Cher Public

Happy Birthday Raina Kabaivanska!

kabaivanskaThe Bulgarian diva was born December 15, 1934.

  • Camille

    That was most interesting to me.
    I had the good fortune of seeing la Kabaivanska do this very role at Teatro dell’Opera in Roma in March or April 1985. At the time I was not that taken with her interpretation, but I later heard her in concert, and it began to dawn on me what she was all about and what it was I had missed by being too obtuse and inexperienced. Anyway, considering what I’ve heard since, impersonating Adriana, I consider myself privileged indeed to have had the opportunity to see this lovely, earnest and deeply feeling artista.

    Tanti auguri, egregia Signora.

  • operalover9001

    Happy birthday to my first (and, with Callas, favorite) Tosca!

    • Harry

      Kabaivanska…now we are talking about a true artist that left no stone unturned in turning in a professional performance -fully prepared, polished and thoughtful. She was the gifted mistress of little telling gestures, expression, and vocal shade that magically transformed a character. I even have a CD where she performed live in concert in Italy extremely late in her singing career. Still everything one could ever expect , was still in place.
      I am happy she continues to teach. Happy Birthday Raina! An to many more happy years ahead.

  • Oh yay! I look forward to the youtube clip wave. Like Rysanek, Raina is a singer I’m lukewarm on. Well I must say was cause after the Rysanek birthday youtube orgy I’m now sold. Hope the same happens here.

    • Your wish is my command:

      First: The last act(basically) of a 1973 Tosca filmes in Tokyo (god bless those Japanese people)

      Clip 1 starts with a fabulous Flaviano Labò singing E lucevan and goes all the way to Tosca’s entrance and high C; clip 2starts at the “dolci mani” and clip 3 starts when the executioner tells Cav “it’s time.”

      Then from latter on, the finale Suor Angelica. The voice is not ass secure, but I dare you not to cry…

      And last, and back to Tosca some rare footage of her performing the role in Bulgaria in 1972 with Taddeit. it is interspersed with an interview of her talking about Tosca

      • StarryVere

        Oh, Lindoro, you weren’t kidding about the Suor Angelica. I wasn’t expecting to start my day with tears, but that really got to me.

        Come to think of it, the first time I cried while watching opera was when watching Kabaivanska’s Butterfly from Verona.

      • The voice is not ass secure


        Cellulite on her vocal cords?

    • Here’s clip 3 of the Tosca act 3. Damn it!

    • richard

      ON, the Tosca clips are a good example of Kabaivanska’s singing so maybe it will “click” with you. No matter how much we analyze our reactions to things like recordings, there is always a personal element that is hard to define though, isn’t there?

      Kabaivanska had a rather unusual voice, there was a persistant vibrato to it that sometimes made pitch seem a bit fuzzy. Not that their voices are all that similar but it’s a little like Radvanosky today with all those extra overtones to the sound.

      I think she is very strong in Verismo, she’s good with the declamation and parlando . She’s very strong with her phrasing and precise with her attacks which add lots of energy.

      I also liked her as Elisabetta in Don Carlo, that was the role she sang most often at the Met although the persistent fast vibrato added a bit of an unusual quality. She was also very fine as Butterfly.

      I don’t think bel canto is a good choice to try to explore her singing. I have a recording of Beatrice di Tenda where she sing the seconda role opposite Sutherland and it just doesn’t work for me. The Fausta clip below is very haunting sounding but she makes the music sound almost post-impressionistic, sort of Resphigi-like. However in THAT type of music, say Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, her way of singing worked very well.

      She also specialized in Russian/Slavic music such as Queen of Spades (Lisa and I think also the Old Countess) and Onegin. A lot of Bulgarians seem to find Russian music congenial.

      All in all I would say she’s a very individual singer with a rather unusual sound that delivered very strong performances. She’s not going to appeal to everybody, particularly listeners that respond strongly to a big plush sound.

      Hope you find the recordings of Kabaivanska interesting even if you don’t still really get her.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      ON, I’m in the same boat as you, except that I’ve found that watching and listening to the clips of Raina on this thread are just putting me off her even more! Bring back Poplavskaya, all is forgiven…

      • Wash your mouth with soap! I understand not liking Kavaibanska, it is a matter of taste, but to mention Popy in the same breath? I shudder

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Happy birthday Raina Kaba Ivanskaya! I shall never forget seeing you perform at the old MET, but it was much later when your great artistry really gleamed and still shines for all to admire.

  • Always my first choice for Adriana. Such a complete and committed artist. I think she emits this voice which at times scares you into thinking she won’t be able to pull off the high notes. But she does, in her own idiosyncratic way. This is a really moving video. Her acting here is unparalleled.

  • ardath_bey

    gorgeous, haunting Raina in this rare Donizetti, one of his most exquisite, sublime. Happy birthday diva!

