Author: Marina Chertova
The artists of the romantic musical, staged for the first time in Bulgaria by Plamen Kartaloff, will perform at Lake Pancharevo spectacle №100
The musical of Sofia Opera and Ballet "Mamma Mia!" for the fifth consecutive summer will immerse the audience in a romantic love story in the middle of the sea, full of passion, emotions, comic moments, performed by wonderful artists and to the sounds of the beloved songs of the Swedish band ABBA.
The musical, staged for the first time in Bulgaria in 2018 by the director acad. Plamen Kartaloff, will set a kind of record for the country, as in September on the summer stage "Muses of Water" near Lake Pancharevo, is expected to be played performance № 100.
"One summer! One dream! One chance to make it come true. Make yourselves the present of an eternal summer with the musical "Mamma Mia!" in August and September", shares the Sofia Opera team and invites the audience to a total of 15 magical spectacles on three summer stages.
The talented singers and actors, who are part of the stellar team of the production, will perform at the Antique Theatre in Plovdiv on 6 and 7 August, at the festival "Opera of the Peaks" – Belogradchik Rocks on 18, 19, 20 and 21 August, and at the summer festival in Sofia "Muses of Water" – Lake Pancharevo from 25 August to 4 September.
Each of the three summer stages brings a different natural charm and a different sensation. The artists also act heartily on the lake mirror of Pancharevo, where the blue-green waters naturally turn into a turquoise Greek sea, and the pontoon, on which the exciting performances of Sofia Opera are performed, takes the shape of a romantic Greek island with palm trees, a windmill and white and blue Greek-style houses.
The soloists and the spectators are also incredibly charged near the Belogradchik Rocks, which also turn into a Greek island, as well as at the Ancient Theatre in Plovdiv. It is especially beautiful to watch the performance against the background of the sunset. The sun shines in a special way on the magical lake, the natural phenomenon near Belogradchik and the mysterious Ancient Theatre in Plovdiv.
Photo: Sofia Opera and Ballet
Actors from "Mamma Mia!" told Lupa.bg with a smile that two are the main reasons for the musical to enjoy a long stage life – the first is that director Plamen Kartaloff does not make a replica of the musical, as is usually done around the world, but has complete freedom of the direction and the interpretations.
The Director of the Sofia Opera received special permission from the authors of the musical to develop his own concept for the spectacle and to offer another theatrical interpretation of the great songs of ABBA. It was no coincidence that the spectacle became so different and highly impactful. Many people who have seen the musical abroad say that Sofia Opera's "Mamma Mia!" is a very good production and can be worthily ranked with the great theatres of the world. The spirit of the musical has been preserved, although it has been adapted according to the tastes and attitudes of the Bulgarian audience and the young people! And this peculiar flirt between the artists and the audience has brought success to the spectacle for four years now.
The second secret of the success of the Bulgarian "Mamma Mia!" lies in the love with which the artists play and in the mutual affection and chemistry between them. The lively mood of the magnificent soloists of the Sofia Opera and the guest stars, who captivate the audience with their magical voices, dizzying dances, colourful clothes, is transmitted to the audience. The emotional charge and smiles of the artists flow through the thousands of spectators from the first to the last row, some of whom dare to dance along the rows in time with the artists and sing along with them.
Everything on the "island" in the Ancient Theatre or near the Belogradchik Rocks and Pancharevo develops very dynamically with reflections that encourage the audience to empathize with the story of the characters and for three hours to immerse themselves in a magical world.
As maestro Kartaloff says: "I turn all ABBA songs into a theatre of situations and scenes, where the audience will not stand like at a pop concert, but participate in the action. It's an exciting spectacle because I require the artists to speak, act, sing and dance with complete naturalness and commitment, passion and professionalism. Together we all build personages that make their characters strong, emotionally impactful, alive and contemporary."
The director himself demonstrates magnificent plasticity and dancing skills and sometimes joins in the final dances to the rhythm of ABBA, thus expressing his respect for the entire team of the spectacle.
ABBA's hits tell us the curious story of a young woman searching for her own father. On the eve of her wedding on a paradise Greek island, a daughter's strong desire to discover her father's identity brings three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.
The search begins when the young, successful and radiant singer and actress Vesela Delcheva, in the role of the main character Sophie, looks into her mother's secret diary to find her three possible fathers from 20 years ago. The role of the seductive architect Sam is performed alternately by the magnetic actor and singer Vladimir Mihaylov, the pop and opera star Orlin Goranov and the established soloist of Sofia Opera and talented ballet dancer Kiril Ivanov.
