On 22 May we celebrate Richard Wagner's birthday!
22 May 2023Sofia Opera and Ballet

On 22 May we celebrate Richard Wagner's birthday!

With a spectacular festival and a new production of the tetralogy "Der Ring des Nibelungen" the Sofia Opera and Ballet joins the international celebrations on the occasion of the 210th anniversary of the composer. From 8 to 30 July all seven titles that have been in the repertoire so far will be presented – "Das Rheingold" – 8.07, "Die Walküre" – 9.07, "Siegfried" – 11.07, "Götterdämmerung" – 13.07, "Tristan und Isolde" – 23.07, "Parsifal" – 25.07, "Der fliegende Holländer" – 29 and 30.07.

Plamen Kartaloff decided to begin Wagner's tetralogy and in 2010 was the premiere of the first part "Das Rheingold". Over the next three years, audiences applauded "Die Walküre", "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung". The first and so far only production on the Balkans in 2013 marked the composer's 200th anniversary.

"It was a real boldness because it was done only with Bulgarian opera artists", says Plamen Kartaloff.

With "Siegfried" in 2012 Sofia Opera visited Minsk, with "Der Ring des Nibelungen" in 2015 it visited the historic city of Füssen, Germany, and in 2018 at the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow.

"The most important thing for me was the test in front of the German audience. And at the traditional Wagner Festival at the Sofia Opera, admirers from all over the world gathered and travelled specially to discover new productions by their favorite composer", said the Maestro.

For the new production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen", which will have new sets, costumes and directorial concept, it has already been confirmed that the premiere spectacles will be attended by distinguished professionals, avid fans of Wagner's work and musical pilgrims who follow the latest developments in the opera world.

The spectacles will be directed by Plamen Kartaloff, conducted by Konstantin Trinks, set design by Hans Kudlich, costumes by Hristiana Mihaleva.

Plamen Kartaloff, director
"My first encounter in Richard Wagner's Mecca, Bayreuth, was in the summer of 1970. As a twenty-two-year-old student, I took my oath at his grave that the inspiration of his theatre and the performances I attended would be a guiding light that would forever illuminate my path as a director. However, it was with his work, after some one hundred and fifty other productions by masters of the Bulgarian, Italian, French and Russian operatic treasury, that this happened after nearly thirty-eight years."

Konstantin Trinks, conductor
I first came to Sofia in 2015 for "Tristan und Isolde" on the recommendation of maestro Richard Trimborn, who was already working in Sofia. I was absolutely impressed by the singers, their wonderful voices, fantastic musicians. Back then there was still no tradition in interpreting Wagner, but today, thanks to Maestro Kartaloff, I can safely say that Wagner is one of the most beloved composers. Moreover, the character building on stage is very vivid. The orchestra, which has so far performed more Italian repertoire and classical ballets, is now very well trained and interprets Wagner's music plastically and accurately.

The outstanding soloists of the Sofia Opera share their excitement and memories of their first encounters with Richard Wagner's work.

Radostina Nikolaeva, soprano
The work of Richard Wagner occupies a special place in my artistic path. A great challenge and at the same time a great satisfaction! The adventure with Wagner's works began in 2015 when I made my debut in the role of Isolde. This role opened a new world for me and took a special place in my heart! Romain Rolland described "Tristan und Isolde" as "A monument of love with incomparable power..."

I am grateful to the management of the Sofia Opera and Ballet for the trust and the opportunity given to me to experience Wagner's genius and to impersonate the personages of his wonderful female characters!

Martin Iliev, tenor
My participation in "Die Walküre" at the Sofia Opera was a great challenge. Not only had I never sung Wagner, but I had never sung in German. But as they say, "Appetite comes with eating." And so, as time went on, little by little, Wagner took me over completely!

The in-depth work with the pianist Richard Trimborn and then with Acad. Kartaloff, the insight into the lyrics and the analysis of each musical motif transported me completely into another world.

I can definitely only be grateful that I had the chance at this very moment to be ready to take part in this exceptionally large and ambitious project.

Kostadin Andreev, tenor
My first meeting with Wagner was in 2012. "Das Rheingold", "Die Walküre" were already gone through. Maestro Kartaloff and I had an agreement that I would not sing Wagner. I never thought, I never dreamed, it never crossed my mind that I would sing Wagner. "Siegfried" was coming up and he said "Here's Richard Trimborn. Learn a few phrases from Siegfried." That's probably the longest role. Out of four hours, he sings two.

With the full conviction that I would not be approved, I appeared pro forma. And Trimborn said, "Yes, we have Siegfried." Kartaloff was so happy to have found his Siegfried. He beamed. When he shared with John Hollander that he was going to do "The Ring" the only thing he asked him was "Do you have Siegfried?"