  • J. G. Pastorkyna

    Adriana catfight duet with Florence Quivar

    • I remember this telecast. I was a young teenager and fairly new to opera but I was captivated by the passion and fury of these two ladies. Quivar’s big blowout at 6:07 stayed with me all these years (I had not heard any music from this opear before). Nice to see it again.

  • One of my beloved divas. I grew up with Raina in the 70s and 80s. La Scala largely ignored her, but she was the reigning primadonna at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, and appeared regularly in every Italian opera house. For about 20 years she was the leading Tosca, Butterfly, Manon. and became known like the supreme Pucciniana. Now that I think about it, she was my very first Tosca and Manon. Other roles I saw her in are Hanna Glavary, Adriana, Donizetti’s Fausta and Elisabetta in R. Devereux), and one of her very few Violetta, in Bologna in 1980 I think. She sang it very rarely, because she had problems with the Cs ribattuti in the cabaletta. She once told us in her dressing room: “Violetta is my role, but I can’t sing it for just a handful of notes” . An impudent child, I told her she could lower it half a step, just like Tebaldi did, and she answered ” no, this would be like admitting defeat”. That was the first time I met her, and she was surprised that a 9 year old kid would know about Tebaldi transpositions. I also saw her in Francesca da Rimini,just wonderful. I consider her Olivero’s successor, and Magda herself has huge admiration for Raina.
    The first clip is the end of Pagliacci with Vickers, remarkable for how she reacts to canio’s outburts. The second is Roberto Devereux. Vocally she wasn’t at her prime any more, but what a performance!

    • One of her teachers, the one she credited with having thought her the proper technique, was the legendary Giulia Tess, one of the sopranos most admired by Puccini. Tess was Puccini’s favorite Fanciulla, and she was the first one (and of the very few) to sing the more difficult version of the second act love duet.

    • Ercole, as a nine-year old, you were suggesting to a diva that she transpose Violetta down like Tebaldi?!?! Gee, what was I doing at age 9?

  • pernille

    I only heard her once, and it was memorable. Butterfly in the Arena (Verona)is not a great combination. However she managed to “shrink” the setting into an intimate and moving performance.

    I seem to recall that we were told it was her final performance in the Arena. She may not have been a youthful and innocent Butterfly -- but she was noble, something the role benefited from.

  • Krunoslav

    Big Raina fan, though I only heard her once live, a captivating Tatiana at the Met with (ahem) Mazurok, Gedda and Plishka.

    The 1973 OONY FRANCESCA w/Domingo is superb, but here in 1980 w/Franco Tagliavini one can see-- much as I admire Renata Scotto-- how foolish the Met was not to revive the piece for Kabaivanska ( she was offered a cover contact and two performances and refused).

    • richard

      I saw Kabaivanska a number of times, Bing gave her a lot of engagements but I think maybe he used her as a utility singer. But from 1970-73 I saw her in Don Carlo, Butterfly, Pagliacci, Faust (not her role), Boheme, Lisa in QoS, and in the OONY Francesca.

      I’m guessing her Lisa was her last performances under Bing contracts and she only returned to the Met once more in the Onegins Kruno mentions.

      I also heard the stories of how unhappy she was with the contracts the Met offered her, particularly in the post Bing years.

      She was also a favorite of mine, particularly for Butterfly and I agree with Ercole that her way of singing was modeled after Olivero.

  • Hmmm, I am gaining an appreciation for her voice, really enjoyed the Devreaux clip. But I think her rap may be a permanent issue for me. The more I listen to Tosca the more I realize that I just don’t like it all that much and I’m not thrilled by Adriana or Verismo in general. I tend to prefer a fast, overtone-y vibrato, to me she has a similar timbre to Scotto, but with less wobble. Beautiful voice, intelligent artist, but just may not be my new obsession. Happy birthday nonetheless!

  • Nemorinopr

    Mi primera e inolvidable Cio Cio San!!!
    Gracias y enhorabuena….MAESTRA!!

  • peter

    Raina sang an Elisabetta in Don Carlo on a 1970 Met broadcast along with Corelli, Bumbry and Merrill. Sirius has yet to play this performance. I believe the only Met broadcasts with her on Sirius are an Onegin and a Manon Lescaut. She is definitely underrepresented on Met broadcasts.

    • bassoprano

      I remember listening to that broadcast, and noting that her ‘Tu che le vanita’ was stunning. I would love to hear it again.

  • Edward George

    Kabaivanska’s Butterfly was one of the first opera videos I bought, alongside Marton/Aragall in Tosca and Dimitrova in Turandot, all from Verona in performances from the early 80s. As a teenager, I could hop in and out of Tosca, loved the spectacle of Turandot and the Ping/Pang/Pong scene, yet if I put Butterfly on I had to watch it all the way through. There was something compelling in her performance and inherently interesting in her voice that made me watch and listen.

