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The European tradition in professional music found its way to Bulgaria after the Liberation from Ottoman domination, when the eager for culture Bulgarians turned opera music into a necessity, even a fashion. In 1890, in the small country of Bulgaria, situated on the crossroad between the East and the West, despite its unstable political and economic situation, an opera theatre was born that became a cradle for talents that gave ground to the world to start speaking of 'a Bulgarian Opera School'. Drawing on experience from the West European opera and the Russian Opera Theatre, cultivating a taste for the Italian Belcanto and the Russian classical opera, the National Opera and Ballet Theatre propelled its way to highly sophisticated achievements and became the centre of our national music-scenic culture.

Soon after its establishment, the Theatre chose the ensemble method and style of work for the permanent troupe of soloists, choir, orchestra, ballet, technical and production teams that annually gave up to 10 opera and ballet premieres, as well as concert programs. Along with the basic repertoire of titles from the world opera classics, the National Opera Theatre performed works of Bulgarian composers. Many singers made their first steps from the Sofia stage to the European opera centres in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, England, the Czech Republic, Russia, etc. World famous opera stars like Ilka Popova, Todor Masarov, the late Nikolay Ghiaourov (who passed away in 2004), Dimitar Uzunov, Nicola Gyuzelev, Ghena Dimitrova etc. premiered under the baton of the conductors of the National Opera Theatre.


An epitome of the great possibilities of the art of this opera theatre were its performances - a true bouquet of native singing stars that later made their debut on the world opera stages - Darina Takova, Tsvetelina Vassileva, Krassimira Stoyanova, Christina Anghelakova, Stefka Mineva, Kostadin Andreev, Roumen Doykov, Niko Isakov, Dimitar Stanchev, Svetozar Rangelov, Yulian Konstantinov. The Bulgarian spectator, not necessarily being at the La Scala Opera Theatre, Grand Opera or Covent Garden, was able to enjoy performances with the participation of the world-renowned members of the theatre: Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Ghena Dimitrova, Raina Kabaivanska, Alexandrina Milcheva, Boyko Tsvetanov, Kaloudi Kaloudov, Stoyan Popov, Dimitar Petkov, Nicola Gyuzelev. The international prestige of the Opera Theatre was repeatedly confirmed by guest tours in many countries throughout Europe, America and Asia as well as by guest performances in Sofia by world-renowned artists.


In the 30s of the last century, Chaliapin - the titan of the world opera-performing art, sang in Boris Godunov and Knyaz Igor on the stage of the Sofia National Opera Theatre. The audience held its breath with the art of 'Opera Comique', the Naples Opera Theatre 'San Carlo', the world opera stars Georges Til, Stepanesku Guanga, Elena Nikolai, Lyuba Velich, Renata Scotto, Jose Carreras, Piero Capucilli, Elena Obraszova, Mirella Freni.


The Sofia National Opera Choir progressed remarkably under several outstanding Bulgarian conductors and had great success in the 1930's and 1940's with the productions of Prince Igor, Boris Godunov, Sadko, Ivan Susanin, Fidelio, Lohengrin, Tannhauser, II Trovatore, Don Carlos, Aida, Faust and Die Zauberflote as well as Bulgarian operas. This is clear from the numerous press reviews of the period and statements by musicians like Chaliapin, Zinka Kunz, Tito Shipa, Franz Konvitschny, Emil Cooper and Edmondo de Vecci who have either heard the choir or performed with it. The Choir is renowned for its interpretations of difficult musical pieces like Khovamshchina, Boris Godunov, Aida, Carmen, Nabucco, Don Carlos, Turandot, War and Peace, Prince Igor, Eugene Onegin, Macbeth and Verdi’s Requiem. The Choir has toured Europe with great success. It has been praised by Herbert von Karajan and was invited by him to three Salzburg festivals, as well as to make recordings and a concert performance of Verdi's Requiem in 1984. It received a warm response from critics and audience alike on the Sofia National Opera's tour in France and Italy.


Without disturbing its creative rhythm, the theatre continues to create new festivities for the audience. The Easter Festival is awaited with great interest. It includes premieres and gala performances with the participation of famous Bulgarian singers and guests from abroad. Christmas Eve at the Opera - a series of specially selected performances for the Christmas holidays and the traditional New Year celebration in the Opera House with a glass of champagne are eagerly expected music feasts. In 2004, the Theatre was host and co-organiser of the 'Boris Christoff' Twelfth International Competition for Young Opera Singers. That is how, in spite of the challenges of the hard times, with lots of zeal and strong creative spirit the National Opera and Ballet saves and develops the traditions of the national music-scenic art, managing to keep a vivid link with its most faithful supporter – the AUDIENCE.


