“Un ballo in maschera” Opens the Opera Season

Whether we can define the 2007-2008 season as symptomatic in the renovation of the National Opera, is too early to say, but the beginning is definitely promising. For the season opening the opera has chosen a title from the rich repertoire of Verdi – “Un ballo in maschera”, which could be situated in any era. If we consider the main part of the staging team directed by Plamen Kartaloff – Croatian decor artist Ivo Knezovich and costumes designer Elena Ivanova, we can anticipate the intention of modernity. Conductors are Borislav Ivanov and Boris Spasov, choreographer Peter Lukanov, artistic lighting is entrusted to Andrei Hodzhinyak.

“Un ballo in maschera” is one of two titles with which the Theatre will visit Japan, where it has been preferred to the Metropolitan and the Mariinsky Theatre.

One of the challenges facing Plamen Kartaloff, master of the “theatre on the square”, is the place where his performance will be staged – Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture (NDK).

Verdi’s masterpiece makes us witness the whirlwind passions and dramatic events in the lives of the main characters in a love triangle Ricardo – Amelia – Renato, amid a long and carefully prepared for political assassination. Historical facts pertaining to the life and person of King Gustav III of Sweden (1746-1792), prototype of the opera hero Ricardo, caused the creation of the original staging version. In the history of music two settings are known: Swedish and Boston.

In the former the hero is named Gustav III – a great patron of the arts; in the latter changes were forced in the libretto (due to the Italian censorship) of names and place of events – the move from Europe to America was caused by the inevitable painful comparisons with the fate of the King of Naples.

“Our team did not fix the specifics of place and time of action, and therefore the interpretation of the plot intrigue – good vs. evil – is achieved by means of potent symbolism – explains his vision Kartaloff. – The names of the characters and their nature, influenced by the strong impact of the music, may be as well Swedish as American, Italian or whatever; they can be transferred everywhere and in every time. The imposed specific limits on the period and style are narrow.”

“I find the version particularly appropriate and I am glad that Kartaloff chose me for the role of Ricardo, said the tenor Emil Ivanov, who specially arrived from Austria. – This is a staging that is difficult to break even outside Bulgaria. The ideas of the director are interesting and meaningful, with normal human relations.”

For Kamen Chanev (we’ll see him on Tuesday night on the stage) the role of Count Ricardo is a debut. Immediately after the premiere in Sofia, however (on October 13) he will enter a role for the second time, this time in the Graz Opera House.

Elena Ivanova works for the first time on “Un ballo in maschera”. (With Kartaloff they have already worked in tandem a few years ago – in “Rigoletto”). “The power of mass suit is very high when 30 people stand on stage. This is the most interesting in the opera for me. The suits act as decor, even more. They bring energy, such as colour, tone, and atmosphere. When an art is poor, it is subject to the money, not the concept, intelligence, talent. The opera you are viewing has been made for no money; it is made on tick, all of it. What art henceforth to speak of?”

The young designer Ivo Knezovich is a hot name lately. His advanced solutions and vision break outdated perceptions of operatic stage design. They make him controversial, but also sought-after. This is the third production, after “Cavalleria rusticana” and “Pagliacci”, at the Zagreb Opera, for which he works in team with our famous director.

The second performance is on September 25, in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture.


by Avgusta Manoleva

Dnevnik Daily, Sofia, 24.09.2007

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