A German edition spares no superlatives for the Wagner Festival in Sofia
18 Aug 2023lupa.bg

A German edition spares no superlatives for the Wagner Festival in Sofia

It was important for Plamen Kartaloff and his team to tell the story accurately and without embellishment in the new “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, notes the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten


And Bulgaria has its own Bayreuth with the just-concluded Wagner Festival in Sofia, writes the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten edition.

While the Bayreuth festival this year often makes the journalistic headlines for not being completely sold out, and when we look critically, we see an impersonal “Parsifal” and a general lack of interest in visiting Wagner's legendary cult venue, the Sofia Opera has decided to make in July its own musical forum, including the same number of performances as the one in Bayreuth, and not to disappoint its audience.

This is what the author of the publication Rico Förster writes, quoted by BTA.

The director of many years of the Sofia Opera and Ballet, Plamen Kartaloff, a great admirer and connoisseur of Wagner, who described his special relationship with this composer in his book from 2021 “My Life with Richard Wagner”, decided a year ago to make in 2023 in Eastern Europe a competition to the Bayreuth festival. To this end, he has planned and created a new “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, which celebrated its premiere in July.

The festival was complemented by works that feature in the repertoire of this opera house – “Parsifal”, “Tristan und Isolde” and “Der fliegende Holländer”,

at that the last production was presented on the open stage at Lake Pancharevo near Sofia and with it was closed the Wagner Festival.

The success proved Kartaloff right, writes the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten. The international interest was exceptional and brought Wagner admirers from all over the world to the Bulgarian capital. The fact that

all the productions are the opera director's own stagings

may sound a bit patriarchal, but they were made possible thanks to the diligence and unconditional commitment of this successful Bulgarian director and stage director, who was once Harry Kupfer's assistant and studied directing in East Berlin.

In this festival Plamen Kartaloff sets himself the particularly important task of presenting mostly Bulgarian singers to the international audience and to supplement the cast with a few foreign guest artists, performing it almost entirely. Well-known names such as the legendary Anna Tomowa-Sintow or Kurt Rydl as well as the internationally renowned répétiteur Paulo Henrique Almeida from the Leipzig Opera were responsible for learning the German text and did all the preparatory work.

An exceptionally important and particularly powerful constant at this festival was the Sofia Opera Orchestra under the direction of Constantin Trinks,

who as a conductor has been associated with the German repertoire on this stage for many years and, with the exception of “Der fliegende Holländer”, rehearsed and masterfully conducted all the works. Trinks, known for his precise and accurate conducting style, managed to balance in an exceptional way between the performance capacity of the orchestra strengthened through the German repertoire and the international demands. The result was a dense, melodic, accompaniment-capable orchestral sound, writes the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten.

For the stage realisation of his second “Ring” (Kartaloff's first “Der Ring des Nibelungen” was created between 2010 and 2013 and until a few years ago

was performed several times on international stages, including in Minsk and at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow),

the director of the Sofia Opera attracted the Austrian set designer Hans Kudlich and the costumes were designed by Hristina Mihaleva-Zorbalieva.

For Kartaloff and his team it was important in the new “Ring” to tell the story accurately and unadorned, using elements of fiction to make the production accessible to younger audiences – an idea that was beautifully realized. The red horses of the eight Valkyries in the opera's third act moved across the stage with intelligent and skilful choreography,

were doubly applauded – a reaction the author of this review has never seen in this part of the work.

Through a new, intense presentation of the characters and a framing action explaining the plot of the “Ring”, the director explains what is happening to the spectator inexperienced in Wagner's music. And at no point does the production seem boring or even dusty; it is very much alive, even if it is perhaps a little infantile in places.

All performances of “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, as well as the repertoire operas, were sold out and will be presented at a festival in Sofia also in the coming years.