18 May 2015


Bizet’s masterpiece “Carmen” has a long and very rich history on our national stage, as well as in the rest of the musical centres in the country. Many directors, conductors, set designers, singers and instrumentalists have worked on this remarkable work of art, which was hissed off at the premiere in 1875 at the Paris Théâtre Lyrique. The first Bulgarian premiere was on 12 March 1912 under the direction of the founder of the Opera Dragomir Kazakov with the outstanding Bogdana Ghiuselev-Vulpe in the main role. The musical direction was the work by the very honoured Chief conductor of many years and builder of the Sofia Opera and Ballet Todor Hadzhiev /1881-1956/, father of the composer Parashkev Hadzhiev.

After 15 years namely he produced for the first time also the second famous and important work of the great Bizet – “Les pêcheurs de perles”. This happened on 12 September1927 for the official opening of the season. And it was long and exceptionally interesting. Firstly, because at the head of the Opera there were two conductors, at that of world class – Issay Dobrowen and Yuri Pomerantsev, and, secondly, since this rich and very strong in professional aspect season, with 9 premiere productions can be defined as mainly “French”. Besides “Les pêcheurs” were realized: “Faust” by Gounod, “La Juive” by Halévy, /produced also in 1997 again with success in Sofia/, “Werther” by Massenet, “Coppélia” by Delibes, presented were also: “Manon” by Massenet, “Lakmé” by Delibes and the eternal “Carmen”.

The cast was more than good. As Leila alternated the young prima donnas – the coloratura sopranos Maria Milkova-Zolotovich and Maria Mitovich, Zurga was the belcanto baritone, the half-Italian Sabcho Sabev, Nourabad – Pavel Elmazov, and the difficult and impressive tenor part was covered by Atanas Ivavov and Boris Hristov.

Producer was the chief director of the Opera – Hristo /Hityo/ Popov. The beautiful sets and costumes were made by the tireless Aleksandar Milenkov, German-trained, the first professional scenographer in our country, and the impressive Indian dances were trained by Anastas Petrov, called later the “Father of Bulgarian ballet.” According to the press, the production enjoyed great success and after ca. ten years it was revived with fast the same cast of performers, in which entered also the tenor Petar Raychev, the first Bulgarian opera singer with world career.

For long years “Les pêcheurs de perles” was not performed on the stage of the Capital. In 1980 Boris Hinchev, Svetozar Donev and Mariana Popova realized a new production /premiere on 29 April 1980/, but it didn’t stay for long on the playbill.

The greatest success enjoyed, however, the stylish Ruse production from 1955 /director Evgeni Nemirov, conductors Lyuben Pintev and Romeo Raychev/ with the “Three Ruse Stars” Nikolay Zdravkov /Nadir/, Penka Marinova /Leila/ and Kiril Krastev /Zurga/. It was performed till 1972 before full halls in Ruse, it was guest-performed at festivals and reviews and entered also in the Golden Fund of the Bulgarian National Radio.

The other music stages in the country also turned to this work by Bizet, favourite to our music lovers: Stara Zagora in 1957 with the participation of Minyo Minev, Varna in 1964, under the directing of Evgeni Nemirov, Plovdiv in 1966 with the wonderful lyrical Valentina Aleksandrova.

From Bizet’s works in Bulgaria were performed also “Le docteur Miracle” /by the Training opera theatre at the Academy of Music in 1981 and the ballet after the L’Arlésienne suite. It is interesting, that the ballet was advertised under the title “Gipsy Love” and was performed in 1935, together with “Chopiniana” in Anastas Petrov’s choreography.