On 22 May 2012, when Richard Wagner was born, and I was born then, I made my debut in "Siegfried". I didn't know what world I was in. The spectacle was a phenomenal success. What a triumph that premiere was! Siegfried from "Götterdämmerung" followed. Then came "Parsifal", "Der fliegende Holländer", and so on to this day.

In the new production we have a new set, new costumes. Now we're going into more philosophical depths, we're immersing ourselves in these legends, but when you think about it, these are universal human topics that still apply today.

Nikolay Petrov, bass
My saga with Wagner began in October 2009. I went from being a leading sub of the Musical Theatre to suddenly becoming a Wagner singer. I auditioned and was assigned the role of Wotan.

Once one starts doing Wagner it turns out that this music acts as a drug for him. You study, study, study, your head explodes, you rest for two hours and you feel the need to start studying again. It turned out to be true what Richard Trimborn – an incredible interpreter – was telling me, who claimed that the more you get into his music, the more you see its vastness. Really, with him, things are layered. You always find something new that he wanted to say and you rediscover. Wagner is a philosophy. The more you get into his music – because I'm not a philosopher – I find a depth of feeling.

Tsvetana Bandalovska, soprano
I will be in the new production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen", new mise-en-scene, new sets, new costumes. This is a renewal for us. I feel a minion of fortune. Just gratitude, appreciation to Acad. Kartaloff, because without him Wagner would not have happened in Bulgaria. I thank him for all the madness that we have in the theatre, because nobody believed that Bulgarians could sing Wagner. But we did seven operas and at a very, very high level. This was appreciated by professionals and Wagner lovers from outside who came specially to hear us. I believe that this time they will also come to see integrally what we have done all these years.

Silvana Pravcheva, soprano
Before we started "Der Ring des Nibelungen" at the opera, Maestro Kartaloff gathered almost all the soloists and told us about his idea. We reacted evasively. "Yes, yes, of course it will be good, let's give it a try." But he got us so carried away that I will never forget, we left enthusiastic, motivated. "Why don't we give it a try? Why can't we, like our colleagues who perform this composer, rise to the challenge."

We are looking forward to the new performances to see what more we will build, what more we will do for ourselves, for the audience, and for the composer himself, who has written some phenomenal works. It's not love at first sight, to hear it and say, "Oh yes, it's very beautiful!" These are profound psychological moments.

What I'm doing in the new production is going deeper into the music. I'm so pleased and happy to have the chance again, and to be back in this maelstrom of "Der Ring des Nibelungen", to once again feel the sweetness and emotion of what we're about to present starting 8 July.

Atanas Mladenov, baritone
My Wagner experiment began ten years ago with the fourth production of "Götterdämmerung". Then I joined with the role of Gunther.

Now for the new production I am observing a wiser approach to things. It's very beautiful when we've played something many times on stage and come back with a new reading on it. The notes are the same, the relationships are the same, it's just the approach that's much more mastered. All the emotionality that Wagner's music can easily unleash is more controlled. Yes, it's very beautiful.

As for the directorial concept, the Maestro very specifically observes the relationships between the characters. He's very honest with what's written, with the lyrics. But again, we're in a timeless time – "Once, somewhere, many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away."

Gergana Rusekova, mezzo-soprano
In 2017 Maestro Kartaloff called me and entrusted me with the role of Kundry from "Parsifal". When I opened the score, I got chills. I hadn't encountered such a vocally difficult role, but I said to myself, "If you make it, there is nothing to stop you!" The role of Kundry is written as three extremely opposite characters who transform in each act. From the feral, finding no rest, seeking salvation in sleep, to Klingzor's submissive and Parsifal's enchanting seductress, to Kundry, serving and purified by Parsifal in the name of the Holy Grail, finding eternal rest. A role with which there is a lifetime to do, build upon and seek.

After a strong start came the suggestion of Brunhilde from "Die Walküre".

I love Wagner, I love working with the Maestro, I love my colleagues and I am grateful to all the dedicated many people behind it all!

Mariana Zvetkova, soprano
This time I will present the part of Fricka in both "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre". This is a great challenge for me. I'm interested in what she's going through. Because Fricka is a rich character – she's full of contradictions, of love, of hate, of unhappiness, of betrayals, she's a wellspring of emotions. That's why I want to bring my different tone to every word and sentence she utters. I want her to be colorful like a picture.

Petar Buchkov, bass
In 2009 in a conversation with Аcad. Kartaloff, I was introduced to his fantastic project "Der Ring des Nibelungen". Now 13 years later, I believe that the schooling I went through and one of the most valuable experiences I had professionally is due to the personality of Maestro Richard Trimborn, who single-handedly bet on my talent. His tremendous positivity and professionalism helped me to immerse myself wholeheartedly in the world of Wagner. Over these past years I have been able to impersonate various characters in all of the German Maestro's operas.

Good luck at the Wagner Festival on the stage of the Sofia Opera!

Svetlana Dimitrova