The gifted baritone Aleksandar Georgiev enters the skin of the travel writer Bill, and the role of the eccentric bohemian Harry is performed by the famous opera and operetta singer Nikolay Pavlov and the winner of the Ikar Award for dubbing – "Golden Voice" – the actor and singer Simeon Vladov.
The actresses with velvet voices Edelina Kaneva and Lyudmila Kozareva play the role of the woman with many secrets and Sophie's mother – Donna, the incredible Yanitsa Maslinkova, Elena Stoyanova, Silvana Pravcheva and Denitsa Shopova play the roles of her friends – Tanya and Rosie respectively.
The young and charming singer Radoslav Vladimirov plays Sophie's beloved Sky, with the talented Georgi Arsov in the same role. The radiant Tsvetelina Kotseva and Adelina Tomova play Lisa and Alia respectively. The whirling Boyan Arsov is the mischievous Pepper, the fiery Georgi Dzhanov is Eddie, and one of the well-known names of Sofia Opera Plamen Grandjean dons the priest's cassock.
The numerous spectators are lucky to enjoy the ABBA songs "Super Trouper", "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Take a Chance on Me", "Thank You for the Music", "Money, Money, Money", "The Winner Takes It All", "Voulez-Vous", "SOS", created by the genial authors and former band members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.
Conductor of the Sofia Opera and Ballet Orchestra is the talented maestro Svetoslav Lazarov. The "Greek" set design is by Nela Stoyanova and the costumes by Hristiana Mihaleva. The songs of ABBA sound in the musical in the masterful translation into Bulgarian by Milena Borinova.
The actors told Lupa.bg that "Mamma Mia!" is their favourite musical because it gives them an incredible charge, especially when the spectacle is performed on open stages. All the artists in maestro Kartaloff's spectacle impress with their immense vocal potential and outstanding plastic and choreographic abilities, as well as with their ability to portray both comic and dramatic situations with equal talent, which either makes you roll over with laughter or holds your breath waiting for the denouement.
"This spectacle was created with a lot of love, we all love it," the lovely Vesela Delcheva told Lupa.bg. She is especially charged with positive emotions and with fervour will perform the role of Sophie, for her it is a kind of marathon of 15 performances, which, however, she is not in the least intimidated by. On the contrary, she is looking forward to it. "For me, this title is one of the most optimistic. Our goal and hope is to fill the audience with positivity and bright thoughts!", said the soloist of Sofia Opera.
Vesela Delcheva also shared that the audience in Plovdiv is looking forward to "Mamma Mia!" at the Ancient Theatre. "In 2019 we played there, to our joy it was packed. I think it was my strongest emotional performance. The spectators were like at a football match, they were shouting with excitement," the gifted actress rejoices at the emotionality of the audience.
"The success of the musical is due to the wonderful direction, the set design, the artists, the way it is performed, because the spectacle is constantly being updated, constantly evolving, and why? Because there is simply love. That's the key – love. It is the key to everything and to the success of "Mamma Mia!" in Bulgaria", is convinced Vesela, who is performing the role of Sophie for the fifth summer.
"I love Sophie because she is very close to me in temperament. What I like about her is that she is a fighter, she is ready to go through any obstacles and difficulties to achieve her big dream – to meet her real father. As she gets involved in this romantic and tragicomic mess, in which her mother is the protagonist, Sophie discovers the truth about herself and what she wants from life – whether she wants to get married or not, what her goals are," says the star of the musical.
The charming Vladimir Mihaylov, who plays the role of Sam – the ladies' heartbreaker, also does not hide his joy to be part of the unique experience "Mamma Mia!".
"People who have seen the spectacle abroad, in many countries, including New York, have said to me, 'Your performance is at a very, very high level.' That assessment makes me very happy, because this is a very difficult show. There's a lot of drama in it and a lot of comedy, and if both of those things don't come out, you just haven't done this play, because it's very actor-driven. We know the film, we know what great and wonderful actors are in it. And the wonderful music obliges us even more," the multi-talented actor told Lupa.bg.
According to him, the summer stages in Bulgaria, where the musical is performed, unlock a special energy because you are in the natural scenery of nature, behind you are majestic rocks, hills or a lake. "You come by boat on the waters of the lake, as for example it is in the film. These are indispensable things. Or you go down the rocks to get on the stage," Vladimir Mihaylov added with a smile.
