"The Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein II premieres on 9 January at the Sofia Opera
Photo: Весела Делчева, изпълнителка на ролята на Мария
28 Dec 2023Newspaper “24 Chasa”

"The Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein II premieres on 9 January at the Sofia Opera

Meeting with the production team

Director West Hyler, costume designer Whitney Locher and lighting designer Zach Blaine are back in Sofia for a new production of the hit musical "The Sound of Music". In 2020, they staged "Shrek", based on the animated film and book by William Page, with music by Jeanine Tesori. After the performances, not only the children but their parents raved, "I loved it. And the songs and the dancing", "Very nice, very elaborate", "I liked everything", "Very nice, very colourful, very musical, wonderful costumes, sets, it was perfect."

Now the team that won the audience's acclaim in 2020 and in subsequent revivals has been joined by scenic designer Jeremy Barnett.

How do they work with the Sofia Opera team?

West Hyler – director

"I'm so happy to be working on "The Sound of Music". The production is very meaningful to me. The movie, was one of my mother's favourite movies and I remember very clearly as a child her showing me this movie and crying at the performances. They meant so much to her. Over and over, she sang the songs "Edelweiss" and "Do-Re-Mi" to me, as well as "Goodbye, Have a Nice Evening". This spectacle has been a part of my life since I was very young.

But I'm not doing the movie "The Sound of Music" here, I'm doing the Broadway musical "The Sound of Music", which I don't think any of the spectators have seen before.

My idea and concept for "The Sound of Music" is to tell a musical drama realistically and honestly. The production is very beautiful, very powerful and very real. The basis is the true story of Maria and the von Trapp family. They actually went through these experiences. She was a novice. He was an aristocrat and gave up everything to marry her. They formed a group of singers and when the Nazis invaded Austria, they had to flee.

I want to tell this story as truthfully as possible so that when people see it, they're watching a new kind of musical. It's beautiful and there's comedy and there's laughter and love and joy, but it's a musical drama. It's a serious musical.

Among the other musicals that are popular in Bulgaria, there are many musical comedies that are mostly made to make you laugh. There are a lot of great musical melodramas like "The Phantom of the Opera" – epic, big, huge musical stories that are very powerful. There are a lot of rock and roll musicals, but they're a little bit that type of musical drama that's meant to show real people and make you feel.

There are amazing actors here at the opera. We prepare scenes with very sincere dialogue, they are very real. The fact that they present these realistic situations and emotions is very, very powerful. There's a lot of what we call in America "getting a chill" when your whole body starts to shake because something so emotional is happening. I think that would be a real revelation.

I love doing musicals because there's a collaborative work in them, more than any art form. I work very closely with the conductor. We also have a choreographer. There's a lot of dancing in this musical, waltzes. I love projects that bring all these people together to be realized.

I spend my life working in different places, creating plays and working with the best artists in all these places."

Whitney Locher – Costume Designer

"I am very excited to be here again.

When I start something new, I do thorough research. For this production, the action is set in 1938. I look at photographs from the past, illustrations, anything that helps me understand the details of clothing from that period. Then I draw, do all the sketches for the costumes, and then the director approves them and they are sent to the costume workshops.

The costume designers here do a great job. We're doing tryouts with the actors. There are over 90 costumes in this spectacle because the Von Trapp kids have many, many costumes.

I will admit that the movie of the same name influenced me somewhat because you really can't escape the movie, everybody knows it, and I love that movie. Everybody loves that movie.

I'm very excited for the audience to see this production and see the beautiful costumes and the wonderful work that the team and I put into it."

New to this team is the author of the sets Jeremy Barnett.

"The first time I worked on "The Sound of Music" was twenty years ago in a small theatre in the US near Boston, where I grew up.

The film "The Sound of Music" has the same story, but it's a little different because in the film you can go to Salzburg, you can follow the kids into the city, you can follow them into nature.

In the theatre, we have to be a little more economical in terms of where the action takes place. This particular play is written for a traditional style of theatre. The way that we achieved that is that the whole spectacle is performed in the different faces of a set. It's simple, more minimalist.

This is my first time working with West Hyler, who is wonderfully creative. He's so inventive that when we were talking about how to put on this traditional American musical with a modern sensibility, he had great ideas about how to make the play more modern, more contemporary.

I think it will be wonderful. It's such a beautiful musical, such beautiful music and such a beautiful story. It's going to be exciting and it's going to be wonderful for the audience here. Taking care of the audience is the first thing a successful production needs. Even if you have all the ideas in the world and a great script, if you're not thinking "How can I make this beautiful for the audience, how can I make this an exciting and powerful experience?" and putting yourself in the audience's shoes, then you're in trouble because you're just making opera for yourself.

It's a wonderful performance for families, for children."

Vesela Delcheva, performer of the role of Maria

She is among the popular performers in some of the most attractive musical productions in the country. An undisputed hit among her fans is the image of Sophie from "Mamma Mia!", but also Fiona from "Shrek", Fantine from "Les Misérables", Mrs. Andreeva from "My Father the Painter", as well as the Princess from the much-loved concert "The Lost Princess", which brought together the most beloved songs from "Anastasia" and "The Sound of Music".

Vesela Delcheva for the role of Maria in the musical "The Sound of Music" at the Sofia Opera

The Richard Rodgers – Oscar Hammerstein II tandem have written ten musicals that have won many awards, including 15 Academy Awards. "The Sound of Music" is a world-famous musical, there's a magnificent film – is that what got you involved in it?

I don't think my answer is based on the popularity of this musical (not that it matters), but in its content and the value it has! This musical has soul and heart, i.e. it is so human, pure and deep in its emotional messages! And, most importantly, it speaks of spirituality, family, faith, responsibility, steadfastness in achieving pure and unblemished dreams, and love! And isn't love the highest value in our human life!

You've worked with director West Hyler before on the musical "Shrek". What's distinctive about his work that helps you build your character?

West is an exceptional professional in the musical genre! He is a pleasure to work with! Firstly, he is the kind of director who does a very deep analysis of the libretto and the musical dramaturgy. He will never leave you standing without a task on stage. And also, he gives you the freedom to create, but also controls that freedom! I love working with directors who know what they want and how to achieve it to provoke your imagination and emotional memory!

You are Maria, ready to become a nun, then a governess in a large family and finally you fall in love with Captain von Trapp. You manage to change von Trapp's character with your love, and together with him and the seven children you flee from the Hitlerites to the abbey, and then from Austria, which has now been forcibly annexed by Germany. Could love, in your opinion, be so all-powerful in real life?

Absolutely, yes! Love is the meaning of our human existence. Through it, man can create great miracles in his life! To be a good person, to believe in God, to build a healthy family, to be an example for others and most of all to keep his inner peace of mind! With love there can be no war! It is the key to salvation!

What messages are you sending to the audience with your participation in this musical?

The messages of the musical "The Sound of Music" are:

Love, Spirituality – faith in God, Healthy family living in love and harmony, Chasity, Tenacity and perseverance in fulfilling pure dreams that bring light and awakening. And the most important message is – the key to salvation is to love, not to war with each other!

"The Sound of Music" premieres on 9 January with subsequent dates 10, 16, 17, 30 and 31 January. The roles of the seven von Trapp children are performed by the young singers of Dimitar Kostantsaliev's vocal group “Talasamche”. The conductors are Igor Bogdanov and Svetoslav Lazarov.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is presented under contract with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of the Rogers & Hammerstein Organization.