WITH CARMEN BEFORE THE PREMIERE – NADIA KRASTEVA – IN A CLOSER VIEW
THE WORLD-KNOWN MEZZO-SOPRANO WILL ACT IN PLAMEN KARTALOFF’S NEW PRODUCTION
After the opening of the season of the Sofia Opera with “Parsifal” by Richard Wagner, the beginning of the new season offers to the audience one favourite title, which for a long time was absent from the opera’s playbill. This is the new production of “Carmen”, about which Acad. Plamen Kartaloff has chosen three performers – Nadia Krasteva, Gergana Rusekova and Sanja Anastasia, each one of them with different artistic naturel, which he interweaves in his intriguing director’s conception. A reading, which escapes from the known in the world practice, which somehow naturally continues the line of the innovative searching in the big Wagner saga. Continues also his passion to discover and work with young singers. Not by chance he selected Gergana Rusekova as one of his main characters, who transformed herself in the role of Kundry in “Parsifal”. A role, which revealed of full value the abilities of this artist. Actually to discover new names is the thing, which Plamen Kartaloff does constantly in his practice as stage director.
I shall remind that still in the distant 2002 Plamen Kartaloff discovered his Carmen in the face of at that time only twenty-year-old Nadia Krasteva. She debuted in the title in his production first in Stara Zagora, and later also here, in Sofia, on the stage of the ex-mausoleum. After having mastered the space of this building of cult after the changes with “Opera in the Square”, Kartaloff created the Bulgarian Arena di Verona, which unfortunately wasn’t given a meaning by the government of that time and finished with the destruction of this symbol of the pasт. This didn’t discourage the director’s rebellious spirit, who made his stage over the ruins, or on the place of the mausoleum.
I remember this Carmen, who we applauded, I remember the emotion from the unusual production and experience under the sky of Sofia. Since that time passed almost twenty years. A time, in which Nadia Krasteva transformed herself into the capricious Carmen in over 14 productions all over the world. This character obviously meets the temperament and the artistic charge of the singer, something which won her recognition as one of the most desired Carmens on the world stages.
In expectation of the premiere of “Carmen” at the Sofia Opera, I shall remind that in 2014 Nadia Krasteva was guest-performer in the role of Dalila in Hugo de Ana’s production of the opera “Samson et Dalila”.
After the first rehearsal, I had a conversation with Nadia Krasteva, which started imperceptibly.
- With what emotion do you come back on your native stage, on which you performed in 2003 the role of Carmen?
- My first Carmen with Maestro Kartaloff was in the new production on the open forum in Stara Zagora. After that it moved to Sofia on the open stage. This was a great experience, which is alive in me until this day. The interesting is also that people remember this Carmen. It often happens to me to hear them share how beautiful was this production in the square. It was very interesting. The character was very strong, dynamic, with many dances, acting, movements, change of states. It was exciting in the open air, this first Carmen of mine.
- After reproducing this character on so different stages, in so different productions, what is your feeling about the character you have to transform yourself into in Plamen Kartaloff’s conception?
- I am at the very beginning of the rehearsal period, but I understand that in its depth this is a quite different conception from what I have acted on other stages. He would like to direct the attention on Carmen in a more different way. He puts in the centre of the attention the three personages. He throws a beam of light on them, because he wants the states of Carmen to be red still more clearly. What she experiences as emotions, thoughts, hidden deep within her. States of mystic. To receive a kind of mono spectacle in some moments.
- What is the most difficult in the taming of this capricious character and what do you give Carmen from yourself after so many embodiments?
- I think that each performer finds his or source of emotions. What one shows from oneself, because everyone carries different depth and resource – to show it somehow on the stage. For me by Carmen characteristic is the interweaving of several contradictory things. This is a very interesting character. At first sight is seen her liveliness, sensuality, superficiality in the character, but if we look deeper, we discover this mystical and more sad person, who is seeking something higher in love, looking for something, which he hasn’t found, for herself. She actually dies without having found what she was looking for.
- Actually, Carmen could be understood as a rebellion of the personality, of the human being, who in life is trying to understand something more about himself or herself?
- Indeed, this is one possible journey towards oneself, a journey of a restless personality, who feels with all her senses the mystical in her life. Carmen, she is a gipsy, she has a third eye, she has her look on the things, she is feeling the things, which is not given to everyone. This makes her solitary. This is her drama, this makes her ununderstood, and maybe these are also the things, which she herself doesn’t understand fully. Fate pushes her on one way in seeking of something deeper and higher. This is what is drawing me closer to Carmen, which somehow I am also feeling.
- How the productions of “Carmen“, in which you took part in the years have enriched your understanding of the character?
- They all are very different, but maybe I feel very close the production in Chicago, with classical beautiful costumes and excellent partners. Also at other theatres, as for example at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna, Riga, Amsterdam.
- Is there any more memorable story about some of these productions and about the way you entered in them?
- This was in the production of the Vienna Opera. I entered with Anna Netrebko, then Elīna Garanča refused and I had the honour to take part in the spectacle. At that time they didn’t know that I had sung in the same production of Franco Zeffirelli, at that for the first time I sang it after the celebrated Agnes Baltsa, on 27 September 2004. I stood behind the curtains and I was exceptionally excited, the tenor was Neil Shicoff and then Holender, in his typical manner, took a risk and let in a singer, quite young and new and maybe inexperienced. That was me. I was still making a repertoire. I had been singing at the Vienna Opera just for one year, but this way he tested me with this spectacle and after that he gave me the several spectacles with Shicoff. Then followed many productions, ca. 14 in number in Amsterdam, Savonlinna, Riga, in Bulgaria and many other places.
In Hamburg it was an exceptional event – on a big hockey arena in front of an audience of many thousands, the scales were huge – 5 000 mutes, chorus and ballet, Spanish dancers, horses, fires. At the finale, I was dying in a sea of red flowers.
- Another female character, which you are feeling close?
- Which one to identify with myself... Maybe Dalila grabs me as music, as musical line the way it’s written, it is as if in my skin. I have sung many other roles – Eboli, Amneris, Adalgisa, Sara in “Roberto Devereux”, Russian operas and many others. Ten years I was in the ensemble of the Vienna Opera and after that I am already a freelancer. This is exciting, because you have a certain freedom to choose, to perform different repertoire. This way I am learning new languages, a special bonus to sing in different languages, this helps.
In this first meeting with Nadia Krasteva, who is in the beginning of her way to Plamen Kartaloff’s Carmen. I would like to remind of one important critique of her presentation in “Carmen” in Chicago, Lyric Opera:
“The sensational mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva danced and sang in the role of the gipsy seducer like no one else today.”
Something, which she didn’t mention, but which is important not only for herself, but also for this character, which had provoked in the past century the critique to exclaim with similar pathos also for other great Bulgarian names in the role of Carmen.
The conversation was led by Dr. Magdalena Manolova.