"Maestro Kartaloff is the absolute king of these things. I admire him for his energy and his work and for the fact that he never stops looking for and finding places where people can discover opera and musical theatre. It's incredible to play on summer stages like Pancharevo or the Belogradchik Rocks.
"Mamma Mia!" is a summer spectacle, it brings exactly that energy," commented the singer with guitar. And as he himself added: "It's not a coincidence that they call the musical 'the icing on the cake', because in a spectacle like this you can really show the synchronicity between acting, song and dance."
"Mamma Mia!" is my favourite show with my favourite colleagues and with a lot of energy and humour. With this musical it's always a holiday," shares Vladimir Mihaylov. He will be Sam at Lake Pancharevo on 25, 26, 27, 28 and 31 August.
The star of Orlin Goranov as Sam in "Mamma Mia!" will shine in Belogradchik on 18, 19, 20 and 21 August, as well as at "Muses of Water" near Lake Pancharevo from 1 to 4 September, when the final chord of the summer festival of the Sofia Opera will be given. The singer himself says about his performance in the musical: "It brings me great pleasure to work in it, so success is certain!" The third Sam – Kiril Ivanov will play at the Antique Theatre in Plovdiv on 6 and 7 August.
"We work with ease and with pleasure," said before Lupa.bg the singer Aleksandar Georgiev, who with great energy takes on the role of Sophie's other possible father – Bill. Moreover, he will appear in all the current summer performances. "I liken Bill Austin to myself. He's a writer, a traveller, a person who seeks emotions, experiences. He has had tumultuous experiences behind him and conveys them through the dialogue in the play. I think Bill fits me quite well," shares the long-time soloist of the Sofia Opera.
"Mamma Mia!" is the first world-class musical with ABBA’s hits that I'm involved in. The musical is theatre, opera is theatre too, but opera doesn't have as much spoken word and text as a musical. There are recitatives in the opera, which is equivalent to the lyrics in the musical. In a musical, if the energy and the emotion in the text doesn't get through to the audience, then they can't understand the action. This is the difficulty of the musical and therefore the task of the actor – through his acting to be able to present the text and the emotion of the character to the spectator in a clear and understandable way, but without being pretentious", reflects Aleksandar Georgiev.
For the young Icarus winner Boyan Arsov "Mamma Mia!" is also the first musical in which he participated. He plays the role of Pepper. "The team is great. When I came into the spectacle, I didn't have the experience that I'm already gaining behind me on this stage and I'm grateful to all the artists and singers who helped us progress with them," the actor revealed. He will also make a marathon appearance in all 15 performances – at the Ancient Theatre in Plovdiv, at the Belogradchik Rocks and at Lake Pancharevo.
"It's very difficult this physical commitment we have in Mamma Mia!". If you haven't prepared your body, if you haven't warmed up, if you haven't gone through the pieces a day or two before, if you haven't gotten into voice, it doesn't work out well. I know that for this role I need at least three days of getting into voice every day to get my voice in the shape that is needed for this spectacle," the young actor and singer Radoslav Vladimirov, who performs memorably as Sky, revealed to Lupa.bg.
"What motivates me to come out was to refract the image of Sky through his great love for Sophie. Even though my character doesn't really want to marry her because he's young and 'wants to live', I'm motivating his entire behaviour on one thing and I have one focus – and namely that this woman has turned my head and I want to be with her, in spite of all.
By having one specific focus, all the other decisions I make somehow justify themselves. The other important thing is to be physically well, because with so many movements and dances, both acting and singing are not easy at all. But it's also very nice and interesting on the other hand", Radoslav Vladimirov is happy, who, together with his colleagues, gives his all for this spectacle full of positive energy.
Photo: Sofia Opera and Ballet
The great Tatyana Lolova was one of the passionate admirers of the Bulgarian production of "Mamma Mia!". "I am happy that when meeting such artists and with such a production, I can be happy for them, applaud them, and wish them new successes from the bottom of my heart! How pleasant it is to breathe, to live with such artists opposite you, to touch them, to those who, with their humanity and art, inflame the desire to continue living! You are wonderful!", the beloved actress shared when she watched the production at the Sofia Opera some time ago. Her sincere assessment of the musical also proves why the audience loves this spectacle, why they wait for it with great impatience and why they come to see it again and again.