Sebastian Barnstorf, Das Opernglas, July-August 2012
Sofia, 22 May. On the 199th birthday of Richard Wagner the first Bulgarian “Ring” was launched on the home straight with “Siegfried” in initially adverse circumstances – in the early hours of the day the earth shook strongly, luckily neither people nor the scenery were hurt. Plamen Kartaloff, director of the Opera and director of the production, has engaged only Bulgarian singers, and then in two to three casts. The orchestra of the opera had never played Wagner until the start of the “Ring” production in 2010! Nevertheless, or precisely because of it, in the evening of the premiere all participants excelled in delivering in an unbiased and almost entirely new way Wagner’s work to a hesitant at first, but obviously curious audience. Thus the claim of the Sofia Opera to create a productive artistic event that excites and moves was impressively confirmed!
The performance began with a display of the events between “Die Walküre” and “Siegfried” amidst the ever-present ring, which gave the action a sense of timelessness. Sieglinde penetrates Mime’s abode, gives birth to Siegfried and dies. Later she will appear repeatedly with Siegmund. This is pure illustrating, but it helps to understand the action. The scenography of Nikolay Panayotov affects more insightfully and less like comic book than in the first two parts: Siegfried forges and Mime cooks, after Wotan – the most risky of the director’s instructions – earlier blew up the globe and played basketball with it.
The Sofia National Opera Orchestra approached the work in a very concentrated and motivated manner under the leadership of Pavel Baleff. Wagner in primary form – here the strings vibrate, humming and whispering with subtle ease and precision, the forging song resonates with ringing clarity, and the sweltering stuffiness of Fafner’s cave acquires plasticity through the more mellow threat of the curse pronounced by the brass instruments.
The third act led to a compelling climax in the curving heights between the fire bursts and Brünnhilde’s rock. Kostadin Andreev (Siegfried) presented the forging song without refrain, in an excited way, brilliantly and with force-emitting youthfulness, and continued blithely along this path, naturally and without diversions, right to the end of the “laughing death” as if it was the simplest thing the world.
Plamen Papazikov (Mime), with a little lighter timbre of the voice, performed masterfully and extremely convincingly the difficult – especially for a singer whose mother tongue is not German – accents, phrases and declamations, clearly demonstrating high musical sensitivity to emotions and tense moments. Biser Georgiev continued his Alberich with richly shaded and diabolically fierce emphasis on “r”. Nikolai Petrov was entirely persuasive with powerful intonation and great vocal durability. For the final endorsement of the high-class cast of singers contributed Mariana Tsvetkova (Brünnhilde). Her reliably and flexibly led soprano fit brilliantly into the awakening starry sky. With intoxicating soft timbre she sang “Ewig war ich” and rose spectacularly to the powerfully differentiated heights of the final duet.
We expect with interest the completion of this “Ring” for the bicentennial of Wagner’s birth.