"Chatterers" of the Sofia Opera – key to the future
Photo: Софийска опера и балет
31 Mar 2022Bulgarian National Radio

"Chatterers" of the Sofia Opera – key to the future

Published on 31.03.22 at 16:16
Author: Rositsa Kavaldzhieva

For three years – from 2017 to 2019, I was following the opera festival "Bartók Plus" in the Hungarian city of Miskolc, where each time were presented contemporary operas, awarded at the international competition "Key to the Future". The mission of the competition was to outline the way in which now easy to listen to and attractive to the public operas can be created. The contemporary operas I listened to and saw on the stage of the Miskolc Theatre ranged from pop and rock opera to "model work" by the great classical composers from before the second half of the twentieth century.

In the field of impossible or difficult to listen to contemporary opera music, after my student years at the Academy of Music I have watched a few works in Bulgaria and abroad, live and in cinema / internet screenings. With this baggage of knowledge and experience I went to the hall of the Sofia National Opera for the performance of the opera "Chatterers" by Lazar Nikolov based on the short novel of the same name by Ivan Vazov. Let me clarify that it also enters the boundaries of contemporary music – from the second half of the twentieth century, outlined by musicology.

In this production, the greatest achievement is the production team and that is why I want to highlight it, although it consists in creating a homogeneous overall product. The result is an attractive contemporary opera performance for the audience, as I talked about above. Lazar Nikolov's libretto on the dramatization of Metodi Andonov of the short novel of the classic of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov is intelligently supplemented by "Text of the Contemporary", created by one of the greatest Bulgarian writers of our time with world fame – Georgi Gospodinov. This text embraces the libretto in the best way, directing the audience to the parallels between the original era and modernity. Without edification or teaching, but quite naturally leads the spectator, maintains his interest at all times and provokes reflection. Thus, Vazov’s old text is like an inlaid jewel in a modern libretto, looking back at the past.

The same applies to the time of the action and the visual side of the spectacle. In the beginning, the stage director Acad. Kartaloff transferrs the action to a futuristic clinic, where we meet the characters and through their statements, gossip and ridicule in a theatre of the absurd – with the original action. In many opera productions such a transfer in time seems self-serving and ridiculous, but here it is masterfully done and I perceive it not as a dissonance with Vazov’s text, but as in tune with the music of Lazar Nikolov and the re-created libretto by Lazar Nikolov and Georgi Gospodinov.

Again, the team work of Acad. Kartaloff and the designers of the sets – Sven Jonke, the costumes – Stanka Vauda, ​​the lighting – Ivan Lushicic Leek, and the multimedia – ELEKTRICK.ME, is remarkable, as if all elements are created by the same creative force! The action is extremely dynamic, I would define it as cinematic, and this perception is significantly contributed by the sets, which seem to take them to the set, where lighting and multimedia are added and the film begins. Both in the visual part, as well as in the text, the modern and the original for the epoch of the Chatterers are skillfully dosed. What connects here are the added touches of the great Bulgarian graphic artist and cartoonist Boris Dimovski in the layout of the spectacle.

As we often repeat and it sounds like a cliché, the most important thing is how the singers will recreate the opera, whether they are convinced of the idea of a production and whether they will be able to convince the audience. In "Chatterers" of the Sofia National Opera, I had the feeling that all the singing artists, as well as the people and the orchestra, had accepted this project as their own, despite previous concerns that it was music difficult to perform and difficult to listen to. Without making an attempt for musical analysis, the basis of Lazar Nikolov's musical fabric is the sonorous-aleatory technique, i.e. the impression is of a melodic recitation on sound combinations in which the ear does not distinguish the individual elements of the structure as in classical harmony. After two hours of such a sound, I was not overwhelmed or bored in any way, so the music director Maestro Zhorzh Dimitrov and his collaborators did a very good job.

Finally, although Vasov’s messages about the mentality of the Bulgarians leave a bitter taste, the performance of "Chatterers" of the Sofia National Opera remains in my mind as a highly deserving achievement.