Plamen Kartaloff is a prodigious phenomenon in the contemporary Bulgarian culture – Ivan Granitski, website: “Epicenter”

Plamen Kartaloff is a prodigious phenomenon in the contemporary Bulgarian culture – website: “Epicenter”

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Plamen Kartaloff is a prodigious phenomenon in the contemporary Bulgarian culture. Incredible is the range, the depth and the conceptional thoroughness of his creative searches. His inspiration runs riot by works from the classic Bulgarian opera like “Yana’s Nine Brothers” by Lyubomir Pipkov, through the meditations and reflections of many years over Richard Wagner’s tetralogy of genius – “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, as well as other classical works by Verdi, Bizet, Borodin, Puccini, Rossini, etc., to modern musicals like “Mamma mia!”, “Fiddler on the Roof” by J. Bock, “Candide” by L. Bernstein.

One has the feeling that this artist is working 24 hours a day – so enormous is the volume of work, which he manages to do. As a result of his amazing creative energy were born over hundred productions on five continents and because the Maestro is mastering the magic of many genres of the opera theatre, he is permanently tempted by its mysteries and challenges. The hard work and the severe rehearsals lead to the creation of spectacles, which impress with their jewellery refinement and conceptual thoroughness. We could say that Plamen Kartaloff is a real poet on the stage, a philosopher of the dramaturgy and stage director of the global spiritual messages.

The Maestro is always reflecting and working on several projects at the same time. This is visible not only from the dozens of his interviews or articles, given for prestigious world media, as well as in our country, but also from the estimations of many world music and opera critics, who comment with enthusiasm and respect the embodied on the stage philosophical and poetical interpretations of his.

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Let’s stop only on some of the most important projects, which during the last years detonated the home and the world opera stages. First of all, we must point out the revival of Lyubomir Pipkov’s great opera “Yana’s Nine Brothers” with a new production. Plamen Kartaloff’s interest in Pipkov’s opera dates still since the time, when he had dozens of conversations and chats with the composer himself. This way he not only felt and penetrated into the deepest messages of the author of this ultramodern for its time opus, but he was also forming his unique style of director-producer, and maybe it is more exactly to say philosopher of the stage interpretation of the musical work of art.

Simultaneously with his work on the staging of “Yana’s Nine Brothers” Kartaloff prepared also an extensive research, which later turned into a book. The first edition is long since a bibliographical rarity. This is why “Zahari Stoyanov” Publishing House issued a second edition – significantly extended and supplemented. It is unique also with the fact that it includes a series of estimations of critics and composers from the time, when the opera appeared (1937). Some of them are enthusiastic and apologetic, and other – polemical and sharply critical notes by officious at that time men of letters and music critics, but deprived of a sense of the revolutionary aesthetical innovation of Pipkov’s music work. (Let’s remind just of the articles and the reports of Dr. Milcho Ralchev in “National Theatre”, of К. Petkanov in newspaper “Dnes”, of Yordan Badev in newspaper “Zora”, of Petko Staynov in “Nova Kambana”, of Marin Goleminov in newspaper “Zarya”, of Asen Balkanski in newspaper “Literaturen glas”). Carried were also thorough and penetrating analyses of the work after its premiere in 1984 by authors like: Ivan Hlebarov, Konstantin Iliev, Lea Zidarova, Lachezar Karanlakov, Neli Kulaksazova and Rosalia Biks.

Emblematic are also the productions of other works from our fatherland classical heritage – “Tsar Kaloyan” by Pancho Vladigerov, “Borislav” by Maestro Georgi Atanasov, “Ivaylo” and “Zakhariy Zograf” by Marin Goleminov.

Lyubomir Pipkov’s opus is in the general context of the efforts of many Bulgarian writers, painters, theatre critics and other artists, decided via the National Art Movement to revive the Bulgarian spirit and the creative energy of the nation, transferred from generation to generation. “Yana’s Nine Brothers” is a masterpiece of the allegorical plunging into the past, through which the composer wanted to give dramatical answers concerning the future.

The historical tragedy of a whole people, fallen under barbarian yoke, is reflected on the drama of a sound patriarchal Bulgarian family. The composer steps on the unique recitative vocal technique of the performers, which relies on the specifics of the speech prosody. As a rule, for the music expressionistic art from that time was characteristic the ballade manner as a specific stylistic technique, but Pipkov’s work has not only narrow musical messages – it is also a picture of one historical tragedy, it is charged with strong verbal implicated meaning and philosophical and moral suggestions too.

Konstantin Iliev defined “Yana’s Nine Brothers” as: “catechesis of our musical creation”. Very penetrating are Kartaloff’s analyses in his book, when he reflects on the musical language of the opera, on the intonation tone and pitch, on the melodies and the modal and harmonic means. A special accent is put on the semantic role of the tonalities, the specific of the musical and thematical construction and development of the leitmotivs.

In the modern Bulgarian musical critical thought there is no such deep and penetrating research about the philosophy of “Yana’s Nine Brothers”. Let’s add here further the fact that the book is provided with very important appendices – the folklore sources of the Bulgarian folk songs, a photo archive from the productions of the opera in 1937, 1961, 1978, 1984 and 2018, as well as from the large-scale discussion about the opera “Yana’s Nine Brothers”.


