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At Immling in Germany, on 5 July 2008, there was such a Gilda, and she did everything just right: the Bulgarian soprano Petya Ivanova approaches Verdi with the analytical phrasing of Bel Canto, as used in Verdi's time, and it worked beautifully. For a tiny singer like Ivanova, standing at some 1.5 metres, perhaps, the voice was not only amazingly powerful but also came perfectly sung on the breath. How does such a voice come out of a tiny chest like this?

'Great attention to perfecting breathing technique and exercises to increase lung volume. I use yoga, for one thing,' Ivanova said after her performance. 'The other thing is physical fitness in general. I eat well, I exercise a lot, and I live for my art.'

Verena von Kerssenbrock, Ivan Anguélov and Petya Ivanova after the performance. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin
Verena von Kerssenbrock, Ivan Anguélov and Petya Ivanova after the performance. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin

She even goes one step further: while some of the other singers sounded like they were singing in undefinable Slavic languages, Gilda sounded Italian, with near perfect diction. After the performance, we found out why: 'I learned the language,' Ivanova says. 'Now I can speak it, I can think in it, and I can put myself into an Italian's shoes. That is much easier if you really know a language rather than just learning the text by heart.'

Petya Ivanova as Gilda. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin
Petya Ivanova as Gilda. Photo © 2008 Philip Crebbin

So, this Gilda really knew her stuff, and she carried the opera almost single-handedly. 'I think she has a world-class voice,' says the Bulgarian conductor Ivan Anguélov, who was also present at the première to support his protégée and received almost as much attention, just for being there, because the classical music fans simply love him, whether he conducts or just shows up. Judging by the audience's reaction and by what one has heard thus far from Ivanova, he may have a point about her future path. Already, Ivanova has been singing at Hamburg and Vienna, and the rumour mill has it that several other big opera houses are already knocking at the door.

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Copyright © 9 July 2008 Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany

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