After the success of Puccini’s Tabarro in 1959 with Piero Cappuccilli at Vercelli’s Teatro Civico, Kabaivanska started out on her triumphant international career.
Her relationship with Teatro alla Scala began in 1961 when she sang in Gianfrancesco Malipiero’s Torneo notturno at the small theatre housed inside the main building — alas, no more — known as the Piccola Scala. Her debut in the main house was on 10 May 1961 in Beatrice di Tenda conducted by Antonino Votto.
Her 1961 debut in Milan’s La Scala paved the way for a brilliant career that has put her on the stage of all major opera theatres and concert halls worldwide – Covent Garden in London, the Paris Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall in New York, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Staatsoper in Hamburg, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, the Sofia Opera, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Tokyo Opera, the Salzburg Festival and many others.
During 1961 and 1962 came Busoni’s Turandot and Suor Angelica. Then for the 1962/63 season, Kabaivanska sang Alice in Falstaff with Nino Sanzogno, then followed Don Carlo (conducted by Santini with Bruno Prevedi, 1964), Mefistofele (Gavazzeni with Bergonzi, 1964), Rienzi (Scherchen with Di Stefano, 1964), Ernani (Votto with Domingo, 1969), Pagliacci (Verchi with Vickers, 1970), Madama Butterfly (Verchi with Gianni Raimondi, 1972 / Prêtre with Cecchele, 1979), Tosca (Molinari Pradelli with Domingo, 1974 / Ozawa with Pavarotti, 1980), Simon Boccanegra (Abbado with Cappuccilli, 1976).
Kabaivanska has been especially active in Italy where she has performed in all major, as well as less prominent opera theatres – La Scala, but also Teatro Verdi in Trieste, Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Arena di Verona, the theatres in Turin, Genoa, Parma, Bologna, Modena, and the Rome Opera House. She has partnered a few generations of great tenors on stage – Franco Corelli, Mario del Monaco, Jon Wickers, Carlo Bergonzi, Alfredo Kraus, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti.
Although her operatic connection with the theatre finished early in her long 55-year career, she made many memorable concert and recital appearances.
Today, Raina Kabaivanska teaches in Italy and her native Bulgaria.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.