For "Medea" by the Sofia Opera and Ballet. Diana Lamar in the image of Medea
25 Feb 2024Sofia Opera and Ballet

For "Medea" by the Sofia Opera and Ballet. Diana Lamar in the image of Medea

She is not the "Medea" of the past, but the "Medea" of the future! Diana Lamar's landmark, spectacular and memorable debut in Luigi Cherubini's eerily beautiful opera from the third opening night of this historic production! A title that the home audience was hearing live for the first time, but I can say with conviction that it has already taken its enchanting roots in our souls, for I was not the only one returning for several consecutive treatments!

Being immersed in the spectacle again has its advantages, your senses expand, you notice more things, you feel the world differently. For example, this time I liked the costumes and the sets more than the first time – I could already find their logic for myself: the bright red colour of Medea's outfit (which I had previously expected to see in black) is actually an accurate expression of her strong passion, but also of her bleeding open wound; of the gentle seduction, but also of the fierce rage – Diana revealed countless palettes of her character (from a subtle seductress to a fierce avenger). Wonderful acting – with face, hands, body, mind, soul, voice – every molecule of her was harnessed to convey the gut-wrenching emotions of the character. But the voice, ah the voice! Diana's beautiful timbre here was in very fine pianissimos when she's the seductress and in very dark colours when she's the avenger – I hadn't listened to her lately (most recently as the fairy-like Senta from Richard Wagner's "Der fliegende Holländer", and before that as Richard Strauss's highly psychological Elektra) – but with Euripides and Cherubini's character she showed that her voice has evolved, unleashed its potential even more!

It was chillingly dramatic and captivatingly vital at the same time – even though she's the "villain" here, I trusted and sympathized with her so deeply that I was on her side the whole time! That's the power of suggestion, the hypnosis of the sorceress when in her skin is the bright star Diana has become in the last few years on the national and international stage! And as for the sets, which I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph and which last time stood out to me somewhat abstractly – now I felt it as an amalgam between the fragmented inner world of the protagonists (stripped souls, as if poisoned in the black of tar and the red of blood), but also a kind of naturalistic crime scene (a mass murder – with walls splattered everywhere, marking the traces of the inevitable crime-revenge). A cage of the own, crushing psychological weight, especially in the third act!

Interesting work by the elite Italian production team!

I must also say that the other members of the singing ensemble impressed me even more than the first time – like any living organism they were now even more as a collective and soldered in their complex characters: Daniel Damyanov as Jason, Stanislava Momekova as Glauce, Violeta Radomirska as Néris, Petar Naydenov as King Créon – bravo to them all, for it is no easy task to be worthy and memorable singers and actors against the backdrop of perhaps the most vividly dramatic and tragic female operatic standard bearer that is Medea! This is the same cast that sang with the great Gabriela Georgieva on opening evening!

If anyone watched the second cast on Saturday evening, I'd be interested in your impressions! I don't know what opera in the world can boast three primes prepared for the heavy artillery of the soprano repertoire – Medea!


Well done to the Sofia National Opera and Ballet for this production, which was already planned for past year (to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Maria Callas' birth), but now its time has come – as I wrote in my more extensive analysis of the work yesterday (link here ▶️, this is definitely a breath of fresh air in the repertoire policy of opera in our country – I hope that the fact that the performance is heavier does not mean that there will be fewer "daredevils" to see it... on the contrary – this should be a purposeful effort of theatres in our country to inculcate in their audiences a taste for works that are more cathartic and complex, not necessarily light and fun (or at least to seek a balance between them).

I'll allow myself a lyrical digression – against the background of the total hallucination that has possessed television, politics and almost our entire public life, the appearance of a title like the opera "Medea" in our country is an intellectual exotic! And on three consecutive nights – with almost packed halls!

With works such as this, the Sofia National Opera stands legitimately alongside the great European opera houses that I visit with pleasure (such as the Berlin State Opera, where in 2020 I saw my first "Medea" – with Sonya Yoncheva)! As a final note, tonight I was even closer to the chorus and orchestra of the Sofia Opera, and they deserve huge admiration too – they sang and performed beautifully: Cherubini's music captivates you, you get swept away, it's like being immersed in artistic quicksand that you can't (and don't want to) get out of!

I think that the appearance of "Medea" on the national stage is a kind of test – to the national artistic collectives and to the national audience. At this stage it has passed with flying colours! Now we need perseverance – for more gems of the world's operatic treasure trove to appear here (building spirit and culture does not rest only on the commercial principle of supply and demand, but the education of taste and the upholding of a value system are also added to the equation) – with this premiere and a few more landmark appearances on the Sofia Opera's playbill, my hope levels are rising! Thank you for the wonderful experience that has generated much reflection and passion in me! Until next week – when we're back at the Sofia Opera for another lovely occasion, but more on that when the time comes.

Review of Ivaylo Spasov