    It’s available on dvd. Youtube excerpts are in poor sound but you can hear a clip here (click on the x to skip the advert):

    Here is a question for our vocal experts: does anyone know why Kabaivanska’s tongue might flutter as much as it does? Is this the reason for her distinctive sound? You can see it here, particularly around 1.41:

    • She seems to have made of both Tosca and Leonora in Trovatore some sort of specialty. She recorded the opera for the Acanta Label in Italy; a great recording.

      The recording served as the soundtrack for the Movie that also has Bonisolli (in magnificent form) and Viorica Cortez looking more like Carmen than Azucena.

      Seems like Karajan also had great respect for her, he cast her in the Pagliacci and also as Mrs. Ford in both the video and the recording of the production.

      I was surprised when one of you guys mentioned how Raina felt a special connection to XXth century music and then saw several clips of Makropulos with her in Italian. What a shame that it was not filmed for telecast.

      And not only that, there are also house vids of her as the new governess in Turn of the screw. It is in italian, but who cares? That would have been such a great thing to have in better quality video.

  • Will

    I was very happy to have heard her once at the MET:

    12,21,64 MET Kabaivanska, Grillo, Bergonzi, Herlea, Giaiotti, Corena; Santi

    It was the awful hacked apart edition of Forza that Bing had sanctioned but it was still a really good performance of what was left.

  • Camille

    For anyone out there that still doesn’t “get” la Kabaivanska, perhaps this offering will help? It was with this aria, in concert at Teatro dell’Opera Roma in 1986 pr 87, that I suddenly woke up to what this woman had to give. Please disregard the visuals, as I am sure some of them will find them over the top and amusing.

    • Camille

      oh NO!! Madame Stella pre-empted her!! Let me go find the missing Kabaivanska!

    • Camille

      Raina retrieved?

      • Camille

        oh NO NO NO! What is going on here? Dammit! Back to youtube!

        • Camille

          Third time works the charm? It’s supposed to be the aria from Edgar, if Mme. Stella shows up once more. I’m so sorry. Back to YouTube importing school for me.

  • phoenix

    There are several honest and accurate tributes on this thread from people who actually saw her in her prime: from Richard, Ercole, Camille, all of you have said it better than I ever could. She was in the same class as Gencer & Olivero. In terms of stage presence, Kabaivanska had a unique, inborn genteel quality. Her stage personality, her singing, & her beautiful voice were the epitome of elegance itself as defined here: “Elegance is the attribute of being unusually effective and simple. It is frequently used as a standard of tastefulness….”

    I was fortunate enough to see her in New York in performances for over 10 years from the late 60’s through the 70’s. I can’t explain how magical her performances were. As Maddalena di Coigny, Butterfly, Elisabetta in Don Carlos, Mimi, Nedda, Francesa da Rimini, Marguerite in Faust, Lisa in Pikovaya Dama & Tatyana in Onegin.

    After 1980, IMO Kabaivanska didn’t record that well, so I find her videos of Tosca & Butterfly disappointing. She can be heard at her best in those live CD’s as Maddalena di Coigny, Donizetti’s Fausta & Margarita in Mefistofele, etc. but alas the sound quality on most of them is rather poor quality but oh, what heavenly singing! Her last Met broadcast (Tatyana in Onegin 1979) you can hear on Sirius still shows the full incredible beauty of her tone, but it too is not in the best of sound… however, the Sirius/Met Player Puccini Manon Lescaut broadcast from 1966 has been doctored up by technicians and is in good sound.

    Perhaps Kabaivanska was used as sort of a house singer at the Met. Even if it was so, what incredible good fortune to have such a “house” singer of unequalled quality as Kabaivanska was. How lucky I was to live in New York at that time & to be able to attend so many performance by such a great artist!

  • I always loved Raina in this one:

  • paddypig

    does anyone know why her RCA studio recordings were never released in the USA? I have the studio FRANCESCA DA RIMINI, but years ago also saw a MANON LESCAUT with Giacomini and an ADRIANA LECOUVREUR, both on the RCA label in europe. all are out of print now. A friend also wanted the Francesca and I fortunately found a second copy in Capetown of all places and quickly bought it.

    • Belfagor

      There was also a fun recital on RCA -- very diverse with bits from La straniera I remember. I blow hot and cold about her voice, but she was definitely a huge presence and very involving and endearing on stage.

      Recently, through a link from Lindora Almaviva, I found a 1991 Trovatore, which I was directed to as a memorial to the divine Verrett, and Kabaivanska is going strong, a wonderfully in your face Leonora, a bit blowsy, inevitably, but both ladies sound as if they are having a BALL. I guess a Leonora-Azucena duet would be dramatically improbable, to say the least, but this performance makes you regret the omission, even so!