SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgarian opera singer Ghena Dimitrova, an internationally renowned soprano with a lyrical voice whose career spanned four decades, died yesterday. She was 64.
Ms. Dimitrova died in a hospital in Milan, Italy, according to the Bulgarian National Opera. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Ms. Dimitrova, who was born in the Bulgarian village of Beglezh, studied voice at the Sofia Music Academy, and made her professional debut in 1965 as a soprano at Sofia's National Opera.
In subsequent years she performed at Milan's La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opera, Berlin's State Opera, London's Covent Garden, and New York's Metropolitan Opera.
Elvio Giudici, one of Italy's leading opera critics, said that what was remarkable about Ms. Dimitrova's voice was its power and extension.
''She was capable of great extension, great energy," Giudici said.
Giudici said Ms. Dimitrova's style was particularly suited for dramatic performances, but added she was ''very versatile."
''She was a very generous singer," Giudici added in a telephone interview. ''She did not propose original interpretations, she did not open new horizons, but rather walked on the path of consolidated tradition."
When Ms. Dimitrova first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in 1987, it was in the title role of Puccini's ''Turandot," a part that requires tremendous vocal power and high notes that can cut through the heavy orchestration.
''She is a wonder," wrote Manuela Hoelterhoff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic of the Wall Street Journal, in her review. ''Years of singing the ice princess in Vienna, Verona, and Milan have hardly blunted her penetrating soprano or diminished her range."
The forthright, practical-minded diva chose her parts carefully.
''I have a very sonorous voice; there are very few like mine today," Ms. Dimitrova once said. ''Turandot may not be my favorite part, but it shows off the voice to great advantage. The way the music is written, you need a voice like a trumpet to do it justice."
Ms. Dimitrova was considered a national hero in Bulgaria, and the state news agency BTA said a fund would be established in her name to support opera students.