You have come to Sofia in Bulgaria, so you undertook a relatively long journey to experience the great oeuvre of the Bayreuth Master Richard Wagner. And I can tell you straight away: you will not regret it. What has happened here in terms of Wagner reception since 2010 can be described as sensational even in a European context.
The general director of the Sofia Opera and Ballet, Prof. Plamen Kartaloff, and his competent team started with “The Rhinegold” the first Bulgarian “Ring of the Nibelung” – and even the first ever in the Balkans. It was pure pioneering work from the start, always with the support of the German music professor Richard Trimborn, who effectively took care of the singers' German. It quickly went on with “The Valkyrie” in 2011, “Siegfried” in 2012 and “Twilight of the Gods” in 2013, when the entire “Ring” was shown in cycle and visitors, especially also Richard Wagner Associations from California to Queensland in Australia, came to Sofia. Their recognition of the quality of the production, which was based very much on Richard Wagner's intended work statement with thoroughly unconventional new artistic and technical means, and also of the musical result was just as great as the positive response from the international press.
This success spurred Kartaloff to continue on Richard Wagner's path and stage the last two great music dramas of the composer with “Tristan and Isolde” in 2015 and “Parsifal” in 2017 – both again Bulgarian premieres – also with considerable success. And then, in 2022, there was a new production of “The Flying Dutchman”, in an open-air format on Pancharevo Lake near Sofia, where “The Rhinegold” and Rossini's “La donna del lago” had previously taken place. Plamen Kartaloff developed an enormous imagination over the years to discover new open-air venues, which he also used for parts of his Wagner productions in addition to “The Rhinegold”. The third scene of this Oeuvre and the pilgrims' chorus from “Tannhäuser” in the Magura Cave is particularly impressive.
You can experience all of this in the coming days at this first Wagner Festival in Bulgaria, with a new production of “The Ring of the Nibelung” that builds on the success of the old one with new technical means and is indeed eagerly awaited.
I wish you good entertainment and many happy music-theatrical moments.
Dr. Klaus Billand