In 2010, with the staging of “The Rhinegold” a significant and memorable period in the history of the National Opera Theatre began – Richard Wagner's “The Ring of the Nibelung” tetralogy was realized in the course of four seasons. A huge event because very few opera houses in the world are known to have done it (I exclude Bayreuth, of course). The unusual fact was that all four operas were performed with only Bulgarian singers (in prevailing practice, the ensembles are usually international) and instrumentalists.
I would add that Wagner has been present in the repertoire of the Sofia Opera since the beginning of the 30s of the 20th century thanks to the conductors Herman Stange, Moisei Zlatin and our great director – the Wagnerian Dragan Kardzhiev, who was invited to stage operas by Mozart and Wagner in Germany. In the following decades, however, all three early and most popular works of the great reformer were staged: “The Flying Dutchman”, “Tannhäuser” and “Lohengrin”, which left a deep mark in the history of the theatre – with their musical and stage realization, and featuring some of our greatest singers. But the tetralogy and the three late operas, that is, the works that formed Wagner's revolutionary concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or total musical theatre, were always somehow alien, outside the repertory purview of the Sofia Opera. The reasons are different, but always in the first place was the opinion that their style is very difficult, respectively – heavy vocal parts that require special, strong voices. Well, it turned out that not only both the heavy parts, and the symphonized, massive orchestral score with its complex leitmotif system of construction are within the strengths of the team of the National Opera, but also the realization of “The Ring of the Nibelung” was so successful that it has been performed for 10 years now! What's more, this year – in a new stage interpretation created by a team that, along with the director Academician Plamen Kartaloff and the already familiar German conductor Constantin Trinks, also includes new participants such as the set designer Hans Kudlich and musicians from Germany. And the performers are the established and already loved – in their Wagner performances, excellent singers, along with the chorus and the orchestra of the National Opera.
Obviously, the idea and ambition of the director of the Opera, Acad. Kartaloff is to turn Sofia into Bayreuth; and just like since July 1876 at the theatre on the green hill, named Festspielhaus, began the story of the Bayreuth Festival, so the opera poster sketches for us the image of an attractive, our own “Sofia Opera Wagner Festival”. Which, by the way, has been happening for several years. But now we will see the new “Ring of the Nibelung”, as well as the operas “Tristan and Isolde”, “Parsifal” and “The Flying Dutchman”. All works in which the genius composer-playwright and librettist embodied his higher insights. Wagner is not only music, Wagner is a seer, in whose art, wrapped in sacred clothes and symbolism, there are many valuable ideas, messages and warnings, since the creator shows us both the evil, and the divine, tragic predestination and the victory of good, and also the enormous human power of love in its various manifestations.
In today's unstable and too confused time, the reading and insight into the spiritual testaments of Richard Wagner is mandatory. Because he has bequeathed to us timely instructions – striving for improvement and ennoblement, unceasing and selfless struggle against evil, power and gold, he also instils in us the hope for the possible victory over them.
The organization of the Wagner Festival in Sofia is not only a musical theatre event in which the high artistic achievements of the National Opera and Ballet will stand out (I am convinced!), it is an opportunity to reflect, but also to appreciate the life-giving power of eternal truths in life of mankind.
Prof. Boyanka Arnaudova