Vera Petrova: Let’s make Christmas more-beautiful with a bouquet of wonderful spectacles of the operatic and ballet art – by Olia Al-Ahmed, Bulgarian Telegraph Agency
The Sofia Opera with its purposeful work with the soloists can allow itself to gather a cast at the height of Rossini’s mastery for making music and theatre. This said in an interview for the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency the Deputy Director of the Sofia Opera and Ballet Vera Petrova. She is stage director of the premiere spectacle of the opera “La Cenerentola” by Gioachino Rossini, which will be performed on the stage of the Sofia Opera and Ballet on Thursday, 6 December, on St. Nicholas Day.
“Rossini sets amusingly-complex challenges before the artists, as well as before the production team, but thanks to this, the energy and the amusement, which stream from the stage, don’t cease. The rehearsal process was a tiring pleasure, and now with the same energy continue the spectacles”, commented Vera Petrova. Each one of the soloists, to start with La Cenerentola of Oana Andra, pass through the Prince – Don Ramiro – Hrisimir Damyanov, the servant Dandini – Atanas Mladenov, the character-negation – the stepfather Don Magnifico – Nikolay Petrov, the two spiteful sisters – Milena Gyurova – Clorinda, and Blagovesta Mekki – Tisbe, and finish with the magician-tutor Alidoro – in the face of Martin Tsonev, is already an artist with serious career after his or her back, with very complex parts and impressive repertoire, noticed she.
For me it was pleasure, when we started with Grigor Palikarov, and later joined also Zhorzh Dimitrov, to create a profound musical and stage unity with these singers-artists, declared the stage director of “La Cenerentola” by Gioachino Rossini.
Vera Petrova has grown up in the family of musicians. Her musical training began since her early childhood. She studied the piano, all theoretical music subjects and dramatic art. She graduated Directing and Art management at the New Bulgarian University. Main role for her professional growth had the director Plamen Kartaloff. In 2006, she won the prestigious scholarship for creative exchange of the well-known Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, and in season 2007-2008 she worked at Covent Garden as trainee director. Her engagements on professional stage – at the “Stefan Makedonsky” National Music Theatre she was Assistant director of the productions “Die lustige Witwe” by Lehár and “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” by Mozart.
Since 1996, she has been working at the National Opera and Ballet. Initially she was Assistant director of Plamen Kartaloff in some of his most successful productions from that period – “Il barbiere di Siviglia” by Rossini, “Don Carlo” by Verdi, “Turandot” by Puccini, “La Gioconda” by Ponchielli and his great scale open-air production of “Prince Igor” by Borodin. Since 2002, she has been full-time stage director. Among the spectacles, which she realized are “Aleko” – Rachmaninoff, “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” – Mozart, “Le nozze di Figaro” – Mozart, “Don Giovanni” – Mozart, “Das Land des Lächelns” by Lehár, “Otello” – Verdi, “Eugene Onegin” – Tchaikovsky, “La Cenerentola” – Rossini and others. Since November 2008, Vera Petrova has been Deputy Director of the Sofia Opera and Ballet.
The entire interview follows:
Question: Mrs. Petrova, the Sofia Opera is before the premiere of one exceptionally amusing opera – “La Cenerentola” by Gioachino Rossini. When are the premiere spectacles?
Answer: The revival of the spectacle will be on Thursday, 6 December, on St. Nicholas Day. The premiere was in 2013 and since then it was performed with success on the stage of the Opera, the production was guest at the Opera Festival in Craiova, at the State Opera Stara Zagora, as well as at all summer festivals, organized by the Sofia Opera and Ballet – “Opera of the Peaks – Belogradchik” and “Opera in the Park”. The opera is really exceptionally amusing.
Question: The comic opera was not performed more than 30 years on the stage of our first theatre. Why?
Answer: It is difficult to answer such a question, but there is a reason and it is not only because one must find a production team, for which it would be a challenge to make it, but because most of all there must be a serious soloist-singing-acting cast. A great challenge is the vocal working out of each of the roles, and to the requirement of modern theatre adds also the complexity of the actor’s tasks.
The Sofia Opera with its purposeful work with the soloists can allow itself to gather a cast at the height of Rossini’s mastery for making music and theatre. Each one of the soloists, to start with La Cenerentola of Oana Andra, pass through the Prince – Don Ramiro – Hrisimir Damyanov, the servant Dandini – Atanas Mladenov, the character-negation – the stepfather Don Magnifico – Nikolay Petrov, the two spiteful sisters – Milena Gyurova – Clorinda, and Blagovesta Mekki – Tisbe, and finish with the magician-tutor Alidoro – in the face of Martin Tsonev is already an artist with serious career after his or her back, with very complex parts and impressive repertoire. For me it was pleasure, when we started with Grigor Palikarov, and later joined also Zhorzh Dimitrov, to create a profound musical and stage unity with these singers-artists. Rossini sets amusingly-complex challenges before the artists, as well as before the production team, but thanks to this the energy and the amusement, which stream from the stage, don’t cease. The rehearsal process was a tiring pleasure, and now with the same energy continue the spectacles.
