Short press note on „The Valkyrie” in Sofia on 6 July 2018 - Klaus Billand, DER NEUE MERKER

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Yesterday night the fabulous Kartaloff-“Ring of the Nibelung” in the true meaning of the adjective went on with a magnificent and colorful “Valkyrie” under the dynamic baton of Maestro Erich Waechter. He has brought the Orchestra of the Sofia Opera and Ballet to an impressive height of performance, some minor inaccuracies not worth counting. After a “Rhinegold” with many visual effects and scenic impressions and varieties, this was the evening of some very good Bulgarian Wagner singers and actors forming a central part of the impressive stock of Wagner singers. Plamen Kartaloff has developed it over the years since 2010 with the crucial support of late Richard Trimborn as musical and language coach.

Martin Tsonev gave a striking Wotan with a real bass baritone as Wagner had in mind. Tsonev’s voice has gained deepness over the years, perhaps with the role of Wotan. He convinces as well with an excellent demonstration of the great fall of the God from the beginning of Act 2 to the end. The young Gergana Rusekova sang Brünnhilde with a warm soprano with full vocal middle position and had only slight shortcomings in the top notes. She expressed also a warm character expressing full understanding for the demise of her father. Martin Iliev, seasoned Tristan and Siegfried of the Sofia Wagner ensemble, sang Siegmund from the beginning with a strong and baritonal coloured tenor. His melancholic timbre and somehow depressed acting made him show a tragic hero fitting well to the character. Tsvetana Bandalovska sang a maiden Sieglinde with a clear and technically well performing soprano which only could have a bit more volume at certain moments. Angel Hristov was a frightening Hunding in his strange zombielike dress. He sang with a profound bass and showed a cruel mortal fight with Siegmund going to one’s heart. Rumyana Petrova gave a demanding Fricka with no understanding for Wotan whatsoever and the related impressive mimic. Her strong mezzo-soprano lacked sound in the top notes though.

Sofia can be proud of having not only a well singing Valkyrie-Octet but also probably one of the best looking in Europe with most phantastic costumes on top designed, as well as the sets, by Nicolay Panayotov. A number of ballet artists and acrobats enriched the play. A very striking feature is Kartaloff’s idea to have persons and events from the past passing by on a bridge when actors sing about them on the stage. Thus, even the long monologue of Wotan in Act 2 turned into vivid musical theatre! The large white Ring set was again the centre of optic attraction with the colourful and at times phantastic multimedia design of Vera Petrova and Georgi Hristov. It was also shown in split sections, once more reemphasizing the message of the scene at hand. Thus, the visual went again well hand in hand with the musical, emanating from Kartaloff’s story board.

Given the enormous applause of the audience including many visitors from other European countries and overseas, it appears to me that this “Ring” will become a kind of cult-“Ring” like the one of Goetz Friedrich in Berlin in the mid 1980s which only will be replaced as of the coming season by a new production of Stefan Herheim. Thus, the Sofia production should be seen on other stages abroad, in addition to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and the Festival Theatre in Fuessen, Germany, where it performed on 2015 and 2018, respectively. This “Ring” is also a perfect introduction of Wagner’s opus magnum to an audience not yet aware of this master piece, including the so much desired younger audience for the future of opera as a relevant art form.

Klaus Billand from Sofia

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