OP0653. ERNANI, Live Performance, 7 Dec., 1969, w.Votto Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Raina Kabaivanska, Plácido Domingo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Carlo Meliciani, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Myto 051.304. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 608974503048
"...what I most remember is the initial sound of Domingo's voice as it softly pervaded the huge [Met] auditorium. Its dulcet caress was transporting!"
- Paul Jackson, START-UP AT THE NEW MET, p.409
“Renowned for her interpretations of the roles of Tosca, Manon, Francesca da Rimini, and Madama Butterfly, Kabaivanska accomplished her advanced vocal and piano studies at the Bulgarian State Conservatory in Sofia. In 1958, she moved to Italy and further developed her technique with Zita Fumagalli. She made her début at the Sofia National Opera in 1957 in the role of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN. But Kabaivanska's most important début was in the role of Agnese in Bellini's BEATRICE DI TENDA at La Scala in 1961. At her Covent Garden début in 1962, she sang Desdemona in Verdi's OTELLO, and for the Metropolitan Opera she sang Nedda in PAGLIACCI. Her 1975 Paris début was as Leonore in Verdi's IL TROVATORE, and for her Salzburg début, she interpreted the role of Mrs. Ford in Verdi's FALSTAFF. Kabaivanska has been awarded with many accolades throughout her career, including the Premio Bellini (1965) for her interpretation of Beatrice di Tenda, the Viotti d'oro (1970), the Premio Puccini (1978), the Premio Illica (1979), Premio Monteverdi (1980), and the Premio Lorenzo il Magnifico from the Medici Academy for the Arts in Florence (1990). In 1974, Bulgarian Television dedicated a film to her entitled THE SEASONS OF RAINA KABAIVANSKA. Kabaivanska delivered an emotional performance of the ‘Ave Maria’ from Verdi’s OTELLO to open the funeral mass for Luciano Pavarotti in Modena, 8 Septembe, 2007. Mme Kabaivanska has recently added another role to her considerable repertoire: the Comtesse in Tchaikowsky's PIQUE DAME, in a series of five 2008 performances at the Capitole in Toulouse.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron
"In my view Nicolai Ghiaurov was one of the truly great basses of the central portion of the 20th century, triumphant in both the Slavic and Italian repertoires. For me, his only rival in this role on recordings is Ezio Pinza. Ghiaurov’s voice is rich, dark, strong at both ends of its range, and powerfully dramatic in his vocal acting. Most importantly, he has the ability to produce with such a resonant voice a seamless legato."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Nicolai Ghiaurov, the Bulgarian bass was one of the leading opera singers of his day whose warm, rich bass voice made him ideal for roles like King Philip in Verdi's DON CARLO or the title role in Moussorgsky's BORIS GODOUNOV, both of which were among his signature roles. His vocal power and striking stage presence helped gain him the kind of accolades opera usually reserves for its tenors and sopranos.
His Metropolitan Opera debut, in November 1965, as Mephistopheles in Gounod's FAUST, received rapturous reviews. ‘The man indeed is sensational’, Harold C. Schonberg wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. ‘He not only has a remarkable voice, but he is also big in every way’. He added, ‘He has presence, the kind that Pinza and Chaliapin had, the kind that jumps over the footlights and seizes the listener in a palpable embrace’.
By then, Mr. Ghiaurov was already a star in Europe; his American debut, at the Chicago Lyric Opera, had taken place two years earlier. His Met debut would have come earlier, too, he told an interviewer in 1965, but a tenor accidentally got in the way. At a party in Milan, Rudolf Bing, the Met's general manager, made Mr. Ghiaurov an offer, which was overheard by Franco Corelli. According to Mr. Ghiaurov, Corelli ‘became very excited’ and said to Bing, ‘How dare you offer him so little? From then on, everything was ruined in that discussion’, Mr. Ghiaurov said.
As beloved as he was in New York, Mr. Ghiaurov never created a home base there of the kind he had in Europe; he sang 81 performances of 10 roles at the Met, including a gala in 1991 celebrating the 25th anniversaries his debut, Ms. Freni's and the tenor Alfredo Kraus's; he also appeared in the Met's centennial gala in 1983. His last performance there was in 1996, in RIGOLETTO.
He remained active in Europe, however. In 2001, he tried out a new role, Dosifey, the old believer, in Moussorgsky's KHOVANSHCHINA, in a new production in Zürich, having often sung Khovansky in the same opera. In December in Venice, he sang Basilio in Rossini's BARBER OF SEVILLE, the role in which he made his operatic debut in Sofia in 1955.
His remarkable vocal longevity was often attributed to his choice of roles suited to his voice and to his care in later years not to overextend himself with too many performances.
After his operatic debut, Mr. Ghiaurov's progress was rapid: Bologna in 1958, La Scala in 1959, Covent Garden in 1962. ‘It is not entirely good to move up with such speed’, he told an interviewer. ‘I do not have the long experience with the smaller roles first. Almost from the beginning it is the big roles’.”
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 2004