Question: As stage director what attracted you to this opera? Is it true that you were really filled in with Rossini’s “madness”?
Answer: Rossini is an incredible author, who except for with “madness” fills us with a lot of magic. His magic is not whatsoever: as e real genius he reveals to all of us that magic does not consist in fairies, magicians, glass slippers and a transforming pumpkin, but according to him magic hides in the simplest things in life – to learn to love, to learn to be true to yourself, to forgive yourself and the others, to look with a side-eye at human vanity and stir. Then you simply discover that you are the greatest magician in your own life. This is written with his exquisite, almost lace-like musical embroidery, this makes intransient his work even to this day. I am convinced that the singers are filled in with Rossini’s “madness”, they overcome the extreme situations through the means of fantasy and the possibilities, which the comedy offers. While I am working, I am not at all thinking about the message, which the artists with their acting address to the spectators. It, however, imposes itself by its own: “Let’s go the path, on which we could find ourselves on the earth! One must courageously stand in front of the others and say what are saying our characters from “La Cenerentola”: “That’s me!”.
Question: Would you reveal the surprises, which are hidden in the plot?
Answer: The spectacle is solved in a doll-style and in action is the fantasy. At some places we reach even a parody sounding. As I shared before, Rossini deliberately “altered” the fairy-tale, by removing the artificial fairy-tale elements: we have a teacher-wiseman, who gives directions to the Prince, and not a fairy godmother, who helps La Cenerentola. La Cenerentola goes her own way to her self-revelation, in order to complete her marriage with a big forgiveness – for herself and for the others, we don’t have a glass slipper, but beautiful bracelets-twins, with which La Cenerentola deliberately poses a riddle to the Prince. In short, Rossini’s La Cenerentolaта is very mature, she has found herself, and is not a princess, escaping from herself. Instead of a stepmother, we have a stepfather, who is bearer of the counterreaction in the opera, but at the end he finds out that actually he prefers to amuse himself instead of pretending to be bad and we have two impressive sisters, who are embodiment of people’s vanity, superficiality and brutal ambitions, because of which they look absurdly ridiculous. A brilliant invention by Rossini is also that the Prince Ramiro and Dandini – his servant, are changing their roles for the half of the opera.
Question: As far as I know, Rossini signed a contract for the writing of a new opera on his 24th birthday. But the maestro made an opera, different from the fairy-tale. How this “La Cenerentola” is more different? Why it deserves to be seen?
Answer: Yes, it is so. Exactly on his 24th birthday, on 29 February 1816, Gioachino Rossini signed a contract for the composition of a new opera. One year later, this work – “La Cenerentola” had a premiere in Rome. Like by the barber from the opera, the success among the audience didn’t come at once, but later. In return, from there on it enjoyed a constant success. Even to this day this opera, developed on the basis of the well-known fairy-tale about Cinderella, wins the hearts with the perfect harmony of the musical genre painting, with the characteristic of the personages, with its perfect cantilenas, with the richness of its melodies, with the impressive ensemble and untypical situations. Our “La Cenerentola” is fairy fantasy-like, I would even say in some moments on the edge of the kitsch, but in a beautiful way, in which you will see the contagious madness of all our artists, recreated brilliantly musically under the baton of Zhorzh Dimitrov. The costumes by Hristiana Mihaleva and the sets, for which took care Boryana Angelova, are also not in the usual standard of this fairy-tale, this is why welcome to experience 2 hours pure amusement and go away purified by the laughter and the joke of Rossini’s music.
Question: How did it happen that you fixed on the prima-donna of the Bucharest Opera Oana Andra for the role of Angelina – “La Cenerentola”?
Answer: Still when we were making the premiere, we knew that Oana Andra will be in the role of Angelina. For me Oana Andra, and every one of these artists, who you will see on the stage, have no limits in their abilities for acting, singing, music making and achieving the impossibilities, which occurred to us during our work. She has really become one with her character, she is so suitable for this role. Oana Andra is a precious mezzo-soprano. She was guest-performer on world-known stages. She sang at La Scala, Metropolitan and on other stages. She graduated from the Bucharest Conservatoire, then she specialized in Italy and in the USA. Her last roles are in “Carmen” /Carmen/ and in “La bohème” /Mimi/. And in Bulgaria at the Sofia Opera Oana will sing in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”, she sang also in “Norma”.
