Once, aspiring opera divas were expected to come from Europe. Sills, a redheaded child radio star from Brooklyn, whose mother dreamed she'd be the "Jewish Shirley Temple," worked her way up through New York's "second" City Opera and drew raves as a brilliant coloratura soprano in shows from Manon to Cleopatra. Known as Bubbles, the witty, savvy prima donna appeared in houses around the world, broadening opera's appeal on TV, where she filled in for Johnny Carson, bantered with Barbara Walters and performed with the Muppets. After retiring from the stage in 1978, Sills ran and re-energized City Opera and the Met. Of her expansive career she said, "I've always tried to go a step past wherever people expected me to end up."