The $50,000 Beverly Sills Artist Award will be given annually, starting next year, to an American singer between the ages of 25 and 40 who has appeared as a soloist with the Met. It is intended to support the singer's career by funding voice lessons, travel, and other costs. A panel of judges, chaired by Sills and including Nathan Leventhal, former president of Lincoln Center, will select the winners.
According to the Met, the award, which was endowed by a gift from Met managing director Agnes Varis and her husband, Karl Leichtman, is the largest for a young singer in the United States.
"I am deeply touched, but not surprised, by the generosity of my two very close friends who have honored me in such a meaningful way," Sills said in a statement. "In addition to their personal warmth and kindness to me, their profound interest in the arts is second to no one's. It is not only a privilege but a treat to see our names linked in such an important endeavor as helping young singers."
Sills was the chair of the Met from 2002 until January of this year, when she resigned because of on an injury and her husband's failing health. She previously served as chair of Lincoln Center and general director of New York City Opera, the company with which she sang for more than two decades in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.