After 16 years “Don Giovanni” again at the Sofia Opera – http://въпреки.com

“We need Mozart the same way we need breakfast and every morning, to start the day, we need a shower. Mozart is exceptionally important for the orchestra, as well as for the singers and for every human being”, said the German conductor Erich Wächter at the meeting at the Sofia Opera on the occasion of the upcoming premiere of the opera “Don Giovanni” by Mozart.

He was invited by Academician Plamen Kartaloff at our National theatre in 2011 and directed the orchestra in the large-scale project with Richard Wagner’s tetralogy “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. His first question to Maestro Kartaloff then was: “When shall we produce Mozart? When for the last time have you produced Mozart?”. For a long time at the Sofia Opera and Ballet was not produced an opera by Mozart, but now are upcoming other works by the genial composer too.

Academician Plamen Kartaloff and Hugo de Ana – Photo archive of the Sofia Opera

By tradition, Plamen Kartaloff presented the production team days before the premiere of “Don Giovanni” on 18, 19, 20 and 21 April. “After a series of new productions “Don Pasquale” by Donizetti, “Il trovatore” by Verdi, “A Legend of the Lake” to Pancho Vladigerov’s music, 2019 we shall continue with the same dynamics, with which we saw off the previous year with two other premieres”, said Academician Kartaloff. He presented his colleagues and eminent artists with international authority and career – the conductor Erich Wächter, who everyone knows from his work on Richard Wagner’s entire “Ring des Nibelungen”, “Aida” by Verdi and many other productions; the loved by the Bulgarian audience stage director and designer Maestro Hugo de Ana, who produced on the stage of Sofia Opera “Aida” by Verdi, “Samson et Dalila” by Saint-Saëns, “Norma” by Bellini and now is again by us. “Here are also our soloists – in the role of Don Giovanni we have two performers – Vito Priante and Petar Naydenov, Donna Anna we have entrusted to two performers – Radostina Nikolaeva and Tsvetana Bandalovska, Don Ottavio – to Daniel Ostretsov, Hrisimir Damyanov and Juan Francisco Gatell, Il Commendatore – Angel Hristov, Donna Elvira – Gabriela Georgieva and Lilia Kehayova, Leporello – Andrea Concetti and Petar Buchkov and others. A big cast of double and triple performers among the best with international cast. Upcoming is an exciting event, one new concept of “Don Giovanni” of the stage director Hugo de Ana”, emphasized with confidence Plamen Kartaloff.

One of the most attractive characters for the artists

from all fields of art is Don Juan. He has become a personage of a huge number works of art – operas, ballets, operettas, dramas, comedies, novels, poems, paintings, sculpture figures, symphonic works. For the first time the legend of the tireless adventurer and conqueror of woman’s hearts found place as plot of a stage work in the play “The Trickster of Seville” (1630) by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina. After him writers, among which Molière, Goldoni, Hoffmann, Byron, Mérimée and Pushkin, composers like Gluck, Dargomyzhsky and Richard Strauss created works on the same plot. One of the most significant from them remains Mozart’s opera. In January 1787, Mozart departed with his wife to Prague for a holiday by his friend and big admirer Count Thun. There the director of the Prague theatre Bondini offered to the composer to write an opera for a consideration of hundred ducats. Mozart accepted the offer and turned to the court librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, with whom he had already worked on “Le nozze di Figaro”. The poet quickly wrote the libretto and in May the same year the composer started working on the music of “Don Giovanni”.

Photo archive of the Sofia Opera

About the speed, with which this opera was finished, legends are told. One of them is that Mozart wrote the wonderful overture in the day of the premiere – on 29 October 1787 in Prague. The spectacle had an incredibly great success. Next year the opera was presented in Vienna, at that for the Austrian production Mozart made some revisions in the scores. The opera “Don Giovanni” is one of the tops in the artistic achievements of the genial composer. Mozart’s third opera with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte is “Così fan tutte” /“Women are like that”/. For the first time the opera “Don Giovanni” was produced at the Sofia Opera in 1930 under the baton of the German conductor Hermann Stange. In June 2003 was the premiere of the opera with stage director Bina Haralampieva. Then the quite young Radostina Nikolaeva was in the role of Donna Anna, and Don Giovanni was Yulian Konstantinov. And now after 16 years there is again a premiere of the celebrated opera.

And the conductor Erich Wächter continued on the subject Mozart: “In Germany there is no opera house, which not to produce every season at least one work by Mozart. For the orchestra and for the singers it is very important to be able to perform Mozart. Ask many singers, for who

Mozart is a medicine for the voice.

And for the orchestra it is an exceptional discipline, and they need discipline, in order to play him, because some sections are exceptionally difficult in technical aspect. And, of course, also for the style, in which one makes it. If someone has long since not played Mozart, he or she cannot enter into his manner, in the way of performance”. He shared also about himself how he was working and preparing himself for Mozart’s music. “How can you play Mozart, when everything is written, it is like a facsimile of the original text. I have performed it after Mozart’s notes, the way he wrote it. He has written so many things that you can do everything exactly in the fantastic way, in which it was expressed by the composer. Everything is said and I just had to perform it. This taught me not to look Mozart through Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss, as well as Beethoven.”