THE SOFIA OPERA ON THE EVE OF ITS 100 ANNIVERSARY
In the history of the Bulgarian Opera Art the date 2nd of June 1907 takes an important place. In the newly formed National Theater, in Sofia had been made a concert with opera arias. These arias had been performed by the young Bulgarian opera singers - Konstantin Mihailov-Stoyan, Ivan Vjulpe and his wife Bogdana Ghiuseleva-Vjulpe - students in the Moscow Conservatory they had studied under the tuition of one of the most famous Italian pedagogues and singers K. Everardi and E. Mazetti. The concert had its wide public reaction - the scores materials in the press had been titled 'Opera War'. There had been great debates whether the Bulgarian Country, 30 years after the liberation from the Turkish Yoke, is ready to encourage the creation of a professional opera theater. From this concert had
started the campaign of the creation of Bulgarian Opera Union, which develops in Professional Bulgarian Opera Theater.
How the collective live in the beginning of the XXI century? The first season of the new director, the conductor Borislav Ivanov has started with the preparation of the George Balanchine's ballets 'Who cares?' and 'Serenade', and the opera performances of 'Otello' and 'Rigoletto'. After them has come the premiere of the first National English opera 'Dido and Aeneas' by Purcell, the children's opera 'Pinochio' by the Bulgarian composer Alexandar Yosifov, the premiere performances of 'Young Bulgarian Choreographers', 'Madame Butterfly', 'Pagliacci' 'Cavalleria rusticana. The jubilee concerts of the word-famous Bulgarian singers Anna Tomowa-Sintow - soprano, Aleksandrina Milcheva - mezzo soprano and Nikola Nikolov - tenor, has great success. In the beginning and in the end of the season there had been two tours of the Sofia National Opera and Ballet - in November 2004 in Palma de Mallorka and in July 2005 in the Festival in Solothurn, Switzerland. In the beginning of the second season of the new direction had been given honaour to some of the singers who had contributed to the glory of the bulgarian opera school - the mezzo soprano Ilka Popova, the soprano Raina Mihailova, the famous soloist and pedagogue prof. Hristo Brambarov. The one hundred Anniversary of the great storyteller Andersen has been noticed with the premiere of the ballet performance Andersen's Fairy Tales', after it come the ballet performances - 'Metaphysisc - The Meek One - The Riff of Spring' in corporation with Marinski theater from Sankt Petersburg and Allegro Brigliante'. While the ballet collectiv have its hard rehearsals the opera one has been on a tour in Palma de Mallorka in the beginning of November and some months later has been in Japan, where it had 12 performances of 'Otello' and 6 of 'Rigoletto', all of them performed in great success. attention to the jubilees of the world-famous bass Nicola Ghiuselev, to the eminent choreographer prof. Petar Lukanov, with the premiere of the ballet "The Goat Horn by the Bulgarian composer Krasimir Kyurkchijski and also to the conductor Borislav Ivanov. In the end of the year the Sofia National Opera and Ballet have received high marks from its guest performing in Taiwan where have been performed 'Turandot' and 'Nabucco'. The traditional Easter festivals and the concerts 'Pearls of the opera and ballet art' really have the preference of the public among the repertoire which include about 40 titles - from absolutely unknown works to long ago loved masterpieces of the opera art. In the forthcoming season, besides the premieres, one of the main tasks of our collective is going to be the
preparation of the traditional International Competition for Young Singers 'Boris Hristioff' which is traditionally made in June. He is unique because on the third round the competitors perform in a central role in an opera performance. From the First Competition which was in 1961 in Sofia there has come one of the greatest opera stars in the international sphere of the opera art in the last two-thirds of the twentieth century. And after the Competition comes the celebrations concerning the 100 Anniversary of the creation of the first Bulgarian professional opera theater - the Sofia National Opera dated from the first opera fragments presented on the 18th of October 1908 to the premiere of 'Pagliacci' on the 5th of June 1909.
The premiere of the famous scene cantata 'Carmina Burana by Karl Orff was on the 17th of February 2006. In March were the premiere performances of 'L'Italiana in Algeri' by Rossini. This title has been performed ten times with two tours in Switzerland. In honour of the 250th Birth Anniversary of Mozart on the 20th of May had been presented the premiere of 'Die Zauberflote', financially supported by an Austrian Foundation. In the end of the season 2005/ 2006 have been performed the premieres of the ballets 'Giselle' by Adam and 'Romeo and Juliet' by Prokofieff and the opera premiere of 'Nabucco' by Verdi. At the end of 2006 have been drawn attention to the jubilees of the world-famous bass Nicola Ghiuselev, to the eminent choreographer prof. Petar Lukanov, with the premiere of the ballet "The Goat Horn by the Bulgarian composer Krasimir Kyurkchijski and also to the conductor Borislav Ivanov. In the end of the year the Sofia National Opera and Ballet have received high marks from its guest performing in Taiwan where have been performed 'Turandot' and 'Nabucco'. The traditional Easter festivals and the concerts 'Pearls of the opera and ballet art' really have the preference of the public among the repertoire which include about 40 titles - from absolutely unknown works to long ago loved masterpieces of the opera art. In the forthcoming season, besides the premieres, one of the main tasks of our collective is going to be the preparation of the traditional International Competition for Young Singers 'Boris Hristioff' which is traditionally made in June. He is unique because on the third round the competitors perform in a central role in an opera performance. From the First Competition which was in 1961 in Sofia there has come one of the greatest opera stars in the international sphere of the opera art in the last two-thirds of the twentieth century. And after the Competition comes the celebrations concerning the 100 Anniversary of the creation of the first Bulgarian professional opera theater - the Sofia National Opera dated from the first opera fragments presented on the 18th of October 1908 to the premiere of 'Pagliacci' on the 5th of June 1909.