Acclaimed as one of the few genuine dramatic sopranos to enter the international ranks in recent years, Ghena Dimitrova finally gets to the West Coast next Sunday night, courtesy of Ambassador Auditorium, where she appears in recital with pianist Christo Stanischeff.
The Bulgarian diva has been a regular in numerous European opera houses for nearly two decades, and has appeared extensively in South America, too. She has sung in international opera centers--like those in Buenos Aires, Moscow, Munich, Vienna and London--since the middle 1970s.
But her first United States appearances took place only in 1981. And she has yet to sing at San Francisco Opera (where she is scheduled for "Il Trovatore" in June) or at the Metropolitan Opera (where her debut is set for the 1988-89 season, in the title role of "Turandot").
Why has it taken her so long to reach our shores?
Recently, that question was posed to the dark-haired singer, via a telephone interview, two hours before she was scheduled to go on stage as Turandot in Detroit. Her answer was brief but unassailable:
"God wanted it like this."
Through an interpreter (her secretary, Kristel Potocnik), Dimitrova said she has no interest in extending herself beyond her present operatic roles. Since her debut (in "Nabucco") in Sofia at age 25, the singer has specialized in what she calls "the big Italian repertory"--the operas of Verdi and Puccini in particular. And, she said, she will continue to sing only those roles she has already made her own.
"I will not change anything. I have done so well in these roles, I have no wish to change," Dimitrova said.
At Ambassador, Dimitrova will offer songs by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini, as well as arias by each of those composers from "Guglielmo Tell," "Roberto Devereux," "Norma," "I Vespri Siciliani," "Un Ballo in Maschera" and "Manon Lescaut."
As one who has been compared to legendary singers of the past--like Eva Turner, Zinka Milanov and (one of her teachers) Gina Cigna--to what does she attribute the fact that dramatic sopranos are not being born, or trained, or found, in the numbers they were in previous generations?
"I do not know why."
But Dimitrova's special vocal gifts--as they have been described by many--are qualities she prizes.
As she recognized, some years ago, and later described to a reporter from Opera News: "I realized . . . there was no one singing my roles with the vocal weight to cover, technically and with volume, this dramatic repertory. And that is where one begins. I'm not talking about artistry--that is quite another thing."
THE PHILHARMONIC WEEK: Andre Previn, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, makes his final appearances of the season on that orchestra's podium this week. In concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Thursday and Friday nights and next Sunday afternoon (and Saturday night in Santa Ana), Previn will conduct a bracing program including Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, the "Burleske" by Richard Strauss (with pianist Cristina Ortiz as soloist) and Shostakovich's First Symphony.
Otherwise, the list of Philharmonic-sponsored events in the Pavilion during the next seven days contains no fewer than three recitals. Monday night at 8, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax return for a program of Beethoven sonatas. The popular duo will play (in this order) the Sonatas in G minor, Opus 5. No. 2; in C, Opus 102, No. 1, and A, Opus 69.
Veteran pianist Rudolf Serkin, in the rescheduled recital appearance postponed in December, returns to the Pavilion, Wednesday night at 8, for this program: Mozart's Fantasy (K. 475) and Sonata (K. 457) in C minor; Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata, and Schubert's Sonata in A, D. 959.
And next Sunday night at 8, pianist Murray Perahia returns for an agenda including Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Schumann's G-minor Sonata, the Sonata No. 1 by Michael Tippett and Chopin's A-flat Ballade.
AT THE BALLET: American Ballet Theatre begins a second week (of three promised weeks) of performances in Shrine Auditorium, Tuesday night at 8, with a program listing "Symphonie Concertante," "Murder" and "Push Comes to Shove." Wednesday night, the company offers another mixed bill, this one again including "Symphonie Concertante" and "Push," surrounding "Requiem" and a pas de deux danced by Cynthia Gregory and Patrick Bissell. For the next six performances, Thursday through Sunday nights, the company will dance a revival of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet." See our listings page for castings.