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The never stopping aesthetic energy of Plamen Kartaloff during the last years was directed towards the megaproject “Der Ring des Nibelungen” by Richard Wagner. His work on Wagner’s famous tetralogy “Der Ring des Nibelungen”: “Das Rheingold”, “Die Walküre”, “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung”, Kartaloff started in 2010 and finished it in the composer’s jubilee year 2013. The productions conquered the audience of several world stages. Here we must emphasize before all the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre and the one of the Bavarian town Füssen, where still haunts the shadow of Wagner’s patron Ludwig II of Bavaria. Klaus Billand points out that with the Sofia production of Wagner’s work Plamen Kartaloff reached an impressive peak in the history of his spectacles and adds: “I am feeling struck with respect by a man, who stages “Der Ring” this way, by studying so thoroughly the libretto, as well as the scores. This occurs very rarely or doesn’t occur at all in the so called “director’s theatre”. Kartaloff produced not only “Der Ring”, but also other operas by Wagner – the very successful productions of “Tristan und Isolde” and “Parsifal”, which according to me is his best staging. I began to accept the whole company of the Sofia Opera as a family. So that I am coming again, because I like to watch and listen to “Der Ring”, but also because of the sympathy, which I feel for the people in this theatre!”

And John Allison in the London Opera Magazine doesn't hide his admiration for Plamen Kartaloff’s interpretation of Wagner’s work and points out that very productive is his approach, characteristic with its refinement, which deciphers the actions on the stage as: “a projection of details from the scores, confirming the characteristics, which Kartaloff gives to the orchestra as a “theatre of the instruments”.

Igor Koryabin, commenting the production at the Bolshoi Theatre, underlines „…To venture such a bold step isn’t easy, and the reaching of this goal requires enormous time, staging, musical and orchestral and vocal and artistic resources. And yet the director of the tetralogy Plamen Kartaloff manages to bring to victorious end the idea of an own “Ring”, counting on performance by Bulgarian musicians and singers. What we saw in Moscow conquers powerfully with the minimalism and symbolism of the set design, which, thanks to the decisive role of the video projection technologies, the remarkable staging of the lighting and the horribly pictorial, efficiently “speaking” costumes, acquires incredibly strong and piercing spectacularity. This amazing, we could even say “splendid” for today’s times production, in “fantasy” style turned out to be fascinatingly simple, utmost clear and dramaturgically convincing alternative of the “director’s opera” in its as a rule vulgar and mass aspect of today”.

And after “Der Ring des Nibelungen” Plamen Kartaloff presented to the Bulgarian audience also the other two immortal works by Wagner – “Parsifal” and “Tristan und Isolde”.


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In the modern Bulgarian music culture there is no creator with so many-sided and impressing appearances on the biggest world stages from Germany and Russia to Italy and Japan. The estimations of the world music critique were always enthusiastic and they emphasize the pronounced talent of Maestro Kartaloff always to offer conquering readings of classical opera opuses. The newest example in this respect is the tour of the Sofia Opera in Japan in October this year, where in Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Hyogo, Iwakuni, Koshigaya and Ibaraki were presented “Carmen” and “Turandot”. Conductor like Keitaro Harada, music critic like Yuyama Reiko admire Plamen Kartaloff’s imagination, his fresh creativity and the unique combination of elements of the ancient Greek theatre and the Japanese Noh theatre. The Japanese audience was exceptionally impressed by the chorus singing, where is felt most of all the power of the Bulgarian voice.

We don’t have to omit also the new inspired reading, which made Plamen Kartaloff of “Prince Igor” by Borodin on the stage of the 25th Jubilee Opera Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on 27 April 2018. The Maestro most laconically and clearly formulated the philosophy of his approach to the opera: “The main aim of the direction is the contemporary listener-spectator to be emotionally conquered and attracted actively into the action on the stage.

The means are most different. The stage director sees the music in images and action. He gives to the written notes an upgrade, in which he paints stage spaces, living characters and spectacularity to be remembered. After very careful research of the historical events, thorough examining and analysing the musical language of the scores, as well as the complete form of the dramaturgical lines of the opera, I had the striving Borodin’s work to receive a real optimistic and logical finale of his, and to the audience of today to give together with the author of the music our message from the stage”.

Enthusiastic are the estimations and the analyses of world music critics about the productions of Maestro Plamen Kartaloff in most prestigious world issues – Opernwelt, Das Opernglas, Der Neue Merker, Opera, L’opéra.

With each of his next appearances Plamen Kartaloff convinces us that he is from the race of the Renaissance emancipated spirits. For him the creative work is joy and rapture, passion and contemplation, bravura zeal and nirvanic seclusion. And in the same time an effort to overcome the resistance of the material, a constant attempt to give new meaning of the classic authors according to the spirit of the present and to show what is eternal and intransient, what survives the centuries.

The real creative work according to Plamen Kartaloff is the unceasing symphony of the souls, not subject to time, to the change of the ages and the social and political cataclysms.

http://epicenter.bg/article/Ivan-Granitski--Plamen-Kartalov-e-fenomenalno-yavlenie-v-savremennata-balgarska-kultura/167434/6/0

Ivan Granitski

Director of “Zahari Stoyanov” Publishing House

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