13 Mar 2024Sofia Opera and Ballet


On the stage of the Sofia Opera for the first time are presented both stage works of Pancho Vladigerov – the opera "Tsar Kaloyan" and the ballet "The Legend of the Lake" in several productions. Over the years the opera has toured abroad with both spectacles.


No other Bulgarian opera has had such a colourful and rich biography. And for its author, it is his most prominent and most longed-for creation...

The year is 1934. Pancho Vladigerov, the youngest professor at the Academy of Music, only 35 years old, already had 29 major opuses behind his back, including the Vardar Rhapsody, the Bulgarian Suite and the first Bulgarian examples of the genres of the violin sonata, the piano trio and the instrumental concerto. He is now gripped by the ambition to create the first modern and grandiose Bulgarian historical opera "with a patriotic sound and national spirit, which musically would be of wide world interest and importance", as he himself stated.

Krasimir Kurkchiyski, as a student of Vladigerov, asked him to tell him the content of his opera "Tsar Kaloyan".

"It's very long and convoluted, but I'll tell it to you very briefly: Baldwin has stabbed Kaloyan's wife and he throws him off the tower."

"From which tower?"

"From Baldwin's in Tarnovo, don't you know it?"

This is Evgeni Pavlov's testimony.

In August 1987, the six performances of Plamen Kartaloff's spectacular production on the Tsarevets Hill in Veliko Tarnovo were attended by 15 000 spectators. Thus Vladigerov's dream of presenting the opera at the site of the historical action came true.

The "Stage of the Ages" Festival, created at the idea of Plamen Kartaloff, had its first edition in 1985 with another historical Bulgarian opera "Ivaylo" by Marin Goleminov on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the uprising of Asen and Petar and the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

About his work on the Tsarevets Hill Plamen Kartaloff says:

"This festival is a strategy for a national cultural identity, an appeal proven by the thousands of audience and its interest, by the priorities with a clear concept of innovation and tradition, by its revelatory expression of Bulgarian talent, by the affirmation of Bulgarian art and the challenges for business to invest in serious things. "Stage of the Ages" is a cause."

"Unprecedented in this country, a spectacle with cinematic dimensions of mass scenes, with special sound, lighting and combination of sets and natural background of the action." will write Boyanka Arnaudova.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

Ten years later, in 1998, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Pancho Vladigerov's birth, Plamen Kartaloff again created an even more spectacular production in the centre of Sofia.

The "Opera on the Square" festival began a year earlier with Verdi's "Aida" and continued with a super-production of "Tsar Kaloyan" on Alexander Battenberg Square, using the former mausoleum building as a set.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

In the summer of 2009 "Tsar Kaloyan" was presented again at Tsarevets, and on 15 October of the same year it opened the new season of the Sofia Opera.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

History of the opera "Tsar Kaloyan" on the stage of the Sofia Opera.

World premiere

Staging teams and performers

The world premiere took place on 20 April 1936 at the Sofia Opera, conducted by Assen Najdenow, directed by Hristo Popov, in the roles of Tsvetana Tabakova – Tsarina Maria, Sabcho Sabev – Tsar Kaloyan, Petar Raychev, Lyuben Minchev – Emperor Baldwin.

Overwhelmed by the ambition to create the first modern and grandiose Bulgarian historical opera "with a patriotic sound and national spirit, which musically would be of wide world interest and importance", as he himself stated in 1934, Vladigerov began work. The opera "Tsar Kaloyan" is based on a libretto by Nikolay Liliev and Fani Popova-Mutafova. The basis is the theatre play "Baldwin's Tower" by Fani Popova-Mutafova.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

On 12 January 1975 there was again a production at the Sofia Opera, conducted by Alexander Vladigerov and directed by Mihail Hadjimishev.

Цар Калоян -  Панчо Владигеров

1987 Veliko Tarnovo, "Stage of the Ages", Tsarevets Fortress, conductor Dimitar Manolov, director Plamen Kartaloff, in the roles: Nikola Smochevsky – Tsar Kaloyan, Svetlana Kotlenko – Tsarina Maria, Zdravko Gadzhev – Emperor Baldwin, etc.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

1998 г. Sofia, "Opera on the Square", Alexander Batemberg Square, conductor Georgi Notev, director Plamen Kartaloff, in the roles: Stoyan Popov, Niko Isakov – Tsar Kaloyan, Maria Belcheva, Malina Pavlova, Silvana Pravcheva – Tsarina Maria, Kostadin Andreev, Konstantin Yankov – Emperor Baldwin, Tsvetan Tsvetkov, Ivanka Ninova, Rumyana Petrova, Stefka Mineva, Nikolay Varionov, Biser Georgiev, Stoil Georgiev, Dimitar Stanchev, Kosta Dinkov, Emil Ugrinov, Aleksandar Manolov, Petar Bakardzhiev.

