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Raina Kabaivanska: Every moment on stage is happiness

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On 15 December opera diva Raina Kabaivanska celebrates her 80th birthday. On this occasion a program of events has been launched by New Bulgarian University, where Kabaivanska is Doctor Emeritus and leads master classes in opera singing and presentation. Following the great success of the exhibition Raina Kabaivanska, Parts and Costumes in October, now a new one is in the making. It features 80 art photographs that have captured moments from the joint work of the singer with figures like Callas, Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras. A new CD, Raina Kabaivanska Rarities, a collection of previously unpublished performances of the Bulgarian soprano, will be presented before the gala concert planned to mark her birthday. It is scheduled for 18 December and the venue is the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. At the concert the diva will present thirteen of her students who already have successful careers in the world of opera. The accompaniment will be provided by the Sofia National Opera Orchestra conducted by Nayden Todorov. The event will be raising charities to go for young opera singers' stipends.

There are singers whom audiences know and admire while they sing on stage. There are also singers who leave a vestige in history with their outstanding personalities and brilliant parts. Raina Kabaivanska is an artiste who has set standards in the interpretation of some of the most emblematic soprano parts in opera: Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Butterfly, Francesca da Rimini.

Her long and grossly successful creative career full of hard work, ambition, perseverance and dedication to the art of opera, offers not only outstanding achievements, but also a few worthy lessons for the young. Kabaivanska is a singer who had her breakthrough in opera on her own, at a time when this art was growing and becoming increasingly competitive. She emerged as a foremost operatic star with an admirable talent.

The gallery of characters that Raina Kabaivanska has acted is quite diverse: among them are the tragic little Japanese woman, the prima donna Tosca, the provincial Manon Lescaut turned into Parisian courtesan and Lisa, a sufferer and martyr. She is particularly convincing and impressive cast in Verdi's heroines: the regal Elizabeth, the gentle Desdemona and the beautiful Violetta. In every part she comes across differently subjecting her voice to the means of expression required by the character. Her Tosca is one of her greatest parts captured also in a 1976 movie by Gianfranco De Bosio.

Raina Kabaivanska has sung with the greatest singers of our time. She exhibits an extraordinary creative longevity which - among other striking episodes - includes the rendition of the extravagant part of Emilia Marty from The Makropulos Case by Czech composer Leos Janacek. On stage Kabaivanska is a refined actress elaborating even the tiniest details; someone emanating beauty and intelligence.

But this is not all because her teaching career is also remarkable. Many years ago she launched master classes in Italy and France, and she has been leading such classes at New Bulgarian University since 2001. Many of the singers trained by her have already launched international careers.

Stately, gracious, a veritable diva who always reminds us that art is a spiritual gift rather that a commodity that is labeled and sold: it could be that Raina Kabaivanska is the last lady of the time when not just the voice but the overall presentation of the singer is appreciated; a time when opera conveys messages and ennobles the spirit of the audience.

English Daniela Konstantinova

Audio: opera diva Raina Kabaivanska, arias:

1. Manon from Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Vassil Stefanov; a live recording from 1979 Sofia Music Weeks Festival

2. Violetta from La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

3. Tosca from the eponymous opera by Giacomo Puccini with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Vassil Stefanov; a live recording from 1979 Sofia Music Weeks Festival

4. Cho-Cho-San from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Vassil Stefanov; a live recording from 1979 Sofia Music Weeks Festival

5. Adriana Lecouvreur from the eponymous opera by Francesco Cilea

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