Isn’t it an act of heroism to forge the ring of great art, when the streets are a real barricade? When cries are deafening the music, when in front of the temple of the opera the crowd confronts itself with the police, when the aggression attacks the spaces. Isn’t it a great feat to lead your army of musicians with the will to give one of the possible answers for a change in our cheerless world, woven from craving for power and greed? The belief that art can save the humankind from self-destruction, is something, which was also the belief of Richard Wagner in his time of revolutions.
Not accidently I am defining the presentation for the first time in Bulgaria and on the Balkans of Richard Wagner’s tetralogy “Der Ring des Nibelungen” as a feat of the real heroes of our time, who proved to what we are able, when there is a clear strategy and objective, when the making of art has a message, different from the adopted today understanding that art is a commodity and entertainment. This act of the Sofia Opera for me is a demonstration of the way one artistic collective can be an example for the movement of our society on the highway of the spiritual realizing, on the way to the changes. And something more. The realization of the huge project, a trial also for the big opera theatres, proved that the united efforts of a good directed collective can make wonders in a time of lost ideals, to resurrect the faith in our own abilities, by searching the witnessing of the high art.
An army of over 200 Bulgarian opera artists, the orchestra, the chorus and the ballet, the technical services and ateliers of the Sofia Opera and Ballet courageously and without fear, with enthusiasm and will, professionalism and devotion were forging four years
THE FIRST BULGARIAN “RING”, in order to join with their own individual artistic way in 2013 the world celebrations, marking 200 years of the birth of Richard Wagner.
Leader of this enormous army is the proven in similar fights Director of the Sofia Opera and Ballet Academician Plamen Kartaloff. He has the courage to lead his army in this challenge of the spirit and the will, to convince the artists to walk the difficult way towards Wagner’s tetralogy, to overcome the prejudices and financial problems, the problems of our time.
The big journey towards Wagner started four years ago, in order to finish with the complete presentation of the cycle in the Jubilee year 2013. The festive fanfares in front of the Sofia Opera were welcoming the audience, inviting it to enter in the temple, in order to experience the catharsis of “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, to comprehend its message today in a time, when the people from the street, having realized their power, have the will to lead their peaceful fight for change, for social justice and humanization.
Four festival evenings filled in the Opera with an audience, thirsty to experience for the first time the messages of this monumental creation, a synthesis of all arts. Four separate big productions with total duration of 15 hours were enthusiastically applauded by the numerous audience.
I have experienced the unusual ritual on Bayreuth’s green hill in Richard Wagner’s unique theatre, constructed according to a project of his. A ritual with flavour of traditions, but also of the snobbism of the adherers from all over the world. Different is the experience on the Sofia holy hill, filled with sound by the bells of “St. Alexander Nevsky”, the biggest cathedral temple on the Balkans. The Bulgarian Bayreuth has its own character, its own shades of colours.
Plamen Kartaloff managed to gather and involve in the big journey towards Wagner a team, with which to create his idea about the “Ring”. Together with the designer Nikolay Panayotov he wove the cloth of the big saga in the spirit of fantasy, with the flavour of surrealism, allegory, without looking for such modernization of mythology, in which leading to be the trivial already modern tendencies. A choice, which is of importance for the integration of the Bulgarian audience to Wagner’s theatre. Something, which makes it different from the mode today.
A known fact is that for Wagner’s operas the theatres invite the so called Wagner singers, powerful, enduring voices, connoisseurs of the tradition. The warm, beautiful and sonorous Bulgarian voices are characteristic with these natural qualities and vocality, which relate us with the Italian tradition. Although not few are the examples of those, who are recognized as Wagner singers.
The different thing in the first in the history of the Bulgarian Opera Theatre presentation of the “Ring” is that Plamen Kartaloff had the courage to rely only on Bulgarian singers. It’s not easy to gather the whole “army” of Bulgarian singers, the onee, who are all over the world and those, who are on Bulgarian stage. Kartaloff succeeded to bring on the stage for each production two casts, to discover and create with his music team the new Bulgarian Wagner singers. A risk, which gave the exceptional result. The ones, who we knew as singers mainly in the Italian repertoire, passed the exam of Wagner’s music not only vocally, but also artistically. This became possible, because with them works a team of specialists. The vocal training during all these years was entrusted to Maestro Richard Trimborn, known in the world of the opera as connoisseur of Wagner. In this team an exceptional role have the conductors Pavel Baleff, Erich Wächter, Velizar Genchev.
Wagner requires singers-actors. For this was caring Plamen Kartaloff. The whole working process gave as a solid result the birth of the new Bulgarian Wagner actors. This was the big chance of many young singers to discover themselves, to develop unexpected qualities, which will outline also new paths in their career.
Wagner’s orchestra is a challenge for every theatre. It requires not only excellent musicians, but also high quality instruments, especially in the brass group. For this was also found a solution. The bought new instruments were the necessary condition for successful overcoming of the difficulties of the score under the baton of the excellent Maestros. For these four years, the orchestra of the Sofia Opera grew, it showed a new face and character.
The heroes in this feat were not only the musicians, but also the technical services. The entire ensemble of our first opera theatre showed to what it is able, when the one, who gives them a lead in the trail knows how to solve each problem, how step by step to climb the high peak, overcoming the obstacles on the way.
In the world’s festivities, the Bulgarian “Ring” brought its own colour in the great tradition, something, which marked the critics from the foreign press.
The event Wagner came just in time. It evoked questions. Are we ready to walk our way, to experience our catharsis in the name of the future of one different, new world. The Sofia Opera gave its answer with the large scales of its heroism in a time of a crisis. One possible answer, a reflection for those, who are the Lords of the contemporary Ring.
This Bulgarian holiday, born in a dramatic time, gave me faith that the art can teach the real lessons in conduct and looking for the right way for changes. It reminded us that united around one idea with zeal and will we can realize our dreams for a better world. It reminded us that the unity makes strength, the inscription on the National Assembly, a witness of our stormy history from the past and the presence. A thought, which expects to come true in the future of Bulgaria.
Dr. Magdalena Manalova