Цар Калоян -  Панчо Владигеров

Plamen Kartaloff:
"Tsar Kaloyan" by Pancho Vladigerov deserves again our extraordinary efforts and care to recreate this Bulgarian work on our stage in the square. By placing it on the highest pedestal, it has been transformed into a majestic iconostasis under the divine dome of the heavenly temple. I will not give reasons why we do this. We are so convinced of our work that it is somehow pointless to justify it. Inner necessity and love of intention are not proved by words. I will comment aesthetically and directorially on my idea for these spectacular spectacles involving hundreds of performers and thousands of spectators. 

The summer months of 1983 and 1985 turned the historic Tsarevets Hill of the ancient Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo into a real "Stage of the Ages". The authentic architectural and historical reserve gave birth to a new era in the stage interpretation of Bulgarian operas. My directorial ideas for "Ivaylo" by Marin Goleminov and "Tsar Kaloyan" by Pancho Vladigerov were for me a happy encounter with the audience, which came from all over the country to see the performances set in the same place where the historical events took place centuries ago, and the characters in them portrayed credible and glorious historical figures. The monumental stage form, a major task of the directing, helps to create a natural parallel for the coexistence of the musical score and its stage expression in the vast open spaces of the historic hill and the surrounding area, embraced by the hills of Sveta Gora, Momina krepost and Trapezitsa. 

Both fifteen years ago in the ancient capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom on the memorial of the palace of the Bulgarian kings, and now – on the largest square in the historical centre of the capital, the staging task is to achieve a vivid and natural monumental-plastic suggestion of music, reigning on various functional-decorative stage platforms – the altar of the church, the tower of Baldwin, the king's throne room, the battlefield for the battle of Adrianople, the queen's room, the garden, the court of time. The new "Tsar Kaloyan" on the square is a completely different interpretation of the work of a classic of Bulgarian music Pancho Vladigerov. Deep in its scenic conception is the idea of rediscovering n elevating the might of the medieval and modern civilisation of Bulgaria".

Цар Калоян -  Панчо Владигеров

2009 Veliko Tarnovo, Stage of the Ages, Tsarevets Hill, conductor Tsanko Delibozov, director Plamen Kartaloff, in the roles: Biser Georgiev – Tsar Kaloyan, Radostina Nikolaeva – Tsarina Maria, Kostadin Andreev – Emperor Baldwin. 

Снимки Панчо Владигеров 

15.10.2009 Sofia Opera and Ballet, conductor Tsanko Delibozov, director Plamen Kartaloff, in the roles: Ivan Kabamitov – Tsar Kaloyan, Radostina Nikolaeva – Tsarina Maria, Kostadin Andreev – Emperor Baldwin

Снимки Панчо Владигеров


On 30 January 1937, "Tsar Kaloyan" appeared on the stage of the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. The premiere spectacle was broadcast on several Czechoslovak radio stations, and the first act was broadcast directly to the U.S. by NBC, the national broadcasting company. (As early as 1927, Vladigerov's works had been heard in the New World.) There were numerous reviews in the Czechoslovak, Hungarian, and Austrian press, and in The New York Times was published a cablegram and then an extensive report. Its author, Herbert Priser, wrote: "Musically, the work, without attaining to any extraordinary originality, is at least five times better than some of the innovations I have heard at the Vienna Opera in recent years." There have been 18 performances of Vladigerov's opera in Bratislava.

1937 production of "Tsar Kaloyan" at the Ljubljana Opera. There were 15 performances. Conductor Carol Nedbal, director Bohus Villim.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

1975-1976 Stara Zagora National Opera production was presented on a visit to Lodz, Poland. Conductor Romeo Raychev, director Georgi Petkov, in the roles: Borislav Doychinov, Maria Ventseslavova, Mihail Martinov

1975 "Tsar Kaloyan" was performed in Prague, Brno and Bratislava.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

1978. The production of the Sofia Opera was presented within the framework of the "Days of Bulgaria" in the Czech Republic.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

1978 "Tsar Kaloyan" made a guest-performance in Moscow. Conductor Alexander Vladigerov, director Mihail Hadjimishev.

"A great joy, and it turned out to be the last joy for the great Vladigerov, was the guest-performance of the Sofia Opera in Moscow on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Liberation of Bulgaria. There was some pressure on the Director of the opera to include in the tour programme another opera on a subject related to the Russian-Turkish War, but Vladigerov found out about it and came to the opera angry. During the conversation in the director's office, he banged his cane and said, "Now my opera must go to Moscow. When I die, I know it won't be performed, so as long as I live I want my opera to go. I see what happens afterwards." Naturally, "Tsar Kaloyan" went to Moscow. The performances were in the Bolshoi Theatre, where foreign companies were rarely allowed and our national opera was invited to this famous stage for the first time. "Tsar Kaloyan" was applauded very enthusiastically; reflected and appreciated very highly. I remember, we were sitting in wonderful seats, in the so-called white floor with Elka and Pancho Vladigerov; he was excited, restless, but after the applause for Act I he calmed down. Finally, happy, he came on stage and the audience on its feet applauded him. Then with his typical humour and characteristic pronunciation he said, "Well, you saw what a success it was, wasn't I right!" He died a few months later.

