Born: May 6, 1941 Died: June 11, 2005
Ghena Dimitrova has specialized in dramatic Italian soprano roles with occasional forays into spinto roles, such as Elvira in Ernani and Lady Macbeth. Unlike many dramatic sopranos, she started with a large, powerful voice and was able to take the heaviest roles early in her career. She sang in her school choir and her promise soon became apparent. Her lack of formal music education kept her from entering music school, so she studied privately before entering the Sofia Conservatory. She actually entered as a mezzo, though she was recognized as a soprano in her second year. She made her debut at the National Opera in 1966 in Verdi's Nabucco as Abigaille as a last-minute substitute, learning the role in little over a week. (She had originally chosen Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore or Amelia in Un ballo in maschera as potential debut roles -- still daring, but not as demanding as Abigaille, known as a "voice killer" role.) In 1970, she won first prize in the prestigious Sofia International Singing Competition, a prize that included two years of study at La Scala's Scuola di Perfezionamento, where she studied with Gina Cigna, among others. Dimitrova also studied recordings, particularly those of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, and Montserrat Caballé. She sang her first Turandot in Treviso, Italy, in 1975 (though she temporarily shelved the role until the 1980s) and made her United States debut in 1981 as Elvira. In 1983, she made her London debut at the Barbican in a concert performance of Ponchielli's La Gioconda, making her Covent Garden debut later that same year, as well as her La Scala debut as Turandot. Her New York debut was also a concert performance with Eve Queler's Concert Opera Orchestra in 1984. In 1988, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the same role.