Rehearsal of “Don Giovanni” at the Sofia Opera – Photo archive of the Opera

At this meeting at the Sofia Opera before the premiere of “Don Giovanni” with ease was reached a dialogue, even a little bit arguable, between the conductor and Maestro Kartaloff, who explained also the theatre’s repertoire policy: “At the Sofia Opera were produced “Idomeneo”, “La clemenza di Tito”, very long time were performed “Le nozze di Figaro”, “Cosi fan tutte”. But in the last years we had to give to our theatre an international popularity, an international recognition with our “Richard Wagner” cycle. I am very happy that that evening from the stage of the Sofia Opera sounded Richard Strauss with the participation of our orchestra, which performed this enormous concert with Anna Tomowa-Sintow /on 9 April/, and a little bit earlier we made Strauss’ “Salome” at the Sofia Opera. In project is “Elektra” next season. Each German theatre can make Mozart, but not each German theatre can make Richard Wagner’s tetralogy “Der Ring des Nibelungen”. I am very happy with my two colleagues, here are also our Wagnerians, now they are Mozartians. They can sing everything.”

Anna Tomowa-Sintow, one of the most remarkable singers of our time was in Sofia at the invitation of Acad. Plamen Kartaloff, in order to train in vocal and interpretational aspect the artists, who will take part in the premiere of the opera “Don Giovanni”. At a meeting with her before her concert, on the occasion of her work with the singers she shared:

“Donna Anna was my visit card

for presentation – all my American debuts – at Metropolitan in New York, in San Francisco, in Chicago – all of them were with Donna Anna, with almost the same cast, which was turning around all over the world. In the nest, at the root of this opera lays something incredibly strong by Mozart. The light of his music, which is felt always in all his works. We must not forget that it is inspirer of great composers like Beethoven, Richard Strauss, who insisted that Mozart’s light was at the basis of his inspiration for what he has created too. I am happy to experience Mozart to be produced again at the Sofia Opera and namely with one of his most remarkable and strong operas “Don Giovanni”. And Donna Anna specially belongs to my most loved parts, although they all are my own children and loved. I am happy here this to be transferred by good singers like Radostina Nikolaeva, like Tsvetana Bandalovska /as Donna Anna/, Gabriela Georgieva /as Donna Elvira/ – a wonderful cast of the Sofia Opera, who with big flexibility, with a spontaneity, with enthusiasm, with open heart to be in contact and produce something very valuable and new for them themselves after one active Wagner period and other different works, which were staged here. Mozart has special requirements, because the singing and the interpretation is a question of mastering of a style. The singing position is one, but the style is the one, which differentiates also the language, in which one sings. We had a very active, very beautiful period of intensive work since the very beginning, since the first day. I dare to say that everybody, everyone separately managed to open very much himself or herself and develop from artistic aspect in a positive direction forward. The Bulgarian voices, it is well-known, are the most beautiful in the world. Always – this is typical, doesn’t matter how many new forces ever come from different countries, the Bulgarian singer carries something very typical.”

Anna Tomowa-Sintow and Plamen Kartaloff – photo © Stefan Dzhambazov

About her preparation for the part of Donna Anna together with Maestra Sintow, Radostina Nikolaeva told: “I have no words to express what was for us our work with Anna Tomowa-Sintow. I had the luck in 2006 in Stara Zagora to get acquainted for the first time with her and to touch myself to her art regarding Mozart, regarding Donna Anna. Now after so many years, we rediscovered each other, and I rediscovered this wonderful personage of Donna Anna, which is exceptionally challenging as performance and as interpretation. Anna Tomowa-Sintow is an incredible performer, incredible person. It was a great pleasure to be led by her in this style of Mozart. It is really a great challenge, because it requires big self-control, concentration and she in a natural, human, warm, motherly way familiarized us to Mozart’s art.” It is curious that still as a third-year student at the Academy of Music Radostina debuted in 1998 at the Ruse Opera namely in “Don Giovanni”, but as Donna Elvira.

