11 Feb 2015Sofia Opera and Ballet


"Never in my life have I been truly blessed by love..."

This confession of Richard Wagner was a spontaneous outburst of the lord of romanticism, who fell passionately in love with the wife of his patron Otto Wesendonck, the poetess Mathilde Wesendonck, during his Swiss exile after his participation in the Dresden Uprising, 1848. Longing and love ended with the need to leave the "island of the blessed" and his beloved Mathilde and with the separation from his wife Minna Planer. What storms and passions were unleashed in this extraordinary creative period of the composer's life? Wagner was able to complete the full lyrics of his "Der Ring des Nibelungen" at the end of 1852. The element that overwhelmed him gave birth in sequence to the first and second movements of the tetralogy, "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre" /1852-1856/. With the same fire he began "Siegfried", but abandoned the score halfway through in 1857.

Why did Wagner "say goodbye" to his Siegfried?  His burning love for Mathilde Wesendonck, the torments of love and his disillusionment with the reactionary climate that followed the failure of the Dresden Uprising immersed him in the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. According to which not reason but intuition provides knowledge of the world. It is music that most truly reveals the essence of the world.

Wagner in love is entranced by the plot of the ancient legend of love conquering death, the legend of Tristan and Isolde. He created a work not about love but about the torment of love, glorifying not life but death. It is a magnificent poem of love, dominated by the ecstasy of love – longing, anticipation, pain and despair, the thirst for death. A veritable sea of passion, revealing the painful state of Wagner in love, torn by amorous anguish.

"Tristan and Isolde" was born on the stage of the Sofia Opera after the extraordinary ordeal, the first encounter of the Bulgarian audience with the giant tetralogy "Der Ring des Nibelungen". A fascinating adventure that began in 2010, when the Bulgarian Bayreuth was born, the only one so far in the Balkans. For five consecutive years, the audience has climbed the steps of our operatic temple in the great journey with Richard Wagner, the lord of Romanticism. An event that has also aroused the interest of foreign audiences, attracting friends and passionate admirers of the composer from Wagner societies all over the world. Now we expect the great love experience, "Tristan und Isolde". And this time the founder of Wagnerian traditions in Bulgaria, Plamen Kartaloff, relies on Bulgarian opera artists who have withstood the test of "Der Ring". And not just with one cast, but with three. Something that, as a critic who has experienced the celebrations in Bayreuth and world productions of "Tristan und Isolde" on prestigious German stages, I can say is true heroism, a challenge that I am convinced has no analogue in world practice. I believe that this "Tristan und Isolde" will bring the Bulgarian colour into the Wagnerian traditions of world opera theatre.

Dr. Magdalena Manolova