Question: In the spectacle guest-performer is also the famous bass Martin Tsonev. What is his contribution to the perception of his character?
Answer: Martin Tsonev is one of the few artists, who are working at a very deep level and with a fine nuance of the philosophical understanding, and in the same time find the way to present it with ease to the audience. This was the reason to rely on him in this production. He carries the whole construction of the title and is the uniting element from beginning to end. But I would like to emphasize again that all soloists here are with limitless abilities in the vocal and in the acting.
Question: Pure musically Rossini was never shy to write the most complex passages. How does the spectator perceive these complicated coloraturas in one comic opera?
Answer: Right findings. Rossini obviously was “over the things” and he really didn’t feel shy to write the most difficult passages-coloraturas, to which he was able for the naturally mobile light soprano, as well as for the least mobile voice – the bass. The Alidoro’s aria “There from the heaven” (“La del ciel”) is one of the most difficult works for bass, bass-baritone in the world opera literature. Namely in the comic opera similar coloraturas are very well-founded, either because of the momentary state of the character or because of the absurdity of the situation, in which the characters get into. I am saying again that for us was pure amusement, while we were realizing the musical and dramaturgical scores, and after that the artists transferred it also in the spectacles. And each spectacle is different, unique, unexpected.
Question: At the Sofia Opera was opened an exhibition: “Beautiful Italy, at last I see you” – 150 years of the death of Gioachino Rossini. What is this exposition like and till when it can be seen?
Answer: The exhibition consists of Rossini’s works in the set design of the Opera in Rome and includes sketches, drawings of models and costumes. Curators of the exposition are Francesco Reggiani and Alessandra Malusardi. The exhibition’s name is nothing else, but the beginning of the cavatina of Selim – one of the main characters in Rossini’s well-known opera “Il turco in Italia”. It’s no use to emphasize the meaning and the value of Rossini’s compositions in the history of the Italian opera, in return it is very important to offer to the international audience the possibility to see how Rossini was performed and presented most of all in the past century. And the Opera in Rome has one more additional reason for this – its opening on 27 November 1880 was celebrated namely with the performance of the opera “Semiramide” by Rossini.
During the more than 100-year old music activity of the Opera in Rome Rossini’s repertoire was presented widely and many times under the baton of famous conductors, and in the performance of the best Italian and foreign opera singers. Moreover, at the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the composer from Pesaro in 1942 Maestro Tullio Serafin organized a performance of a cycle of his operas. In this connection the Opera in Rome via its Historical Archive created an exhibition, which with the use of iconographical documents (sketches and drawings of models), costumes and thematic audio recordings, recreated the most significant moments of Rossini’s rich creative work and the sets and costumes for his operas. Especially conquering is the section, dedicated to the ballet spectacle “Le roi des gourmets” (a choreographic divertissement by Cesare Brero to music by Rossini) from 1965, whose sketches, drawings of models and costumes were created by Lila De Nobili in honour of Rossini’s notorious liking for the good cuisine – actually the performed by the dancers characters are nothing else, but “food delicacies”: the female role of turkey meat, of roasted meat, the shrimps, the cakes, the little potatoes and so on. The exhibition acquires still greater value with the presentation of on exceptionally valuable authentic document – the first volume of the first original scores, printed for the spectacle of “Il barbiere di Siviglia” in 1825.
The exposition will remain till the date of the spectacle “La Cenerentola” – 6 December. This is a unique treasure, which for us, the professionals, as well as for our spectators, is an incredible chance to get in touch with Rossini, who was a very interesting, multi-layer, contradictory and wonderful personality.
Question: Your wishes to the admirers of operatic art and most of all of Rossini’s works?
Answer: The brightest holidays are coming and we from the team of the Opera would like every day to be brighter and more beautiful. This is why we have prepared a bouquet of wonderful spectacles of the operatic and ballet art. We start with “Carmen” on 1 and 7 December, we are celebrating the St. Nicholas Day with “La Cenerentola” by Rossini on 6 December, then come two star casts for “La traviata” by Verdi – 12 and 13 December, and the wonderful spectacles of “The Nutcracker” were sold out so quickly that we were forced, because of the interest, to make a special performance of “The Nutcracker” at the National Palace of Culture on 16 December. It will be our special opportunity for a family present on Christmas Eve, but when I look how things are going, for it the tickets will be sold out too, so that we are expecting you to share our wonderful holidays with you.