Tsvetana Bandalovska too, since years was performing Donna Elvira, and the new meeting with the world opera star reveals also special moments in her professional path. “For the first time I met Anna Tomowa-Sintow, when I was preparing the role of Salome in 2008. Since then our collaboration, our contact has been uninterrupted. We communicate with her, we write to each other, we have conversations and for me this was a gift of God she to train us for “Don Giovanni”. I am singing Donna Elvira since years, and for me it was a challenge, because the stage director said that he saw me as Donna Anna. I challenged myself again to enter into the role of Donna Anna, which I have performed 20 years ago as a quite young singer /she laughs/, in Bulgarian language. That is to say that for me it is a completely new role, because the language is Italian and this is one new role. Such a personality like Anna Tomowa-Sintow makes you enter into another dimension. There one works on a quite another vibration. She is an exceptionally penetrating person, who sees at once whether there is a problem, where the things are not exact. An exceptional experience! We heard Herbert von Karajan’s words through her mouth. This thread, which she transfers and it seems that this is a mission for her to transfer forward what she knows and she is able to do it, she knows how to see the soil, the way, in which to sow this seed. Specially for Donna Anna – it is one of the most difficult soprano roles. This is a challenge for the voice, because the voice has a certain convenience, predetermination, i.e. we go out of the comfort of the voice. Donna Anna is sung by a denser soprano by tradition and this is already the technical difficulty, which stands before the singer and an endless concentration and attention is required all the time – no release! The very character of Donna Anna is very intense, because she is actually the wall, in which Don Giovanni pushes himself and begins to go down towards the abyss. My gratitude to Anna Tomowa-Sintow is enormous. I hope that she would come back again at the Sofia Opera to train us, so that we could after time transfer forwards.”

Photo archive of the Sofia Opera

The meeting at the Sofia Opera on the occasion of the upcoming premiere of “Don Giovanni”, beyond the details around its preparation, was also a homage, a delight, love for Mozart’s music, which continues to live, to breathe, irreversibly loved also for the modern person. And the stage director, set and costume designer Hugo de Ana as if made the summary:

“Don Giovanni” is a powerful opera, a genial one.

It is very complicated to select the colours, because everything happens in the night. This is one endless opera in some way or another. It is comic, as well as dramatic, and it has also connection with the supernatural – mixed all together in only one spectacle. It is not possible to make it with one single common vision of the atmosphere. In the most complicated work, which one meets and it has to be done, is namely the work with the singers, who are actors. It is very important for them to be characters, who are able to experience all these situations and at that to sing and move in all these theatrical styles. In a certain moment, even, this opera is exceptionally modern, not only in its structure, but also because of the conflict. Let’s not forget that this opera has not only music, but also many literary and philosophical interpretations, which gives rise to a sort of research, which is made around this opera. This must be the starting point, when it is to be staged. For one stage director there are many possibilities to make it. The more one researches, the more one goes ahead and you feel that you are so unable to make it. It is not only me, who says so, but many great stage directors too. This is very important. It is such a genial opera, complex, monolithic and one doesn’t know from where to begin to make it for the stage. We cannot become Michelangelo, but we can do what is perfect in it, according to our possibilities and talent. I regret very much, but we are limited in our black and white.” His words were received with laughter and applauses.

Photo archive of the Sofia Opera

And he added that “Don Giovanni” will be his fourth production here. “We decided to make it, because it is an opera, which was not produced at the Sofia Opera since many years and for me the work is like a milestone, emblematic and significant. It is more difficult than I imagined that could be made and created. It is important to know that in the list of the most produced operas in the world in the first place are three of Mozart’s operas, and “Don Giovanni” is “just” at the seventh place of the most produced operas in world scale. This is why it is exceptionally important for the Sofia audience to have the chance to come closer to such masterpiece. The Sofia Opera is making an enormous effort to produce and make a spectacle, which to observe all rules, exactly Mozart’s music, like it was written. And the singers more than that, because they had the possibility to be supported by the collaboration of the great singer Anna Tomowa-Sintow, who was working exceptionally much with our singers.”

According to the performers, the audience will exclaim with surprise from the beauty of the stage. In the set design are used reproductions from Museo del Prado, the furniture is delivered from Spain, and the costumes and the shoes – from Italy and everything is financed by the Sofia Opera, emphasized Maestro Kartaloff and added important moments from the theatre’s plans and aims:

“The team is working for a long time on this masterpiece by Mozart.

One of the serious policies of our theatre and of the management is to discover and give chance to young artists, to young names, to new voices. Otherwise how will there be a succession, a tradition, when we don’t start from somewhere. Together with “Don Giovanni” already have begun the rehearsals of the opera “Apollo et Hyacinthus”, one of Mozart’s early ones /premiere on 16 May/. On the small stage with youngest artists you will see one more masterpiece by the young Mozart. All these colleagues, who are present here, are already from our theatre’s first forces, but we have also debutants. Since last season here debuted a series of young artists, who I specially invited for “Yana’s Nine Brothers” by Lyubomir Pipkov and all the “brothers” at the moment have central roles. This was the task. The young singers at the Sofia Opera – they are already too much, and all of them grow, of course, more and more new forces must come. We have a special care for the young generation and not only for the opera artists, but also for the ballet artists and for the young members of the orchestra. We have responsibility to the generation of young artists on the stage of the Sofia Opera.” Plamen Kartaloff gave only a hint about the upcoming summer festivals, in which there is already a big interest, and about a production again of Wagner “Tristan und Isolde” with the participation of the magnificent Radostina Nikolaeva and Tsvetana Bandalovska.

Text: Zelma Almaleh

Photos: Archive of the Sofia Opera and Stefan Dzhambazov


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