"I remember him at rehearsals at the opera, always behind Sasho, his son, and very actively observing and correcting, he had absolute hearing and could detect instantly a false tone or an inaccurate introduction of an instrument by the big orchestra. He liked big, rich voices and said that his operas should be sung by Wagnerian voices" – recollections of Boyanka Arnaudova.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров 


Legend of the Lake" is a ballet in three acts based on the libretto by Ivan Genov and Nina Anisimova.

The music was completed in 1946 and was first heard in concert at the Prague Spring Festival in 1948 under the baton of Sasha Popov.

The stage premiere was on 11 November 1962 by conductor Alexander Vladigerov and choreographer Nina Anisimova. In the roles: Vera Kirova – Vida, Asen Gavrilov – Vlad, Ivan Trifonov – Karaman, Penka Encheva – Gura.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

The same year, 1963, the ballet company of the Sofia Opera was guest at the Liceu Theatre, Barcelona and presented the ballet "Legend of the Lake". The production was also presented in Germany, Monte Carlo, Romania.

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

The prima ballerina Krasimira Koldamova for the ballet "The Legend of the Lake" by Pancho Vladigerov in 1963: "Nina Anisimova, from the Kirov Theatre, as a choreographer made a stylization of Bulgarian dances, and it was the first time in my life. The Tusuzov family (Nikola and Nevena) did the set and costumes. Anisimova had contacts with our boys, who were also in a folklore ensemble dancers and with us. She worked with them. They helped her a lot to build the Bulgarian movements in the spectacle. It's a significant spectacle because we toured with it in Barcelona at the Liceu Theatre. It was such a great success that the audience showered the stage with flowers. We were very excited about how this audience would receive our national ballet and our music. It was a triumph."

Снимки Панчо Владигеров

A new production was performed in 2019 on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the composer's birth with conductor Grigor Palikarov, choreographer Donvena Pandoursky, in the roles:

The Prince: Nikola Hadjitanev, Emil Yordanov, Tsetso Ivanov
The Lake Maid: Marta Petkova, Katerina Petrova, Pamela Pandova
The Warrior Woman: Katerina Petrova, Venera Hristova, Sofia Tsutsakova
The Sun God: Tsetso Ivanov, Rosen Kanev, Matthew Whittle
The Stone Lord: Rosen Kanev, Trifon Mitev, John Abenanty
The King: Teodor Vodenicharov, Rumen Bonev, Elenko Ivanov
The Queen: Dilyana Nikiforova, Charlotte Berard, Irina Zheleva
A Wolf: Georgi Banchev
A Hind: Kristina Chochanova-Ivanova, Lora Boshnakova
First Sorceress: Pamela Pandova, Elena Petrova, Martina Sergieva
Second Sorceress: Irina Zheleva, Debora Tosheva
Satyr: Zahari Georgiev, Georgi Asparuhov

Жената от езерото - Панчо Владигеров

Stefan Lazarov:

Vladigerov's music, overflowing with energy and joy, saturated with movement and sparkling in all colours of the spectrum, moves, excites, attracts irresistibly. Through it many have learned and felt for the first time much about Bulgaria. It has long been performed everywhere, it is the domain of great masters. Vladigerov was the first Bulgarian composer who courageously spoke his own Bulgarian language in the face of the world...

The name of Pancho Vladigerov stands alongside the names of the greatest in contemporary music. His art expresses the most precious, fundamental features of the national soul. His work stands at an unprecedented height in the long history of Bulgarian culture. The future belongs to him!

  • Photo: Пламен Карталов
  • Photo: Димитър Манолов
  • Photo: Светлана Котленко Никола, Смочевски - Велико Търново 1978г.
  • Photo: Цар Калоян 1987
  • Photo: Цар Калоян 1998
  • Photo: Цар Калоян 1998
  • Photo: Цар Калоян 1998
  • Photo: Цар Калоян - Велико Търново 2009
  • Photo: Цар Калоян - Велико Търново 2009
  • Photo: Цар Калоян - Велико Търново 2009
  • Photo: Цар Калоаян - Москва 1978
  • Photo: Цар Калоян 1939
  • Photo: Цар Калоян - Чехия
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото - Катерина Петрова
  • Photo: Легенда за езерото - Марта Петкова, Никола Хаджитанев