tributes in the auction catalog describe her sunny and compassionate disposition as much as her golden voice, with comments from Bloomberg, Burnett, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and TV personality Barbara Walters.


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